How we achieved both success AND failure on Kickstarter

+ some metrics and key learnings

Thomas Jacquesson
Aug 10, 2015 · 8 min read

We’ve just finished our first Kickstarter campaign for Pistache, an app that teaches kids responsibility by associating household chores and gaming. We’ve reached our goal of 20 000€ a couple of days before the campaign ended, and finished at 104%. In this post, I’ll share some key learnings and give some figures.

Kickstarter is awesome, but people seem to think all you need to have is a great product and everything will follow through. They’re not entirely wrong; having a great product/idea is a must-have for any campaign to succeed. Some campaigns do find success “only” because they have a product SO cool/exciting/disruptive/<insert buzzword> that people they don’t know are ready to put down a couple hundred dollars to pre-order it.

However, most crowdfunding campaigns cannot rely solely on the amazingness of their idea. Crowdfunding is preparation, preparation, and… commitment. One of the best posts for anyone preparing a crowdfunding campaign is Tim Ferris’ (and the Soma team’s) post “Hacking Kickstarter : How to raise 100 000$ in 10 days”. It’s perfect for anyone who :

· Already has a pretty good network and isn’t afraid to use it

· Is ready to put in countless hours (probably a few hundred) into his campaign

· Is trying to crowdfund a physical product

In our case, we only had 2 out of the 3 points I just listed.

Physical product vs. Digital product/service

Indeed, our product is an app, with nothing truly tangible associated to it. What does that change you might ask? A LOT!

First, no one is going to risk 200€ to preorder an app. Therefore, if all you’re offering is your app as a reward (let’s say you’re selling it for a steep 5€) and you’re aiming for the same goal as we did, you need 4 000 contributors to reach your goal, which is huge.

Another thing that makes digital goods “inferior” to physical goods on Kickstarter is that many people will NOT back a physical good if it hasn’t reached its goal yet. Seems like a bad thing, right? False. That means that if you do reach your goal, many people will feel confident enough to start backing you because there’s a higher chance they’ll actually get the product, so you just might end up having much more funds than expected. That’s why many campaigns for physical goods choose a goal that is much lower than their actual expectations. That way, they can reach it quickly and start accumulating preorders from people who would not have backed them initially.

The key take away is that backing a physical product is the riskier version of pre-ordering, whereas backing a software/service is more like being a proud believer or supporter of what this product is trying to do. It’s something you want to brag about in front of your friends, saying things like “I know these guys” or “I believed in them right from the start”.

It is often much more emotional than when you’re simply pre-ordering the next Pebble Watch. Just to be clear, I’m not saying backing a physical product isn’t emotional. All I’m saying is that emotion is typically not the only thing that influences your pledge for a physical product, whereas it’s all there is in the case of a digital/intangible good.

So we needed to increase the average pledge. To achieve this, one of our challenges was to create rewards that would give a physical aspect to our project. We ended up adding physical rewards that were relevant to our industry (education and household chores). For example, we offered a Pistache-branded educational workbook for kids to continue learning while discovering our brand. We also offered to take care of anyone’s chores for an entire day in exchange for a 250€ pledge (that one was directed particularly at friends and family).

We reached some success by doing this, but not to the point where it really changed the fact that our app is still “just” an app.

What we learned

Reaching and going past your funding goal is not a question of luck or a coincidence. In order to be successful at Kickstarter (or any other platform for that matter) is a tedious task which requires many elements to succeed. Here are some of these elements.

Activate your network

Get your troops together to support you and get them to promise to make a pledge once the campaign starts. Who are your troops you might ask ? Basically : family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers and the community you have built around your product or service. It is absolutely crucial that you do this and that you can count on at least 20–30% of your funding goal to come from these people in the first 24 hours of your campaign. If you can’t, don’t even start the campaign.

Pro tip : We created a Typeform so people could promise to make a donation even before the campaign started. It was also a great way to test our assumptions about the rewards we were going to offer.

Choose the right funding goal

If you have a digital/intangible product, choose the highest goal you think you can reach. If you get the people around you to support your campaign, then there’s a good chance you’ll make it. Don’t pick a goal that seems easy to reach because once you’ll reach it, no one else will make a pledge to your campaign. After all, what’s the point? If I know you personally, then I believe you already have enough money and don’t have to help you. If I’m a random person, I’ll just wait for your product to come out and be available to everyone simultaneously. I’m still not sure we picked the right goal for our campaign; maybe we could have pushed it to 25–30K. Still, we’re pretty happy to have made it to 20 000. Don’t forget, this advice applies to digital products only.

Pro tip: Search for projects who are similar to yours to get an idea of what goal to set. We looked at various apps and educational products, mainly in France. Don’t waste your time looking for an exact match, and don’t focus on only one other project. This is a “big picture” task, what you want is a general idea of what the average goal in your industry could be.

Prepare and expect the unexpected

Kickstarter is WORK. We started preparing about several months before the campaign started, and still weren’t ready for many things. The hardest parts for us were the video and defining the rewards properly (while we’re at it, here’s a great ressource to get some inspiration for your rewards). We didn’t want to invest too much cash (and didn’t), but that made for some complications we hadn’t planned on, and possibly took us more time than if we had put down some of our own money to get it over with. Still, it feels rewarding when you bootstrap something and it turns out pretty good.

Pro tip: Build yourself a detailed calendar (I recommend a mix of Excel and Trello) listing everything that must be done and who’s in charge.

Really think about your video

The video is absolutely key. Don’t forget that your video should be both beautiful (or at least seem professional) and fun, in that people will enjoy watching it and will share it with their friends. Our video was OK, but it wasn’t particularly entertaining, and the sound wasn’t great even though we had the right equipment.

Pro tip: Check out this article by Crowdfunding Dojo. You’ll find many tools and websites that can help you create a good video by yourself.

¿ Hablas Español ?

DO EVERYTHING IN ENGLISH! Even if it’s not your (or your customers’) mother tongue or if you’re not very fluent. This was our second mistake. We thought most people who were going to back Pistache were family, friends and acquaintances, so we did everything in French for them. The thing is, these people are going to give to your campaign no matter what because they LIKE you. What you want is to have people you don’t know to make a pledge, and guess what: most people you don’t know and who are visiting Kickstarter speak English. I’m not saying this would have changed everything for our campaign, but by not doing it we didn’t even give ourselves a chance to reach this strangers.

Pro tip : Doing your campaign in English makes for many new opportunities : submitting your campaign to Product Hunt or Hacker News, doing an English-version of your press release, etc. You can basically talk about your campaign to anyone on the planet by choosing English over your mother tongue.

Let’s get physical, physical!

Olivia Newton-John had it right back in the 80s. It’s a good thing to tell all your friends you’re doing a Kickstarter campaign and you should really keep them up to date through Kickstarter updates, newsletters, and social media. Nevertheless, nothing beats physical contact to mobilize people around your project and turn them into ambassadors. We were fortunate enough to have a few friends who were opening their restaurant in Paris on the same day we were launching our campaign. So we privatized the entire place and organized what was supposed to be a small party with an all night long happy hour. Turns out we had more than a few hundred people come by, enjoy the happy hour, and make pledges. In 6 hours, we collected 6 000€. The party cost us around 1 200€.

Pro tip: You can still do a great event without investing that much. We’re thinking about organizing a small afternoon party for kids on our official launch date. All we need is to come up with great and low-cost activities and bake a few cakes.

Voilà !

Now you have it, these are the key points we learned going through this amazing adventure.

I still don’t have the answers to many questions, the hardest of them all being: how do you keep a campaign going for a full month once the “hype” among your friends and family has dropped? If you guys have any original ideas in terms of how to do that, please leave it in the comments!

If you like our project, come and check us out on Facebook or follow us on Twitter ! And don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions regarding our product or Kickstarter.

The Crowdfunding Handbook

Articles to help you win big with crowdfunding

Thanks to Thibault LOUIS-LUCAS

Thomas Jacquesson

Written by

I am the CMO and a co-founder at Pistache, a startup specialized in gamifying household chores for kids, and my field of expertise is web marketing.

The Crowdfunding Handbook

Articles to help you win big with crowdfunding

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