Kickstarter sandbox
From 0 to $777,777 in 45 days

Sam Hickmann
Published in
10 min readAug 26, 2016


My first Kickstarter campaign was a total failure! It was in 2013. I invented the leaf clip. A revolutionary device that was supposed to replace your wallet. I raised $297! I was ashamed and buried the project. Never talked about it to anyone…

3 years later, I couldn’t afford to miss my second Kickstarter campaign. And I didn’t! Today, I’m glad to share with you our recipe for success.

1. Value proposition design

Maybe the most important part of the Kickstarter campaign is the value proposition of your product. I was convinced mine was perfect until we arrived in Shenzhen, China. There, we’ve been challenged by the HAX team, the world largest hardware accelerator we were lucky enough to be selected by ( I thought we would be challenged on the technology, the components, the manufacturing, but actually it was the value proposition that was challenged at first.
6 months after, I can now admit that I’m very glad we listened.

We decided to follow a methodology called “value proposition design” by Strategyzer. It’s pure gold!

We looped in between the market problem, the value proposition and the adjustment of our technology until we felt it was perfect.
We started by building customer profiles, listing their pains, their gains and what they try to accomplish (their jobs). At the same time, we started to create a community because we needed to validate our assumptions with real people (parents in our case). The ah-ah moment for me was when we asked them to prioritize gains and pains. I was totally off! For instance, I though that parents would put the geolocation of their kid at the top of the list, it was actually the opposite! However, to get their child on schedule was very important.
Then we built value maps based on our product and its features (pains relievers, gain creators).
We brainstormed with 20 parents, using the Bono’s six thinking hats methodology.

After 2 weeks of intense sessions, we had our problem-solution fit and a value proposition that was really resonating with our core audience. We now had to find out if it can transform into a product-market fit (create customer value) and get traction on the market.
That’s when we decided to go for a Kickstarter campaign.

2. Community

To start a Kickstarter campaign, you need a prototype. I think too many creators forget another major thing: you also need a community.
A community will tremendously help you to spread the word. Don’t count on PR to bring backers. In our case, PR were non-existent the first days of the campaign, our community was, and it was the key of our success.
You’re probably asking yourself “how do I create a community?”. The answer lies in one word: Facebook. Facebook Ads to be precise.
Facebook Ads is the perfect tool to bootstrap your community as soon as you’re comfortable with your value proposition.

We started by creating a landing page. Really simple one. We immediately installed the Facebook pixel.
On this landing page, I recommend to show a rendering of your product, (in context if possible), a short sentence (or a blurb) explaining the key benefits and a one-field form “keep me posted”.

Now, break your piggy bank and be prepared to spend at least $40 a day in Facebook Ads (with less than this amount, we never got valuable results).

Facebook worths $360B and there is a reason for that, they know basically everything about their users, i.e. everybody. Facebook Ads is the perfect tool to address your target audience that doesn’t know yet that it needs your product.

My advice is common sense. Run your Facebook Ads campaign with a methodical approach. Test one thing at the time, iterate, improve, learn.

1) We started with one big audience (the parents), one visual and we decided to test the messaging of our ads first. We struggled for 2 weeks until this: “The training wheels for good habits!”. We immediately saw a big improvement in click rate with this title.

2) Then we tested the visuals. We tried different formats (videos, carousels, photos, illustrations, renderings) until finding that a 4 yo girl brushing her teeth + a rendering of our watch with a big toothbrush icon on it was the best visual.

3) We narrowed our audience until finding 5 major sub-groups of parents.

Based on this, we went back to point 1) to find the right messaging for each target, then 2), the right asset and we’re basically still looping on this today, constantly improving our transformation rates.

Transformation rate, CTR and cost per acquisition.
All the Facebook ads were pointing to our landing page. Thanks to the Facebook pixel, we could track the transformation rate, i.e. the number of email addresses entered based on the number of impressions.

This is what we managed to achieve:

  • Cost per email entered: $0.31
  • CTR (Click thru rate): up to 8%
  • CPC (Cost per click): $0.08
  • Total email gathered: 30,000

On your landing page, once somebody enters their email address, don’t just say “thank you!”, ask him/her to recommend up to 3 friends who might be interested in your product and offer to enter a sweepstakes. We implemented this 2 weeks before the start of the Kickstarter and it brought us 7,000 additional emails, totally free of charge. My only regret is that we haven’t started this earlier!

3. Social Networks

Community and social networks go together. From day one, you need to publish valuable content on your Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and blog. You have no excuse to not doing it. You have plenty of material you can post in a matter of seconds: your office space, your team, your prototype, your engineers coding the prototype, etc. Your community will absolutely love this content. They will really feel like they’re part of your team, almost part of your family. You will have comments (good, most of the time) and valuable feedback.
As the french say: “Le monde attire le monde” (people bring people). This is true. The more you post, the more your community will interact, the more people will hear about you. Without even knowing it, you’re creating a brand and brand awareness.

4. The Kickstarter campaign

Your community first
Now that you have a beautiful Kickstarter page, with a cool video, a lot of photos of your prototype and of your team, you are ready to launch. My recommendation is to create some excitement prior to the D day. Inform your community that your campaign will start in 7 days, then in 3 days. Send emails, post on your social networks. Don’t be shy, this is the time. If some might consider that as spam, it means they are not really interested in your product. Ignore them.
The D day, open your page to your community first. Let’s say Tuesday at 8am PT. Doing so, they will have the opportunity to get the super early price and start to spread the love (a good tool for that is
If you’re lucky enough to have some press under embargo, tell them to hold off until 9am PT so that when they push the publication, their audience arrive on a Kickstarter page with already some backers.
Thanks to our community, we reached our goal of $50,000 in 3 hours, without any press.

Support is king
The first day of our campaign, we were 3 people full time dedicated to answer questions. We had a lot of them and we decided to answer as quickly as possible. In our case, the majority of our supporters were first time backers. They had a lot of questions about how Kickstarter works. Even though we tried to keep it simple in term of reward structure, having 2 products (a watch and an optional companion) and high probability that parents would want more than one has added complexity. We decided to only show the super early bird rewards with packs of 1 and 2 (super early bird 1 watch, 1 watch + 1 companion, 2 watches, 2 watches + 2 companions).

Frequent updates
Even if your backers didn’t know Kickstarter before, I can tell you that they really get it fast: they are now part of your journey. They like to get frequent updates on the status of the product, the problems you encounter, the opportunities you get, your team, your city, the weather, … and that’s great! It’s a win-win situation.
You educate them on the complexity of building a product from A to Z and in exchange they support you. Don’t be shy, post frequent updates. Post photos, videos. Post a Kickstarter update a least every other weeks. Invite them to like your Facebook page to get even more frequent updates. Be transparent and try to be nice in every circumstances (there are always some trolls who will test your integrity).

5. PR

Kickstarter will probably bring you about 25% of the total pledges, you need to bring the rest. A good Kickstarter campaign is a campaign with a lot of press.
I don’t think outsourcing your PR strategy at this early stage is the right solution because it’s really expensive and it will require a lot of your time to pass your vision, your product, your audience to the PR agency.
My recommendation is to do it yourself. I totally disagree with people who are saying that it’s a waste of your time and you’d better do something more valuable.
To me, talking to journalists is key. You are the best to communicate your vision with enthusiasm. You are the one who knows everything on your market. You will know how to answer questions that you did not anticipated.

This is our methodology:
Read everything about your competitors. Understand the different angles. Identify the journalists.
2) Shape 3 or 4 pitches about your product and your company (each one with a different angle).
3) Reach out to journalists via LinkedIn, Twitter or email.
4) Ping them back 3 days after if they haven’t answered to you.

This methodology works. Unfortunately we started using it only 3 days after the beginning of the campaign!
We had an article in Techcrunch 3 weeks before the campaign, right after the HAX demo day in San Francisco (where other journalists were present) so I was convinced they would cover the D day. Terrible mistake! Nothing. Nada. We had absolutely zero press until we decided to reach out to journalists directly once the campaign was live.

Virality might happen…
We started to have 1 article, then 2, then 100 and more than 150 at the end of the Kickstarter campaign. TV, radio, podcast, press, … everything for free. But the most amazing, was this video: with 21M views and 315K shares on Facebook. Yes, 21M views! And it triggered a lot of similar other videos. The social effect exists, and we have benefited from it big time.

6. Digital marketing & growth hacking

There are plenty of tactics at your disposal for your digital marketing.

Content marketing: Website, Blog, Mobile App, Social presence, Podcasts, Videos, eBooks, Newsletters, Whitepapers, SEO, Community/Influencers, Infographics, Cartoons/Comics, Syndication, Referral programs.

Open platforms or communities where customers co-create and collaborate with brands, APIs/SDKs.

Partner Networks: Publisher editorial, Influencer outreach, Word-of-Mouth, Social networks, User-generated content, Brand-related conversation, Positive reviews.

Advertising: Paid search, Display Ads, Affiliate marketing, Digital signage, PR, Email marketing, Seminars/Roadshows, Webinars, Trade shows/events, Owned events, Trade promotions, Contests, Product placements, Telemarketing, Celebrities, Licensing partners

Promoted Tweets, In-stream or social paid promotions vehicles, Ambassador programs, Virtual goods

SMART framework
Whatever tactics you will be using, make sure you set goals that are:

  • Specific (Who, What, Where, When, Which, Why)
  • Measurable (KPIs)
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bounded (timeline)

$1 brings $7
Our guide on running a successful Kickstarter campaign would not be complete without a special word on on-line advertising.
You will be contacted by dozen of companies that will claim to boost your campaign in exchange of a percentage of your pledges.
Some of them are really good (Jellop, Fundme, CommandPartners) and have many satisfied clients.
But again, like for PR, be rational. Except if you have a huge margin on your product, be realistic and do the maths: can you really afford to give from 20 to 30% of your pledges in commission?
In our case, the answer was no. We decided to do it ourselves. Another reason was that I wanted to learn how it works, the techniques, the tricks, etc..
$1 put in Facebook Ads brought $7 in revenue. I strongly recommend to manage your Facebook Ads campaigns.
We spent $10,000 and it brought $70,000. The rest was brought by our PR efforts, our community and the Kickstarter exposure.


Kickstarter is a fantastic tool:

  1. to prove product-market fit
  2. to test price point
  3. to grow a community
  4. to get brand awareness
  5. to get inbound contacts with distributors, retailers, partners, etc.
  6. to get cashflow to finance your first production run

The keys to a successful Kickstarter campaign are:

  1. Intense preparation before the campaign starts
  2. support to backers and prospects during the campaign
  3. direct reach out to journalists
  4. digital marketing
  5. frequent updates to the community

And don’t worry: “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough” — Mario Andretti