For those of you who are unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it’s an online funding platform for creative projects. More specifically, you can post a project on this website for 1-60 days and people from all over the world can pledge money to your project.
Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing funding program so if you successfully reach your fundraising goal ($75k in the example above) before the project’s duration is over (a self selected1-60days) then your donors’ pledge amount is debited from their accounts and you get the money ($153k in the example above, wow!). If you don’t reach your funding goal then you receive $0 (go home empty handed) and your potential donors didn’t lose any money in the process. In this way, money isn’t being given to projects that 1.) aren’t popular/doable/well-thought-out ideas and 2.) don’t have enough funding to have every possible chance of success (i.e. you wouldn’t want to underfund projects). So it’s a great, global way to crowd-source money for your project versus trying to find a rich relative or any other single investor to give you cash. People can get anywhere from 100 to 1000′s of donors who little by little do their part to help the project get off the ground.
This seems like a perfect scenario for the inventor, however, nothing in life comes without a price. The inventor/entrepreneur must set up a rewards structure for varying funding levels. Typically the lowest tiers of funding would get a social media shoutout/thanks, medium tiers of funding get the product itself, and the highest tiers of funding get the shoutout, the product, and something even more awesome. Therefore, each kickstarter project has built-in incentives to encourage people to pledge money (the higher the funding level the more awesome the reward). Here’s an example from my friend Paul’s campaign:
and so on…
I’ve heard it said that, “There’s no such thing as altruism, only mutual self-interest.” From what I’ve read and seen online I think there’s a decent amount of altruism on Kickstarter (people with money to spend want to see you and your project succeed and don’t want/need anything in return) but at the end of the day, people donate because they like and want to own part or all of your project (alarm clock in the example above). It’s a win-win from both parties because the inventor gets access to money they wouldn’t otherwise have and the donor gets a cool product in return.
In addition to your project description and your reward structures there’s also the video. The video is often the first and only thing people will look at when they visit your project’s page. Therefore, this is your elevator pitch where you must briefly describe what problem you’re solving, why your project is better than the competition, and why Kickstarter funds will be crucial to your success. Here is Paul’s video for his Ramos Alarm Clock product:
Now, for the meat and potatoes of this post: What is my project?
Over the past year, a few friends and I have developed a concept that’s been brewing in my head for a few years now. I’d been looking for a lightweight, one-man shelter which could help me finish my 48, 4000 footers in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I bought a one-man tent but that was bulky and heavier than I wanted it to be (poles, separate rainfly, etc). Then I bought a bivy which was bombproof weather-wise but pretty uncomfortable. Lastly I bought a hammock which was super comfortable but it required buying (and carrying) additional stuff sacks for bug netting, rainflies, and ropes which became expensive and heavier than my 1-man tent. This lead me to start developing an Alpine-Style Hammock (thanks goes to Stolp, Sarah, Colette, and Katarina for all the help).
Hammock tents certainly exist on the market but they are bulky, time consuming to set up, expensive ($300-$550!!), and as a result I’ve never heard of any serious alpinist using one. I’ll go into more detail in a future blog post but essentially the Alpine Hammock is a one-man shelter that can be used as a weatherproof hammock below treeline and as a weatherproof bivy-sack while above treeline, thus the term “Alpine”. Through personal use I’ve found this prototype to be lighter, faster, and simpler than other options on the market. It’s also the first product I’ve seen that offers the hammock and bivy options that I’d be willing to take with me on a serious alpine ascent (significant time above treeline, high altitude, poor weather conditions, etc).
It is my goal by the end of this month to launch a Kickstarter campaign with this project. Ultimately this Kickstarter campaign will last longer than 30 days but I’m using the construct of my “30 Day Lifestyle Experiments” blog as a forum for doing my research on how to launch an effective Kickstarter Campaign. I’ve wanted to do a Kickstarter campaign for this project for a while. Now I’m finally under the gun to manufacture prototypes and file my full utility patent. I filed a provisional patent last October so I’m on the hook for writing the patent, working with Lawyers and submitting it by the end of October 2012 (short timeframe, yikes!).
I hope that those who read my blog will contribute to my research with their constructive criticisms. If something doesn’t make sense, tell me. If you’d like to see a particular reward in my incentive scheme please let me know. If you know anybody with $30k burning a hole in their pocket, please email me :) (email@example.com). It’s all in an attempt to help make my project as successful as it can be.
In each post this month I’ll include research on successful and not-so-successful campaigns that have occurred in the past. Kickstarter is something that I’ve been following since it started so I’d say I’m very familiar with it. However, I know that a few weeks of intensive Kickstarter research will definitely help lead to a successfully funded project. I think the Alpine Hammock is an extremely versatile piece of outdoor gear, I just need to effectively articulate its significance to the Kickstarter community to obtain the funding I need to move this project forward.
Wish me luck!