Last week I had the pleasure of meeting up with Linda Bennett who blogs over at archi-ninja.com and is one of the first people to launch a project on Kickstarter Australia. She also happens to be an architect and lives here in Melbourne, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to pick her brain about how Kickstarter works, and more importantly some of the challenges and pitfalls along the way.
Linda’s project is called the DIY Concrete House Ring and is a kit which allows you to make your own ring in a variety of shapes, colours and individual imperfections. You may have already seen it around because it’s been everywhere! All the major architecture blogs like Archdaily, DeZeen, and Design Boom have featured it, which is part of my interest in this project. Did Linda have a media plan, or was this media frenzy driven by something else?
As of Sunday afternoon (8 Dec 2013) the project has raised $23,682, but is short $893 which Linda needs to raise in 4 days for the project to go ahead. Kickstarter works on an all or nothing basis. Reach your funding target, or no money changes hands. So if you want to support what is probably the first australian architect on Kickstarter, then here’s your chance.
Before we kick off. What is Kickstarter?
For those of you not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a crowd funding platform where people pitch ideas to the world, and others pledge money in return for what’s called a perk. For example, the Syrp Genie is a device that makes time lapse photography easy. It has a computer controlled engine which pulls itself across a string and can be mounted to skate boards, aerial cords and more. It’s pretty damn cool and before Kickstarter it was just an idea, but one that needed a fair bit of money to come into reality. So for people wanting to see this product exist they were able to pledge money in exchange for the actual product when it was finally released. In one sense it’s democratised funding and avoids traditional banking, or investor capital raising. In another sense it’s a pre-sales platform that allows you take your project out to market before having over invested in it, to see if people want what you’re creating. The most exciting part is that it’s being used for all sorts of creative things like films, video games and photo projects.
Here’s what I learnt from Linda
1. Watch out for the currency exchange rate.
When you’re using Kickstarter in Australia your project is going to be listed in Australian dollars, which means the price of your offering for potential backers outside of Australia is affected by exchange rates and the strength of the Australian dollar. There’s also some overseas backers who don’t feel comfortable with a non US currency project. How much this effects a campaign is unclear, but Linda felt that it was having a big enough effect to add exchange rate info to her Kickstarter page. I asked her if she felt the campaign would have raised more funding if based in the US, and she said that’s quite possible.
2. Expect Kickstarter to be exhausting.
The more people I talk to about Kickstarter the more I realise its a marketing marathon. In many ways it resembles an election whereby a candidate campaigns tirelessly for 30 days to get their idea out into the world. Linda started her project about one year ago with about 2 months allocated to just getting her Kickstarter material ready. Things like making a video, reaching out to media and preparing her pitch. Once the campaign started Linda’s project got picked up by at least 24 different blogs (which each take work to organise – That’s almost one story per day!) and at the same time she was monitoring and adjusting her project on the fly to suit customer demands. Each day she would wake up and figure out how she could improve her campaign and continue the media buzz around it. The lesson here is don’t expect to just upload an idea to Kickstarter and come back in 30 days to find your funding, it’s going to take a lot of work and focus.
3. Would having a project partner make the process easier?
This question came up because a lot of people working online tend be solopreneurs (myself included), so I was curious if Linda thought it would make it easier to have a project partner. She said it definitely would have been good to have another person as a sounding board and also as a daily motivator. What I got out of this was the benefit of either having a project partner, or finding someone to play the role of coach during those 30 critical days of Kickstarter campaigning.
4. Be prepared to adjust your perks midway through the campaign.
When Linda first launched her Kickstarter campaign she didn’t have all the perks she now does, but mid way through the campaign she realised she had to diversify the types of rings on offer to accommodate a larger audience. The way she describes it is much like a shop and figuring out which products customers actually want. So in her case, not everyone wanted a larger style ring, so she introduced a minimal version mid way through based on feedback from backers.
5. Kickstarter traffic vs your own media efforts
Linda estimates that 30% of the funding she received was from organic Kickstarter traffic, which is good to have, but far less than she needed to reach her funding goal. The other 70% came from her own media efforts with design blogs, social media and one magazine advert. Linda also has her own blog with an existing audience of several thousand. The lesson here is that while Kickstarter gives you a platform, you still need to do a lot of the leg work when it comes to marketing your idea.
6. Who are your backers?
At first a large number of Linda’s backers were Australian, but this has now levelled off to 50%. She said a large number of these initial backers were first time Kickstarter users, which makes sense with Kickstarter only just launching in Australia.
7. Did you have a media strategy
Linda says she didn’t have a media strategy as such, but she did go out to different design blogs prior to the launch. She provided images and info ready to use and encouraged the media to talk about the project in the first several days when it was brand new.
8. Point all of your existing networks to your Kickstarter campaign
After speaking with Linda I checked out her blog and social media sites and realised all of them had huge banners highlighting her campaign. So if you end up on her Facebook page you can’t help but see her Kickstarter project. Small tip, but one that is definitely worth noting if you already have an audience somewhere.