Start-Up to Super Fund: Learning From 3 Inspiring Kickstarters

Money Jar
Image courtesy of Tax Credits on Flickr

From a few hundred dollars to cover medical expenses to millions of dollars to launch a rocket, people throughout the world are using Kickstarter to fund personal, professional, and philanthropic projects. Perusing Kickstarter campaigns can do more than convince you to take out your wallet. If you take a look at the right campaigns, you can learn how to achieve your own success.

The Oatmeal’s Indiegogo Tesla Campaign

Internet-king Matthew Inman posted a comic on his infamous Oatmeal page in 2012. He wanted to help raise $850,000 for a Nikola Tesla museum. Fundraising would be done through Indiegogo, a Kickstarter-style site. Inman offered goodies for individuals who donated at various levels, and within a few days, the campaign soared past the goalpost. The campaign ended up bringing in over $1.3 million for the museum effort.

Here’s what you can learn from the Tesla campaign:

  • While Kickstarter is popular, it’s not the only game in town. Do your research and select a fundraising site that works for your needs.
  • It helps to tie your effort to someone with big Internet influence. Inman was able to bring millions of viewers to the campaign through his blog. If you can collaborate with a blogger that has even a few thousand followers, you may be able to increase visibility for your campaign.
  • Fun perks for donors can increase the amount each person is willing to give. Inman offered stickers, shirts, and other Oatmeal-related swag for donors.

The Pebble Watch Makes Kickstarter History

Pebble is a wristwatch with app functionality. You can sync it to your smartphone or other device to get text messages, email notifications, and other information right on your wrist. The start-up launched a Kickstarter campaign in April 2012 to fund the idea. Within hours, the $100,000 goal was met. In total, over 68,000 people donated to the campaign, which raised an astounding $10,266,845, according to the page. Reports in the year following the successful campaign were less positive—some bloggers and reviewers seem to feel like the company and product didn’t come out nearly as strong as was expected.

Some takeaways from the Pebble story include:

  • A timely idea can launch a thousand donations. It’s clear that the idea of a linked wristwatch was something the market was interested in.
  • Providing value for donations is important. Pebble promised a free product for all donations of $99 or more.
  • You need a strong plan following an investment campaign. Have a business plan, a financial plan and proper financial tools and software like Quickbooks. If your campaign takes off, you need to be ready to run a business. You want to follow a strong campaign with an equally strong business launch. Opening an account with a leading provider of company credit cards can give you the buying power you need to make daily purchases, allowing your Kickstarter funding to pay for large expenses. Some small business cards also offer perks like travel points, which can make it easier to meet with investors or potential clients.

The Queen Bee Bag: A Campaign in Motion

Not every idea calls for a large sum of money. Mompreneurers Jill Koziol and Katie Stewart want to bring a unique diaper bag product to market. The Queen Bee Bag converts a mom’s favorite fashionable handbag into a diaper bag with the help of an easy-to-use insert. The Kickstarter campaign for the bag has made $475 of a $5,000 goal within the first ten days.

What can small businesses learn from the Queen Bee Bag campaign?

  • Bigger isn’t always better. Set a reasonable goal that will cover basic start-up expenses.
  • Offer your product as part of a donation perk. Within the first ten days, the Queen Bee Bag attracted five donors. Four of those donors opted to donate $100, which is the level at which the perk includes a bag.
  • Be personable and informative in your Kickstarter write up. Koziol and Stewart included pictures, fun facts about the product, and a lot of business information.

Contributed by guest blogger Robert Carr. Robert writes full-time for small business, finance and car repair how-to sites.

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