This has been the summer of Kickstarter. Dozens of millionaires have been made on the crowdfunding platform this year, and the the recent passage of the JOBS act ensures the company will continue to flourish. Above all, Kickstarter is teaching a generation of designers, artists, and musicians about entrepreneurship–often through trial-by-fire. There’s an art to crafting a compelling pitch, and a science to following through on incredibly ambitious goals.
Now, the company behind some of the platform’s first super-successful campaigns has published an e-book on their experiences. In It Will Be Exhilarating: Indie Capitalism and Design Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century, Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost of Studio Neat offer insight and advice to would-be Kickstarter entrepreneurs. We recently caught up with the duo, and invited them to share some of their advice with us below.
You may remember Studio Neat from their snappy, well-produced campaigns for The Glif (an iPhone tripod mount) and The Cosmonaut (an ergonomic tablet stylus). Both campaigns blasted through their goals, making it possible for the young duo to turn their company into a sustainable, full-time gig. “We have learned a lot in a short period of time, and wanted to share this information with the world,” say the duo. “So we wrote a book.”
Echoing some of Kickstarter’s recent critics, Provost and Gerhardt urge young designers to propose ideas they’d work to complete even without funding. In other words? Your pitch should come from a genuine place–Kickstarter isn’t a way to get out of a boring office job or fund a vacation. “Don’t make a product because you want to quit your day job (that can be a reason, but not the reason). Don’t make a product because you want to get rich,” they write. “Make something great because you care deeply about it. Make something because you stay awake at night thinking about it. Make something because you feel invigorated when you work on it, and anxious when you don’t.”
“The video pitch is incredibly important,” says Provost, speaking about format and content. “Above all, your video should be short, personal, and honest.” The idea is to convey your commitment to your project, rather than produce the slickest-looking video on the platform. Focus on the message, not the quick cuts–potential investors will take notice. “Be honest and passionate. Let your potential backers see your excitement and enthusiasm for the project.” The studio believes that despite Kickstarter’s exponential growth, the site’s fundamental value proposition hasn’t changed for smaller businesses. “Even though the huge blockbuster projects tend to get all of the press attention, we think smaller scale projects will still feel right at home on Kickstarter.” In other words, it’s best to be yourself–even if “yourself” is small, lo-fi, and frayed at the edges.
Provost points to another trend on the site–overexposure–to demonstrate how not to pitch. “One potential pitfall is an influx of new users who don’t fully grasp the Kickstarter model and ethos, and consider it more in line with Amazon.com,” he says. That means users who have three campaigns running at once, or are flippant about the details of their end goal. “When projects are inevitably delayed due to production issues, this could lead to a backlash.” Funded campaigns that haven’t made good on their promises are rampant on the site today. To assuage investors’ fears, don’t set outrageous goals with regards to pricing or production schedule. Realism is the best policy.
Studio Neat argue that the Kickstarter pitches that truly shine are unabashedly original, even if that means they’re a little quirky. Try not to rely too heavily on precedents found in other success stories, since the power of crowdfunding is in its flexibility and adaptability. “The world of making and selling consumer products is rapidly changing,” adds Provost. “Don’t feel like the status quo needs to be maintained. Make up your own rules.”