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Stompz: A Kickstarter Post-Mortem with Creator Matt Carrell

Those that have followed VRFocus for the past year will have likely heard of Stompz, the foot-based motion control for virtual reality (VR) experiences. Last month saw creator Matt Carrell launch a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign for the device, looking to raise $100,000 USD. Sadly it wasn’t to be; Carrell this week canceled the campaign with $10,267 raised with just days left on the clock. So what went wrong? What would Carrell change and what would he advise other hopeful projects to do?

That’s exactly what he explains in the post-mortem below. Stompz’s Kickstarter failure wasn’t all bad, giving the project some time in the spotlight, but Carrell has a long list of things that he’d do differently given the chance. Here he is to explain more:

On March 10th 2015 we launched our Kickstarter.  Although we didn’t get to the funding goal we set for ourselves, a rather large $100,000 threshold, the Kickstarter was hugely successful for us as the visibility, feedback and excellent reception we got to the product were invaluable.  Still, we probably could have done a lot better if we had known what we know now.  Sure, we did our research, but we still made A LOT of mistakes.

Stompz_4

In order to help others to not make the same mistakes we made, listed below are some of the things we got wrong so you can hopefully get them right.

1.       Kick up some dust

Don’t stay quiet until the moment you pull the trigger.  Most people aren’t cruising Kickstarter looking for projects to throw money at.  You should already know who your first one hundred backers will be before the Kickstarter even goes live.

Create an appetite for your project by posting teasers on your favorite blogs and forums, reach out to your favorite journalists, bloggers and podcasters beforehand.  Share what you’re doing with people doing similar things and ask them to plug your project in return for co-marketing.

2.       Timing is everything

“Figure out where lightning is going to strike and stand there” – Brook Drumm:  Inventor/Founder of PrinterBot ($830,827 pledged of $25,000 goal)

Timing is the hardest variable to get right.  That big conference might be the perfect time to launch your product.  Everyone will be buzzing about the market potential and then BOOM, you drop a killer Kickstarter on them and set the hook.  On the other hand, your Kickstarter might just be swept away under the deluge of other releases by larger companies.

You won’t know where lightning will strike, but you can certainly improve your chances!

Some months are historically better for Kickstarters than others, but more importantly, if you’ve done No. 1 right you’re setting your own timeline.

3.       Send a message

Send a clear message.  Not 2.  Not 4.  Just one.  This project does (message) PERIOD.

I bet there are so many amazing extra functions, interesting use-cases, and cool features to your project, but those ARE NOT your message.

Make sure you send your one crystal clear message. And make doubly sure these extras are icing on the cake and not mud in the water.

4.       Sharing a story

Consumers love a good product, but PEOPLE love a good story.  Sure, you will get backers if you have a good idea, but if you have a great story, people will want to share it (just make sure your story doesn’t confuse that spotless message of yours).

5.       It’s not a commercial

Sure you could make a sexy, high-quality video with beautiful after-effects.

Stunning graphics that make your message POP off the page.

Professional market research that determines your exact demographic and the best verbiage and incentives needed to grab their attention.

But if you don’t have the funds for these things, DON’T PRETEND YOU DO!

Trying to look like you’re big-time when you aren’t hurts your image both by stealing your “help the little guy” storyline and by making you look like a big business that went cheap.

Use what you have, ask friends for help, and do your best to convey your message and story without going broke in the process.

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6.       Goal

You know exactly how much you need to raise to bring your project to life, but Kickstarter isn’t the only source for funding this project.

Having a successful Kickstarter is usually more profitable than just the money you raise through the campaign.  A great reception shows the interest and traction investors are looking for.  It’s a risk, but set the threshold as low as possible to still deliver.

7.       Merchandise

A shocking amount of people want to help but might not want, or just can’t afford, the actual product.  Let them show their support and give them something small but thoughtful in return.   The more backers, the better; regardless of what they pledged.

8.       Know your market

If your demographic is tech-savvy and articulate DO NOT over-digest your message with infographics and artwork.  Conversely, don’t make a creative project with blocks of text describing the technical details the product.

9.       Stay Positive

Even if you have only made $1, be thankful for the support!   Kickstarter is just another chapter in your story; it’s not the end of your book.

10.   Ask for help!

Ask everyone you can think of!  Go big and ask people and companies who you think would never help a little project like yours.  Sure most people won’t even respond, but just politely put it out there.  Ask for advice first and then ask if they can do anything else to help.  Take the time to make each communication personal and show that you reached out to them explicitly.  DO NOT mass email requests for help (reserve mass emails for news and updates).  It never hurts to ask, and you might be surprised who answers.

Overall, we are really happy that we did the Kickstarter, even if it didn’t get the funding we were seeking.  Kickstarter is like a giant digital billboard that announces to the world that you exist.  Even though we messed a lot of things up we still received an amazing reception from our Kickstarter and it gave us a lot of things even more valuable than money.

If you are considering Kickstarter for your amazing project, you should definitely go for it.  Hopefully this guide will help you make it a success, but even if it isn’t, the people you meet and the feedback you get and all of the amazing things you learn about yourself and your project, definitely make it worth the ride.