Monday, April 7, 2014

Crowdfunding Kick-Off: Can I Get a Re-Do?

During the month of April, my partner and I are conducting a crowdfunding campaign to fund a new app that will help individuals and teams learn to juggle and other physical skills, log and reflect on practice, and share successes. We went to a number of workshops about crowdfunding and felt prepared. This was the first of many miscalculations. 

To kick-off the effort, we hosted a wine and cheese event at our house that had the theme of celebrating the past, present, and future of skill based play. We had a museum of vintage skill toys, an area for people to play with modern versions of the toys, and a demo of our new app that will use technology to engage people with real world objects. We invited friends, family, community business leaders, and artists that we hoped would be potential donors as well as advocates on our behalf. And the response to the invitation was overwhelmingly positive.

All sounds good so far, right? Well, here's where the other miscalculations come into play. The beta version of the app had some delays and my partner was literally working up to the last minute communicating with programmers to get the finishing touches added. I, on the other hand, was focused on getting all of the party planning details in place. Miscalculation #1 – not spending enough energy planning the actual presentation about the app to the sixty plus people that came. We just figured it would be enough to show the campaign video and see if there were questions. Miscalculation #2 – we assumed that the video was engaging and explained the details of the project. Miscalculation #3 - addressing the audience as a group of family and friends that would be excited to support us and not as a critical group of potential buyers.

The unveiling of our campaign video quickly revealed that we should have made it weeks before and gotten feedback much earlier. We knew it was an epic fail when the questions asked were, “What exactly are we spending money on?” and “Why would I want this app?” Adding to our embarrassment, one of our business advisers sitting in the front row waved me over in the middle of our presentation and whispered, “What’s in it for them? You need to tell them what’s in it for them.”

Ouch. If we had any slight hope that it wasn't really as bad as we thought, the glaring truth came the next few days when campaign donations trickled in at a painfully slow rate and only a handful of people shared the link on their Facebook page.

We are still in a state of recovery, but we are taking action to resuscitate the campaign after this initial cringe-inducing kick-off. We contacted a few of our business advisers that attended, admitted our fail, and invited input on making the video better. One asked us to articulate the features and benefits of the app. Oh, I guess that was something else we should have done before the kick-off (Miscalculation #4).

We quickly set to work identifying features and benefits, identifying a story that could help us convey the value of the app, getting testimonial videos to supplement our campaign video, and hustling to contact networks of people via phone, email, and social media to try to drum up the interest that we had hoped the initial kick-off would have created. We still have 26 days left in the campaign and I have a feeling there we will have more lessons to learn!

If your curious about the changes we've made, the campaign can be found at

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