Part 8/8: Crowdfunding Lessons Learned

Senic
Senic
Jun 17, 2015 · 11 min read

Our best advice if you’re starting a crowdfunding campaign.

We (Senic YC S13) are a hardware startup dedicated to making the interactions between humans and technology more seamless and natural. We want to share our experience making our first product, Nuimo through an 8 part series “Building a Hardware Startup”.

This is Part 8/8 in the series discussing how we approached crowdfunding. The first 7 parts can be found here.

Crowdfunding can be a little like jumping out of a plane — if you come prepared with a right equipment it can be an amazing ride. Without proper preparation it’s more like a long fall with few options for survival. We’ve taken the plunge twice now now and learned a lot both times.

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To help you avoid some of our bigger mistakes and steal a few of the ideas that worked for us we’re sharing our quick-and-dirty crowdfunding roadmap for what happens pre-, during and post-campaign.

The ‘Right’ Time for a Campaign

1. Current State of Your Prototype

An important consideration is that on average 75% of crowdfunding delivery dates are delayed — trust us, be on the safe side.

2. Lead-Time to Prep the Campaign

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The Pre-campaign stage is the most important phase of your crowdfunding journey and being prepared is the best way to insure success. Once you launch, there is no turning back.

Pre-Campaign

Campaign Promotion

1. Mailing List

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E-mail List growth before the campaign is key.

2. Personal Network

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When do you do this, we found it’s quickest to give them simple directions, prewritten social media posts and at least a handful of options in how they can support you. Most often we write a form e-mail and then add a sentence or two to personalize.

3. PR

There are millions of ways to handle PR but a simple strategy is making 3 lists to send your media kit and press releases before you launch.

  • Priority or ‘WishList’ Press (reach out 1–2 weeks in advance)- These are the people you are dying to have write about you. Therefore you should offer them some sort of exclusive access by sending them your press info early, being available for interviews and generally giving them first dibs on the story.
  • Previous Press and Niche Press List (reach out a few days before or first week of campaign)- These are press contacts that you should either tailor your pitch to because they have already written about you — or because they have a specific interest.
  • Press Blast List (Send out on launch day and 4–5 days before closing)- Since time, money or manpower will inevitably limit your press outreach, maximize your impact by sending out a press blast of a few thousand journalists. This generally doesn't have nearly as high a success rate as individual outreach but can bring back some surprising connections.

4. Events

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Attend these events with purpose — talks, pitches and stage time are a must but its also great to demo your device as a booth and have one-on-one time to connect with backers and potential backers.

5. Content

For this we tried to really listen to our backers — when they asked specific questions (like how does nuimo connect to a computer) we responded with a video. We also tried to have some fun with how we showed functions like our post about connecting Nuimo to a gong and showing the process on our blog.

Additionally once you release content, consider how you will promote it beyond just social media and your newsletter or updates. We used reposting to Reddit, Product Hunt, LinkedIn and HackerNews to get the most out of the content we produced. Word of caution to really research etiquette and rules for using these in order avoid spamming people.

6. Ads

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Because we didn’t have much knowledge on best strategies for paid online marketing — we simply defined our goals for the ads (what we wanted to push and how much we were willing to spend) and then let an agency handle the implementation.

Campaign Materials

Story

The central story that we told during our Indiegogo campaign was more geared toward young creative professionals who would use Nuimo with their computers for specific programs like Rhino, Adobe Creative Suite etc. The campaign showcased more workspaces - targeting the needs and requirements of designers, engineers and creatives.

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Indiegogo Campaign Video

The focus switched for Kickstarter and was based around the smart home integrations people at requested during the first campaign like Sonos Speakers and Philips Hue. The campaign aesthetic focuses more on domestic spaces, lifestyle and environment.

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Kickstarter Campaign Video

The core functionalities of the device are similar (and it can be used in both capacities) but the visuals and voice of the two campaigns were distinctly different.

Photos

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Classic Product Photos —shots of the device on a white or neutral background.

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Environment Product Photos — shots of the product in a relatable environment with artifacts that are descriptive of our users.

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Lifestyle Product Photos — Photos that feature the product that show our users in their environment.

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Function Photos — Descriptive photos of how the device works.

Videos

  • Main Campaign Video- this video should really cover your entire campaign. The best ones are just 2–3 minutes at most and deliver all of the most important information. When you start planning your video we recommend watching a lot of other crowdfunding videos and making a list of how they are successful.
  • Descriptive Videos — these videos serve as short little snapshots into how your product will actually function in different scenarios. For Nuimo we made sure to make a lot of descriptive videos on how integrations and functions work so that people could envision exactly how they might like to use the product.

Campaign Page

Section 1 — ‘Elevator Pitch’

This section is the first thing people see and should describe your entire product (in case people don’t scroll down). Think of this section of headline, main video and description as your ‘elevator pitch.’

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Section 2- Problem and Solution

Since your backers can’t get recommendations from friends as they might from other consumer electronics, this is where you really outline why your solution is solving their problem. It’s a moment to really sell the vision. It’s also a good place to put press or quotes about the product to show that it has captured the interest of others.

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Section 3 — How it Works

Sometimes crowdfunding campaigns can be misleading — but yours shouldn’t be! This is the place to show your backers that you know what you’re doing. We have found that the more specs you provide the better, it lets your backers know you’re qualified to actually deliver. Likewise, building out this section well will give backers better feedback for you because they can really understand what you’re doing.

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Section 4 — What’s Next

This section can be built out in a lot of ways, since we have close contact with our backers it was important that they know a little about us and why we care about certain things. It’s also an important part to tell them exactly where their money is going and when. We have found that backers are very supportive (even with delays or mess-ups) as long as you communicated them correctly. This section is where you lay the first groundwork for that.

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These parts can be shown in a number of ways, but generally its good to have a balance of text, photo and illustration. We found that most people prefer images over large amounts of text.

The Campaign

Day 1

Timing is very important for the launch and you may choose to offset announcing the live project for a few hours so that it can gain some money before being made public — a type of ‘soft-launch.’ Additionally, if your main target audience is in another time zone, make sure to take them into account for timing of the launch.

The Middle

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Funding graph from our first Indiegogo campaign with.

We got lucky during this campaign because a second major spike occurred with the release of a TechCrunch article. With good planning and some luck you can create a second spike- however it usually requires hitting some sort of major media outlet.

Final Week

Post-Campaign

We have discussed the design for manufacturing, and manufacturing steps that come after the campaign in depth in our other posts. Additionally you need to find a good way to keep your backers up to date, engaged and excited over the (sometimes) long wait until they get the product. We recommend talking to your backers early and often — they are your first and most important supporters, get to know them!

Who Are We?

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