Five weeks ago, I published a blog post announcing that I had created a Kickstarter project. I’m sure you’ll remember it.
Unfortunately, it finished as a total flop and I only ended up "raising" around $264 USD of my $50,000 USD goal. Since it wasn’t met, none of the backers will be charged though.
Now, I’m no Kickstarter expert. In fact, I actually knew very little of it apart from visiting the site on several occasions in the past. When I created my project on there, I thought that there was maybe a 20% chance that I might hit my funding goal, so the results neither surprising nor devastating to me.
What did surprise me, though, was just how little interest there was in the campaign. I had thought that I could have raised at least a couple thousand dollars in interest.
Here then, are 5 things I learned from creating my first Kickstarter campaign:
1. Easy to Launch
Having never launched anything on Kickstarter before, I didn’t know what to expect in regards to actually setting up the campaign. I had seen established companies launch products there before, often with expensive professional video presentations, and so I didn’t know what to expect when creating my fundraiser, or if I’d even be allowed to create one.
Fortunately, I found the experience and process in creating the campaign to be relatively simple. You are guided step-by-step along the way in a wizard-type interface, and apart from having to submit proof of your identity, there is virtually nothing else standing between you and having your Kickstarter put up apart from a final manual approval from a Kickstarter staff member.
So, if any of you have been on the fence about launching something on Kickstarter, I’d recommend doing so as you have nothing to lose since it doesn’t cost you a penny.
2. Forced Currency Conversion
With the USD-CAD currency exchange rate being the highest its been in about 13 years, I was frustrated to learn that, being Canadian, my Kickstarter was forced to be made in CAD currency. I simply had no option to make it in USD currency.
What this meant was that both my fundraising goal and all backing dollar amounts were displayed in CAD currency, which may have had a very negative psychological effect on Americans.
For example, I had to make the campaign goal $68,000 since that was what $50,000 USD worked out to at the time. $68,000 sounds like a lot more than $50,000.
And since the backing dollar amounts were in CAD currency too, it meant that I couldn’t offer quite the right amount of backer rewards that I would if it was in USD funds.
Lastly, it would mean a lot of wasted funds in currency exchange conversion fees since even if the campaign was successful, Kickstarter would have send me the funds in CAD, which I would then have to convert back to USD since all my expenses are in USD.
So for any non-Americans dealing with Kickstarter, keep this fact in mind!
3. Spam, Spam, Spam
I was not expecting this.
Kickstarter has an absolute chronic spam problem.
Within 30-minutes or so of launching my Kickstarter project, I received a notification e-mail from who I thought was a representative at Kickstarter, offering me Kickstarter marketing and promotion services to help spread word of my newly launched campaign.
I was actually strongly considering his proposal and even replied back before finally realizing that he actually, in fact, did not work for Kickstarter and was just a guy with some Kickstarter marketing service.
Although I was a bit annoyed at how he misrepresented himself, I shrugged it off and moved on. But then I received another e-mail from another Kickstarter marketing company. Then another, and another. And this was all in the first day! By the end of the week I had probably received at least 2 dozen such proposals… and not just by e-mail either – people were contacting me on Skype, Twitter, and on Facebook trying to hustle me with their promotion services.
Perhaps the most annoying part of all this was that most of those were sent to me via Kickstarter’s in-house messaging services (which e-mails me the same as well), meaning that Kickstarter isn’t cracking down on these spammers. It’s also why I was so confused with the first message I received, as I had thought it was sent from Kickstarter staff.
So if you launch a Kickstarter project, defend yourself with a shield to ward off the onslaught of inevitable spam you will receive.
4. Websites are Rare
I actually kind of knew this before I launched my campaign from the small amount of research I did prior to launching the campaign, but I think the fact that websites as Kickstarter campaigns are pretty rare is for a good reason – potential backers just don’t seem to be that willing to fund a website-based Kickstarter campaign.
In general, most Kickstarter campaigns are for physical products, games, comics, and film-related projects. This does make sense though – would you rather receive a free subscription or "thank you" on a webpage or be mailed a physical product that you backed? I think most people would choose the latter.
As a result, I think that getting Votesy funded was an uphill battle due to it being a free website. I bet it would have stood a better chance of getting funded if it was a SaaS-based website, where I could at least have offered free subscriptions.
5. Kickstarter is a Platform, Not a Community
I saved the most important thing I learned for last, and this is definitely something I had completely overlooked when deciding to launch a Kickstarter campaign: Kickstarter is a platform, not a community.
For some reason, I thought that once I created my Kickstarter campaign, that Kickstarter users would happen across my project and then decide whether or not to back it. I had imagined that there was this big group of Kickstarter users who just browse listings and back ones that interest them.
While there may be the odd few Kickstarter users who do in fact do this, the reality is that Kickstarter is simply a medium for entrepreneurs to fundraise money, and nothing else. It simply provides the platform for companies to raise and receive money. It doesn’t really have a user base that peruses its listings; it is up to the Kickstarter creator to drive traffic and promote his/her own listing.
Since I was not prepared for this, my Kickstarter campaign failed miserably. I had set a 20-day deadline on the campaign and didn’t fully realize that I had to promote it myself until there was no chance of meeting the $68,000 goal.
I knew that if Kickstarter had featured the campaign on its homepage that I would probably have stood a good chance of getting the project funded though, so in some ways it’s still worth launching a Kickstarter project for that very reason alone.
In any case, I can’t reemphasize this last fact enough. You need to have a strong promotion game plan in place if you plan on launching a Kickstarter campaign.
Once you have the ball rolling in terms of backers, then I imagine it’s likely to snowball from there (easier to get press to pick up on it, more likely for other backers to trust or be interested in it, and more likely for Kickstarter to feature it).
Anyhow, those are the five things I learned from launching my first Kickstarter campaign. I do recommend it for anyone trying to raise money for an entrepreneurial effort that could benefit backers, but just be prepared to market and promote your ass off (you should actually already have a good list of possibly-interested backers ready).