Why we REALLY cancelled our Kickstarter

Ivan Zatko
Aug 3, 2017 · 5 min read

Over the course of our Kickstarter campaign, Benjamin Button has raised $52,083. That’s about 208% from what we asked for at the very beginning. This surely looks like a dream come true. Except that we have cancelled our campaign. And this is the article that explains why.

From idea to execution

The idea of Benjamin Button was formed back in 2014. That’s when Dominik, the founder, realized that because of his frequent travelling, he’s missing the most important moments in his daughters’ lives.

Only if there was a device that can store the best moments in kids’ lives. A device that knows what’s important and picks the best moments for you. A device that saves all the time spent with video editing…

3 years ago, Dominik pitched the idea to the right people and they joined the team shortly thereafter. The endless cycle began: Making the prototype. Testing it. Finding out what’s wrong. Building it again. And better.

Everyone seemed to like the idea of Benjamin Button. The product has won special prize at Startup Awards SK 2015, the team joined the prestigious Berlin Startup Academy and the first investor put his money into the company.

The decision was made that Benjamin Button will go to Kickstarter…

The core of the team on Berlin Startup Academy. From left to the right: Dominik (the founder), Michala (the designer) and Andrej (the hardware developer).

Preparing for the Kickstarter launch

We’ve already had the experience with another successful Kickstarter campaigns, so we knew how difficult it is to prepare for the launch.

That’s why our team grew up. Boris did a great job in media relations. Dennis took care of social media. Matty helped with visual communication. Veronika with influencers. And I joined the team to help with the Kickstarter campaign.

Soon thereafter, we had few of the major media lined up for the start. Our Facebook page has just reached 4000 fans. We had great high-quality product photos. We tested several campaign descriptions with mothers from our neighborhood and picked the best ones. We even secured a distributor to pledge for the big package at the first day of the campaign.

Everything looked great.

This is how we tested the campaign description and the video. Dozens of versions on paper and one focus group made of mothers, which told us what they liked.

Sure, we had to make several important last-minute compromises with the campaign video. And we collected only 600 emails, when we wanted to have at least 1500.

But we thought that was not so important. We only needed the product to start the campaign…

Product was ALMOST ready

In the meantime, we have just recieved the first functional prototype of Benjamin Button camera.

Except that it was only a prototype.

It hasn´t not been working exactly like the final product. It shot the videos, but the perfect hardware composition has yet to be found.

The intelligent software was another issue — the app wasn’t ready and the cloud version was only running on beta. Storing videos with “Save the moment” feature was working. The partnerships for face and voice recognition were agreed and basic infrastructure was developed.

Everything but the intelligent part was working. And for that — we needed further software development and a new prototype.

We were limited on both — time and budget. So the decision was made to launch the campaign anyway.

In theory, the projected calculations for software development were working, so we did not have anything to worry about. Right?

So we launched the campaign…

After three years of Benjamin Button existence, the product finally started making money. We had a great start, several people from our database purchased our product, the big distributor jumped in and we were fully funded in less than 24 hours. YAY!

Some of the biggest media wrote about our Benjamin Button. The feedback from users was great. It seemed like people are really interested in small button that captures memories effortlessly.

BUT nobody seemed to understand the main benefit of the device — the intelligent software.

We changed the campaign description. We’ve added more information. We made it shorter. We adjusted it to mothers. Then fathers. Didn’t help.

When everything has changed

Developing such a complex smart wearable camera with multiplatform video streaming and advanced cloud video processing is heck of a task even for experienced hardware giants like GoPro or Samsung. What could a small team like ourselves do to compete with them?

Once we digged deeper into current schematics, we realized that manufacturing Benjamin Button in Kickstarter figures would be an economic suicide. We needed much higher minimum order quantity and we failed to develop additional partnerships with bigger distributors.

$25,000 was no longer our minimum funding goal. And nor was $50,000. The likelihood of developing the software as promised suddenly dropped close to zero. We knew we were in trouble.

The way how Kickstarter works is that once the project is successfuly funded, nothing prevents creators from taking money and not delivering the product. See the likes of Coolest Cooler, Zano drone or most recently — MIITO heater.

It was so easy to take more than $50,000, use it to cover the expenses for the campaign and then write an update to the backers stating that the company went bankrupt.

But we decided to do the right thing.

We’ve cancelled the campaign only one hour before it was supposed to be sucessfully funded and didn’t charge our backers a single dime. We turned down more than $50,000, wrote an update and mentally prepared ourselves to deal with angry backers.

But the truth is that it went way better than we thought. Once we clearly explained what the problem was, almost all the comments were supportive.

We found out that we’ve created something that goes way beyond the product. We’ve created a family.

Benjamin Button deserves a second chance. The hardware is ready and we have few options which we should focus on. We only need to pivot the features and evaluate the best options. Then we relaunch the campaign.

And in the meantime, we plan to write transparently about all the mistakes we made and everything that we learn on the way. Follow us to stay updated.

Benjamin Button

All the things that we learned while raising 52K. And then cancelled the Kickstarter campaign.

Ivan Zatko

Written by

Crowdfunding guy. Ultrarunner. Founder of @theprojekt.

Benjamin Button

All the things that we learned while raising 52K. And then cancelled the Kickstarter campaign.

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