Crowdfunding in 27 Easy Steps video

An interesting video ‘Crowdfunding in 27 Easy Steps’ by Jordan Weisman:

I wonder what Nate and others who have used KickStarter here have to add?

I was surprised to hear how he recommends marketing the game before putting it on KickStarter. I assumed that KickStarter was the advertising medium. He has some great ideas.

He also seems to recommend having a low funding target.

I guess the low funding part could be because the author intends to use kickstarter as more of a marketing campaign rather than something to actually really fund some development. Quite a few kick starters have a decent product to start with and just kick-start to add some final features

That’s an interesting strategy. From his talk he said that most people have to or should self invest and show a working prototype before kick starting, unless they have an amazing reputation that makes people trust them to do a great job.
This team harebrained schemes do seem to raise a lot of money and make good profits, though maybe I’m under-estimating their costs. It’s very kind of the speaker to share his secrets.

I can speak about my experience and provide a bit of a postmortem.

Well as the speaker mentions around 14:32 with that slide about building and engaging an audience, press, etc. before launching a Kickstarter is super important and absolutely necessary. I feel that is where things fell down with my failed effort at it. Don’t think that launching the Kickstarter is where you start building a community or followers especially if you don’t have previous product development successes! I think I got only one backer from JGO BTW; thanks @princec… If any others did thanks! FWIW I always back any Kickstarter I see posted on JGO regardless of quality level.

On trying to raise $20k I spent $10k to make the video and other various assets. None of my larger group of FB social network “friends” (really just past folks I knew or met a few times from the underground music / club scene when I was an active DJ in the past) would participate in making a video, so I had to work with an outside production group which could source people to be in the video. I guess I should also mention maybe ~0.15% of these “friends” backed it. Even people I knew personally and hung out with socially and showed all the progress and demos at the time did not back it; needless to say I went my separate way after that (for other reasons too) from the majority of these folks. From the Google+ angle I have “over 4k (who knows how many zombies!)” followers of my Android / graphics tech chatter community; I really didn’t see many recognizable names from past commenters back the effort.

If $10k sounds high for a video that is actually super low at least in the San Francisco area from the majority of outside groups I contacted regarding video production ($30-50k was the average quoted price). I happened to find some competent folks a couple of years out of college that did a good job. Again I more or less had to do this to source people to be in the video besides I already was over extended on all other outreach efforts with a lot of stress involved. Sure I could have done it myself, but the resulting video would have been different and perhaps perceived as “less professional” or whatever.

I was trying to fund the final release engineering aspects with a fully working demo ready (~$80k already spent on development), but not hardened for release (protection of assets, etc.). The catch here is that what I really needed to do was send in advance a hobbled locked down demo to all relevant Android bloggers and any other press. I just didn’t feel comfortable sending an APK out. What I should have done since I was targeting the Nexus 5 at the time was buy 3-5 used devices and pre-installed / custom locked down the app and sent devices out. Probably should have done that for another ~3 potential influencers, but I was strapped for cash at the time and bad luck hit which made things even worse as the contract I was doing at the time was abruptly cancelled 3 months early as the startup I was consulting for was running out of cash and dropped Android as a target. I literally had to attend conferences and directly approach known bloggers to do a demo like Phil Nickinson of Android Central. I spoke at the Big Android BBQ (on GLES 3.1 / compute shaders) and made contact with Phandroid, but they posted a week before it ended which did get the largest influx towards the end. I also ran into Robert Scoble and did a impromptu demo which he posted to 650k FB followers; it’s hard to say how many backed it from this despite the glowing statements. Other than that I got no other “press” associated coverage; no one returned emails.

I had all cold contacts before launching the Kickstarter. In engaging after launching the Kickstarter that made it hard to reach any professional video forums; those folks thought it was a joke at best and panned me royally. Reddit was a cesspool of frustration even though others did post about the effort the follow up comments there were really asinine. Many claiming it was fake and one particularly silly one claiming it shouldn’t cost more than $5k to build and launch the product with it easily being outsourced which got upvoted. I don’t have a pulse on where things are now with Kickstarter backing, but end of '14 was a much harder time than say '11-13; before many failures to deliver occurred.

So absolutely to have a chance at success these days build an audience well before launching. Be in contact with the press / bloggers and send them a limited demo before launching any Kickstarter. It’s not enough to be technically competent even producing reasonable demo video / assets. Engage engage engage any relevant communities well before launching any crowd funding effort. Even better if you can build contacts with the press / bloggers sending them an early demo 1-2 months prior and have articles posted on launch. Also don’t rely on JGO alone at all as your only forum!

Meh… So where am I now? I had a brilliant contract Jan-June '15 that has provided the last ~18 months of development. I’ve mostly focused on server / back-end and web app concerns in general open sourcing everything under TyphonJS which will greatly support any product development video engine or not. These were “stretch goals” prior. You could say that I fell back into tools development which is a passion of mine, but I’m playing the long game. No one to my knowledge has released anything like what I created regarding a video engine on Android or iOS yet. Mobile phones are getting faster so things are only improving on what is possible, so a lot more will be available when I do launch. I’m going to make sure I can launch directly and likely skip Kickstarter / crowd funding again as it was a huge time sink and in the end made me feel horrible. Like anything creative it’s a hit / luck based endeavor whether you are making a game or something else. I did learn the hard way through all of this though and most of what I highlight above is relevant to crowd funding or a direct launch of a new product. Next time around I’ll be doing things differently as you can’t count on good luck.

Thanks for the thorough write-up, it is a cool video introduction you made for KickStarter. Interesting to hear how difficult it is to gather an audience. Sometimes I read posts by unknown programmers here who have a cool game that they’re showcasing or advertising but no-one replies which is sad. Not because people don’t think it’s awesome, but because what do you say if the game is finished and they’re not asking for advice or help and perhaps they won’t even read the forum again after posting.

Your TyphonRT app looks great, reminds me of Instagram but for videos with all the cool effects and pre-sets 8)
I can imagine that it would be hard to market such an advanced video tool when most people probably assume that high-level effects can only be achieved on a more powerful computer, not a phone.

What you said about social media not being fruitful is a pity. Perhaps your contacts liked the product but couldn’t afford to back every single thing that comes up. With the prevalence of open source software and the way everything is somehow done for free, unfortunately there’s a perception that everything should be or will be free despite all the work it takes to program cool projects.

There’s ‘friends’ and there’s a target audience, and there’s people with such frustrations with their current solution, that they are willing to invest in something unproven.

To me it’s no surprise that merely sub-1% of JGO’s active members, and sub-1% facebook friends were interested in TyphonJS. I read your kickstart, and commented on it previously, on how its content would even have alienated your actual target-audience, but we agreed to disagree on that one. Either way I think that kickstarter mainly works for feel-good campaigns: if you can’t amaze people or put a smile on their face, you’d going to have a tough ride.

To me it’s no surprise… That you continue to be critical without actually being constructive for the most part. I guess that is just you.

As mentioned on general principal I back all crowd funding efforts from active JGO members.

TyphonJS is something entirely different and is open source tooling focused on modern Javascript with a bent for cloud deployment tooling. Not bad currently with cumulative ~55k+ unique monthly downloads for all modules without any PR or even public mention outside of this post. Still got lots to do there and get things fully rolling.

Actually if you read that post you’ll see I listened and did not disagree on relevant points; though you had far more critical and moot musings on it all, but I didn’t point that out until now.

Having no actual budget I could not change the video. Could I have hired a more professional firm for $30-50k sure… Could I have paid PR firms to blast out a perhaps slightly more polished message sure. I did what I could within my means at the time and with the knowledge I have now things will be different on my next go at it perhaps with results to match.

Would I make the video differently now; yes… I also know that beating the street and showing demos to ~1000+ people primarily at tech conferences is nebulous in return. It takes multiple impressions to get folks to follow through. The best fruit of all the in person demos came from the Phandroid coverage where several people in the comments brought up meeting me / seeing the demo at the Big Android BBQ which adds confidence from the passer by reading that post.

I was on the leading edge of what was possible at the time (and still now). A bit too early and a buck short. With some small tweaks and a budget of $50-100k things might have been different.

There are plenty of other things left unsaid in regard to the difficulty of bootstrapping and working in waves on any creative effort; 13 years and counting. There also was my parents ongoing failing health and a desire to get a moonshot realized before they passed which happened this year. Given the latter alone I took a shot at it…

Either you have the money to blast things out PR wise, get lucky and meet a need; do both… OR you need about ~500 strong advocates who will be active in getting the word out. The latter achieved through hitting the street and doing some sort of alpha / beta early release. That is now possible with Android which wasn’t back then; re staged alpha / beta releases via Google Play. For games I’m not sure the whole green light / GOG work in progress release is the way to go per se as it is a bit to uncontrolled.

So true, classic me!

I applaud the gesture, but I think it’s a bit out there, and one cannot expect people to return that favor. I wouldn’t even fund my friends projects blindly, I think that goes for most people, but it might be classic me again.

My moot musings are the best, I’m glad you finally take the time to set the record straight on this one.

I respect that you sank $10K into that video, but it simply - to me - didn’t look like it. I actually think you could have done a better job yourself (this is somewhat of a compliment, you see). The firm that delivered on a budget made some rookie-mistakes IMHO (like that 8 second (!) fade out, in the middle of the video), that I seriously think that you, given a day to work on it, could have done it better than what that firm delivered. I wouldn’t have invested $10K, not even for the best possible video, mainly because I’m not much of an entrepeneur, and secondly because I’d even find a mere $10K quite a lot of money for a promo video. If regular rates are $30K-50K, then you got a great deal, financially - although I’m still convinced with a bit of effort a more convincing video would have arisen from your own hand in a day or two - for free (or your hourly wage).

Given that quite a few kickstarters succeed with minimal investment, I think it’s more of a hype/goodwill centered issue than a financial one.

I’m sorry to hear about your parents.

I’m not sure what actually changed with Google Play though - couldn’t you always release a 0.x version of your app and publish it in Google Play? Surely even your alpha/beta version beat a lot of existing ‘proper’ apps, capability wise, that were in the store, back then?

[quote]I think that kickstarter mainly works for feel-good campaigns: if you can’t amaze people or put a smile on their face, you’d going to have a tough ride.
Seems to me like this thought from Riven is a good bottom line for any attempt at crowd-funding–certainly something I’m going to keep in mind if I ever give it a go.

I’m surprised that a company would make its “business model” one of repeatedly going back to KickStarter. Don’t most people think of KickStart as a place to get a leg up when you are just starting out? I think veteran companies would have a harder time, because of this, and their “customers/supporters” would be increasingly demanding and value conscious rather than altruistic and generous.

Maybe the changes they talk about (from their early campaigns to later) have more to do with them being a returning company than about changes in crowdfunding in general?

Stuff about researching and understanding fulfillment costs–those are good lessons to learn from, regardless.

I was reading about the interesting survivorship bias recently:

Survivorship bias is where we draw conclusions from the evidence that we see, ignoring the cases that we don’t see because they failed and we never heard about them. This leads us to base our conclusions on the exceptions.

It’s very kind of Catharsis to share his experiences so we’re not mis-guided by the kickstarter success stories where the entrepreneur was probably just lucky. As they say, shit happens, so don’t blame yourself for failures, and ‘fortune favours the bold’, so keep on trying.

[quote]I’m surprised that a company would make its “business model” one of repeatedly going back to KickStarter. Don’t most people think of KickStart as a place to get a leg up when you are just starting out? I think veteran companies would have a harder time, because of this, and their “customers/supporters” would be increasingly demanding and value conscious rather than altruistic and generous.
Yes I was surprised by this too! If there were any bugs or annoying elements in the original kickstarter game that I bought from that company that they didn’t fix, and then I learned that they are embarking on a new game, then I would be a little upset. Perhaps their games are all rock-solid excellent so this doesn’t happen.

Thanks @CommanderKeith as I was just trying to give insight into my experience.

Boo, I’ve been delayed from responding… :emo: I lost a friend in the devastating structure fire in Oakland at an underground electronic music event last weekend along with several others I met in passing over the years, so quite the gloomy week. I have my reminisces of a very talented sound / audio engineer + artist, Barrett Clark here.

I guess I’ll leave a few more stats. Beating the street did end up with seemingly more folks contributing more than the minimum amount. Here is the breakdown:

86 total

22 at $5
5 at $15
35 at $20 (limited offer $25 tier)
10 at $25
6 at $50
4 at $100
1 at $250
1 at $3k (actually $5k)

So overwhelmingly the 3/4th majority pledged more than the minimum amount and this likely had to do with all of the in person outreach / demos that I did at conferences and other meetups. One would assume if the word actually got out in mass that the $5 tier would dwarf the more expensive ones. The golden outlier was my parents which entered in the first week and only on the condition that they were aware that if the goal wasn’t reached they owed nothing; they knew nothing about crowd funding. So yeah… Only $2,132 actually raised from outside sources.

You can see the Kicktraq graph as well. No big start or finish. Just the barren middle the whole way through.

At a certain point once there is a significant threshold to reach likely around $10k+ it’s absolutely necessary to reach a large amount of folks through the media / press.

Since I was doing something in an unknown / unproven area (creative effects composition video engine) right at the first moment it was first possible the only thing that I think would have changed the outcome is if I had a closed free alpha with 500+ people already using the app with as many press / bloggers involved in that group as possible. Conceivably giving the finished app away for free for everyone who could point to contributing or saying a good word in any forum (Reddit, etc.). Even sending out ~10 devices to press / bloggers with the app preloaded probably wouldn’t have been enough to get significant press coverage to tip the goal; though a lot closer.

The takeaway is that if you are coming from the self-funded / bootstrapping side then crowd funding isn’t necessarily about starting your community unless you are asking for less than $10k and the sweet spot is probably around $3k-$5k from a completely cold start.

I have a general musing on the success of Minecraft. IMHO Markus benefited from charging ~$10 for an early alpha and right around the time there were significantly new social networking services; Twitter, etc. you know back when people took it seriously. Get a few positive “check this out tweets” by gaming oriented influencers around then with 50k+ followers with reshares and a potential network effect and that significantly helps sans full blown articles in the press / blogs.

Oh yeah… Guess who plunked down $10 though I just fired up Minecraft once when originally posted on JGO when it was free… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Sigh… Now I’ll address Riven… It only takes one person in any forum to caste shade preventing further positive discourse.

Yes… classic you. I’ll just point to a previous post you made that was negative and short sighted; typical JGO peanut gallery fare.

Furthermore I think it’s moronic to suggest sub-1% of JGO potentially interested in the actual product especially considering a limited mode without saving and such is going to be free. It’s a supped up post processing engine that allows anyone to freely explore infinite combinations of post processing and indirectly learn numerous things about GLSL with an interactive environment; IE play around with some effects composition / figure out what you used then go implement it in your own code. Besides there are plenty of non-gaming creative efforts folks work on with Java via JGO. Now perhaps sub-1% of JGO backs any crowd funding effort here. The amount certainly isn’t above 3% quite likely for any of them.

Besides while I never mentioned it a longer term goal is to create a desktop app for programmers to directly create their own shaders / filters and upload to the running app on device for testing / usage and eventually I’d like to support a 3rd party marketplace for programmers.

Never said I expected more or anything from JGO. I just expressed what I do. Your assumption still is on the ridiculous side considering I’ve spent $40 over the last 2+ years. $5 on Retro-Pixel Castles and Tomb of Tyrants; $30 on Spine. There simply aren’t many folks trying to do crowd funding posted to JGO. I can go without a beer to support anyone here without question. Now if there were one a week I’d perhaps take a bit more of a critical look. Again this is still down to who you are as a person and what kind of community you’d like to see JGO be. I still think there is going to be another breakout hit and even at least one or more “FU money” successes from JGO in the future.

Yes… There is context involved. I simply don’t believe you intended to be helpful given past negativity expressed and the moot nitpicking that you did provide. That alone could have dissuaded anyone else from joining the conversation. Moot also meaning “non-actionable”. You provided nothing actionable that could have been put into use at the time. Want me to explicitly spell out the exact reasoning and why that is the case for all of your criticism?

Your criticism even of not taking time between relaunching things at a lower goal amount also was moot. In the following days after I did that I spoke at AnDevCon; and gave a 5 minute inspired lightning talk addressing all attendees. There was no time to adjust assets as I was constantly beating the street and reaching out to people, so an immediate reboot was pertinent.

Your consistent panning of splicing two videos together (IE 8 second gap) as a horrible thing to do is moot in the context that I highly doubt that had anything to do with why things didn’t turn out better.

As mentioned next time though via a direct public launch I’ll be doing more of an interspersed video with narration highlighting specific features as that seems the popular thing to do.

At some point in time it makes sense to delegate work. I actually asked a pro video editing acquaintance of mine what the minimum non-offensive value should be for the SF Bay Area when engaging such a service; his answer $10k. The next month when I had that available he kind of led me on for a couple of months then declined to assist. The next best option perhaps wasn’t the best per se. Another point of consideration is that everyone except the group I used would charge per diem fees. Want to get a clear / sunny content of SF / Golden Gate bridge, etc. Well if it’s not a clear day then too bad a significant per diem for showing up regardless is charged. The folks I worked with were lenient in this regard. The first time I tried to shoot the narrative / dialog part of the video (2nd half) I was so stressed I couldn’t do it. They came back a few days latter; no extra charge. Heh, you can still see I was a bit stressed in the video…

Not to brag per se, but at the time with the seed stage startup ($1MM funding) I was working for 60+ hours a week it took me ~69 hours to fund the video. Much easier for me to work ~6 days programming while others got actors (which I couldn’t do) to be in the video and run around the city. With my last contract at higher corporate rates it would take ~45 hours and an upcoming contract would take ~36 hours to fund it; we’ll see though as until it’s in the bank it doesn’t count. I don’t have taxes withheld when paid and this expenditure is a tax write off to boot. I gather that I’m likely the highest hourly paid professional involved with JGO or in the top 0.0001%. So yes at some point delegation is more than reasonable.

I also think you grossly underestimate the work required to setup a Kickstarter. At the time the requirements for a company were strict and I had to run around finding a bank I wanted to work with that wasn’t a consumer bank instead of making a video and many hours of coordinating documents between Amazon (payments) and such. That and all of the speaking / networking I did in person on top of a 50-60 hour work week had my schedule full and then some. Being an introvert none of that was energizing and was pretty challenging given the amount of in person indifference encountered; Big Android BBQ was a good example of that. Being “in friendly territory” wasn’t so friendly on the surface in general.

And as mentioned I don’t think changing the video would have significantly changed the outcome. The early alpha user community IMHO would have been the far larger difference.

Again I think this is a naive point of view unless you list specific data. Perhaps when Kickstarter launched and the early years ('09 to '11 maybe '12) saw more minimal investment successes until there was massive discontent about crowd funding. Also the goal amount is pertinent. Sure that $500 or $3k goal for some small efforts were raised. As mentioned I certainly think anything over $10k gets a lot more dicey these days and at $20k+ you definitely need a preexisting community, pay money for articles and / or potentially receive outside help for the video. Perhaps if one has unlimited time and or significant funds on hand more can be done in house over a longer period ramping up before launch; that wasn’t my situation re: time / funds.

alpha / beta testing and staged rollouts.

I hadn’t used these features before and was how I was going to manage the delivery of the Kickstarter goals to early supporters. Had I known the outcome or knew I’d have a AAA corporate contract months later that brought in a windfall for 4 months of work I would have postponed things and got a solid closed alpha release up with 500+ folks + bloggers / press before doing any crowd funding effort.

How can i possibly convince one of anything when they have this sentiment:

[quote]I simply don’t believe you intended to be helpful
and many similar remarks going just short of saying what a terrible person I am.

You seriously seem to hold a grudge, resulting in an unprecedented series of insults and insinuations. I don’t think our conversation here leads to something constructive. Eventhough my fingers are itchy to type up a reply, elaborating on misconceptions and differences of perspective, I’ll leave it at that. Goodluck with your project.

Here’s a huge thread on Indie gamer about Kickstarter postmortems

Again, they’re all by successful developers who were funded so they’re the lucky ones.

Most are very detailed and interesting to read. I looked at the Scraps weaponised vehicle game and the legend of eisenwald turn based single player rpg game

That’s definitely a good thread re: indie gamer Kickstarter postmortems. So far I’ve read the Scraps and Tetrapulse ones and will check out those that barely cleared the funding goal first.

Interestingly both that I read mentioned having a playable demo available early as an area of importance and this seems like necessary thing to do these days. The Tetrapulse folks had great fortune to work with a professional video group who made their video for free.

I liked that posting the referrer links that led to pledges seems to be something that is included in most postmortems. Here is mine from the second attempt as the first attempt was mostly barren:

So, yes direct JGO pledges were low. It would be interesting to compare against the other 3 JGO affiliated Kickstarters I mentioned. I’d gather that I was being generous with saying up to 3% of funding could have come from JGO in any crowd funding effort posted here.

It should also be pointed out that the direct traffic referrer is really ~5% if the family donation of $5k is removed.

Interesting points to see though was why did the Android Central blog post which had a custom in person demo video versus the Phandroid post which linked to the Kickstarter video do so well. There certainly was a call to action in the Phandroid post title and positive reaffirming comments from folks I met at the Big Android BBQ. Otherwise quite the disparity at 28 : 3 pledges. That was the only uptick or large influx of pledges. It certainly was a shock when I woke up that morning!

What is kind of surprising is that the Facebook referrer had only 1 pledge given that I also had a solid in person demo w/ Robert Scoble that was posted to ~650k FB followers. I can only assume that upwards of 75% of Scobles followers may be iPhone users versus Android. Both the Scoble post and Android Central had the general message of: “oh look shiny” versus any explicit call to action though one would assume many more saw the Scoble post.

For the referrers from I gave out at least 2k business cards that featured a color front image w/ text description on the back with the that link at several conferences and meetups.

From attending Big Android BBQ I got roughly $400 worth of pledges around the dates of the conference in October for the first cancelled effort. I guess it’s notable that attending cost me ~$1k / tax write off though especially since I was a speaker. I didn’t look to see if the handful of backers in the first effort actually contributed in the second. A similar uptick for AnDevCon and haunting the halls and press room of GMIC gave similar small upticks. For the latter I got lucky to run into an old acquaintance that got me the most expensive VIP pass and access to the press room where I met Scoble.

From what I’ve read from other postmortems getting a solid feature in a highly trafficked blog post / media placing is worth anywhere between $800 - $1500 on average. I suppose there always will be outliers where it can be much higher.

Double sigh Riven…

Let me explicitly call you out now so there is no misunderstanding. What you are doing is concern trolling with a dash of gaslighting. I guess it’s kind of ironic calling out the moderator of a forum for such, but there is no doubt in my mind that this is your intent / tactics on display. When I say: “I simply don’t believe you intended to be helpful” I am referring directly to the pattern of your behavior in that respect. Your last post in particular kicking up the fumes once again establishing a very clear pattern.

I laughed quite a bit in how you tried to conflate my responses on your critical statements to an attack on your character. I think you’re intelligent and knowledgable with graphics matters in general and competent enough to keep JGO running. I’d like to believe that you are not self-aware about your concern trolling and gaslighting. Furthermore I provided plenty of evidence as to why the critical statements you mentioned were moot, moronic, and ridiculous. You’re even smart enough to avoid the bait and not overtly attack points of unbridled optimism and a perhaps not so humble brag from my last post even though you admittedly wanted to, but instead kept up with a more subtle approach; albeit with fumes.

I can tell you this much though… If you gaslight people in your personal and professional real world life especially significant others and family then you are terrible person and should check yourself. Hopefully you are just doing it on JGO for the lulz and you are bored and it stops here.

I await for your “elaboration on misconceptions”; please take your time to prove that you ever intended to be helpful at all.

Hi Riven and Catharsis,
You’re both very reasonable and friendly people so it’s a pity to see you inflame old wounds so publicly. Obviously there was a misunderstanding that has not been de-escalated. We should move on and look forward. Let your great minds loose on the interesting software problems that you solve here, rather than dwell on this ‘water under the bridge’.