When it comes to hardware, the road from conceiving a great idea to actually shipping a great product is a long one. Getting Nomiku ready for Kickstarter (twice) has had its fair share of challenges, lessons learned, and offered unparalleled insights for us into the world of hardware and crowdfunding. We want to share the 5 important things we’ve learned about kickstarting a hardware startup–and not just the triumphant successes, but the aches and pains too.
This is (almost) as juicy as a sous vide ribeye!
1. Find a Mentor
When it comes to hardware, no silver bullet or rulebook exists. What does exist are people that know more than you do and have jumped the same hurdles you’ll be encountering. We were lucky enough to find some of these people, and we cannot stress how important it is for you to do the same.
Find a mentor (or group of mentors) in your field as soon as possible. Allow these beacons of knowledge to guide you through the process of idea validation, building a working prototype, and hear them out when it comes to best crowdfunding practices. Having a network of entrusted geniuses will save you a ton of grief, build your confidence, and prevent you from making some painful mistakes along the way. Some things they say may go against what you thought, and sometimes, they might not even be right–but hearing their insight and understanding their perspective is key to better understanding what you yourself are thinking.
It can take a long time to find the right people to become mentors and it’s not always love at first sight. Try going to a networking event once or more a week and put your feelers out for people you respect in the industry. After you’ve found a mentoring match, set up a one-on-one where you can dive in deeper.
2. Prep Hard for Your Crowdfund
Although the idea of crowdfunding connotes a sense of spontaneity, for project creators, it should be quite the opposite. There are variables in crowdfunding that are out of your control–like the total amount of funds raised–but there are also things that you can do to dramatically increase your shot at success. To perfect the elements within your control, you’ll need to put in the time (at least 3-4 months of preparation), know what’s worth dipping into the piggy bank for, and hire outside experts to help with the things you and your team may not be fluent in.
For us, we knew we had to outsource the production of our campaign video. In both of our Kickstarters (our latest especially), we recognized the impact of a kick-ass video, and were willing to spend the money to produce the best video possible. For our second campaign, especially, we vetted production houses as much as we could to not only find one that fit us financially, but also one who understood our vision and that we got along with personally. If you want your video to be exactly what you want it to be, be involved. You know your message better than anyone.
If you’re not sure when you want to debut your campaign, shoot for early Tuesday morning, right when the East Coast is waking up. That is when the news cycle resets itself for the week and is running on a clean slate for your story to scribe on.
3. Build your Audience and Reach Out to Media
Having backers support you within the first crucial hours of your launch is vital–both to your sanity and the continued success of your campaign. The wave of backer momentum is mostly the result of two things: 1) buyers driven by media hits and 2) community members responding to your calls to action over social media, email, and other channels.
Gaining mindshare is the result of knowing who your audience is, and finding the outlets that cater to your “people”. Generally speaking, our audience is hardware enthusiasts, gadget geeks, and all sorts of foodies. Finding media outlets that cater to these audiences, and pitching to them (we did this about two months prior to launching) is key. Get journalists primed for what you’re about to debut and get them excited–even offer an exclusive to your favorite outlet. The major publications that do pick up your launch will be primed, excited to share your story, and will be responsible for huge backer spikes throughout your campaign.
When it comes to the community of backers you’ve built, make sure you’ve compiled a list of people who are definitely going to pledge as soon as your campaign debuts. Reach out to these supporters and have them back you once you’re live. Major funding in the first 24 hours will give you the acceleration needed for crowdfunding website algorithms to push you into the spotlight.
4. Post-Crowdfund isn’t All Champagne and Roses
There are tons of best tips, practices, and chatter about how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign. However, what few talk about is the post-crowdfunding aftermath–the “what next?”. Truth be told, once your campaign ends you might freak out (just a little bit). You’ll no longer have Kickstarter as a home base, and will be left to manage all of your backer data, orders, special requests, and any changes independent from a platform. If you’re anything like us in our first campaign, your backer management will be chaos on 27 spreadsheets (sounds like a Metallica song).
Working with a pre-order platform like Celery will alleviate some of the post-campaign “WTF” by guiding you through the intuitive next step in your crowdfund. The pre-order dashboard will also offer up a place for your buyer data to live, eliminating a shocking amount of operational stress. This will free up precious time to focus on more productive tasks.
5. Post-Crowdfunding, Continue Taking Pre-Orders
Continuing to take pre-orders post-campaign served many benefits for us. Firstly, it allowed us to ride out the momentum we had built during our Kickstarter by filling our demand. You’ll be surprised at how many people will contact you telling you that they forgot to pledge, didn’t know the campaign was ending, or simply want to buy it from you directly.Taking pre-orders meant that we could accommodate these people and bring in steady revenue while solving the manufacturing riddle.
Secondly, integrating with a pre-order platform like Celery saved us time (and headaches) by providing us with a simple dashboard to manage, and allowing for bulk order edits (this got us down to only a couple of spreadsheets!). The pre-order checkout lives on your own website, and is highly optimized while blending in with your branding–this really helped with conversions. Ultimately, pre-orders extend your maker runway, while housing buyer data until you’re ready to ship. We cannot stress how valuable this is in those pivotal months of post-crowdfunding crazy.
Also, don’t forget about your backers. Even though you’re taking preorders, remember that your backers were there first. Continue to be transparent and communicate as you progress. You’ll be surprised at some of the feedback and insights your backers and pre-order buyers provide throughout the creation process. We found that they helped us in unexpected ways!
Ultimately, everyone’s trip from “hmm…that’s a good idea” to a fully realized product in someone’s home (your Mom’s doesn’t count) is different. However, with great mentors, a strong following, a post-campaign pre-order plan, and perseverance fuelled by energy drinks and blind faith, you too can crowdfund your way to the top.
For more information on what we’re doing (and eating), follow us on Twitter and Instagram. To learn more about taking pre-orders, check out Celery.