We’ve previously described how Memoto got to the point of being approved by Kickstarter. It wasn’t an effortless ride, to say the least, but after months of preparations and weeks of nail-biting, nerve-racking anxiety and adjustments, we got the approval and were ready to launch early morning (CET) Tuesday, October 23rd 2012.
Today, 38 days later, we have just closed the Kickstarter campaign and thought we should share our sum-up. Because the roller-coaster ride had only begun when the campaign started.
The day before the launch, the Memoto team gathered in our Stockholm office. Normally, we’re scattered across Sweden, but for the launch we figured we should all get together and enjoy the first days of the Kickstarter campaign in the same room. We had lists of reporters and influential people in our network that we were prepared to call and beg for their engagement in order to boost interest the first hours. We had started an unofficial Facebook event to lure our friends to the launch. Each person in the Memoto team of 15 had a designated promotion task (call your friends, email 100 reporters, DM people on Twitter etc) for the first days of the campaign, to help us get started. It was not going to be easy, we thought, but we were committed to put in the effort needed to make the project fly.
In the evening before launch day, we went out for dinner and started talking about our expectations for the days to come. We had learned that the first 48 hours are crucial for any Kickstarter campaign. The exact numbers vary, but the general consensus is that if you haven’t raised a 30% percent of your goal (in our case 15k of our 50k goal, or 75 pledged Memoto cameras) within the first two days, you’re bound to have a tough time making it to 100% during the rest of your campaign period; Hence, the nervousness. (Notice a pattern?)
Someone by the dinner table took a bold guess: “We should be able to get those 30% the first day, shouldn’t we?” Someone more pessimistic (me) couldn’t contain their skepticism: “Are you crazy? How would we do that? If we’d have 75 people pledging for a camera the first day we’d have a conversation rate from our mail subscription list of 25%! Get real.” I’ve never been happier to be wrong.
Come Tuesday morning, 7am CET (10pm Monday night PST), waking up on team member’s mattresses across Stockholm, we opened our laptops to watch the campaign see the light of day. Amazed, we witnessed our baby getting the kind of reception we had only dreamed of.
After the first 15 minutes, 50 very quick-on-the-draw persons had watched our campaign video and 10 trigger-happy backers had pledged for a camera. After 30 minutes, we had reached 10% of our total goal of $50,000. After an hour, we had passed 20%, and the beautiful linear progress kept on climbing.
On the Interwebs, the word on Memoto started to spread. We were headline news on The Verge, Techcrunch and TheNextWeb. And Wired UK, Huffington Post UK, El Pais in Spain and Internet World in Sweden also picked up on the story. The talk about Memoto continued on Twitter, Reddit, Hacker News and Quora. The designated begging lists we were supposed to use to get people’s attention were quickly thrown out the office’s ceiling window.
Not that we could, by any means, kick back and relax. Instead, we would soon learn the real power of crowdfunding: the crowd.
But more about that in a bit. First, let me finish bragging about the funding progress the first 24 hours.
After 3 hours, we had raised $25,000.
After 4 hours, we had reached $40,000.
After 4 hours and 35 minutes, we passed the goal of the campaign: $50,000. The Memoto camera was going to happen.
Now the natural question: why did we set such a, in hindsight, low goal? Well, the truth is simply that $50,000 was (roughly) what we needed to get the cameras into production. Probably a higher goal would have been nice to increase the ability to solve unforeseen obstacles with money, but frankly we didn’t dare to set the goal as high as, say $100,000, because of the risk of not reaching it and thus, losing it all. $50,000 felt like something we could potentially raise over the course of the 38 days long Kickstarter campaign.
But as people started dropping in for our launch party, where we had prepared various games and treats to get people (our friends) at the party to back us, we had doubled our goal amount ($100,000). When the night was over, we had raised three times our initial goal and reached the first stretch goal that we made up almost in panic earlier in the afternoon.
After that first day, we were obviously overwhelmed with the warm welcome Memoto had received. Few phrases are probably more overused than “not in our wildest dreams…” but that night we all felt like… well, like we had made really crappy estimations to begin with.
Despite the fantastic, enormous and, for the most part, positive buzz that flew in and out of our mailboxes and Twitter feeds, it should be said openly that not all of the mentions and discussions about Memoto were completely positive. The most common concerns were, not surprisingly, about privacy issues, integrity and security. Plus, the inevitable and always nice, “what-the-heck-is-this-for” question. These concerns were much aligned with what we had expected. Using the prepared FAQ we were able to immediately take part in the discussions and present our point of view. The entire Memoto team of 15 people sat, reclined and stood scattered about the office, frenetically tapping on their laptops to offer answers or just provide someone to talk to about the questions emerging around Memoto.
After just a few hours in the campaign we learned how valuable all these discussions were going to be for our product development. The before-mentioned thread on Reddit, for example, quickly killed what we thought was a key feature of our service. (Thank you very much!) On the Kickstarter page we proudly state ”… the photos are automatically uploaded to Memoto’s servers.” Convenient, we thought. No hassle, and the user gets access to the organization of photos through Memoto’s smartphone app. Plus, you don’t have to store 4,5 terabytes of data per year on your closet server. The Reddit community thought differently. Redditers argued vocally for it to be optional to store your photos on Memoto’s servers and questioned why they should trust Memoto with photos randomly and automatically taken. We tried explaining the reason behind our thinking but quickly realized we were the ones mistaken and the Redditer’s demands were quite fair.
The next day, we started researching the possibilities to meet the demand of optional local storage. In the evening, we were able to publish a Kickstarter update stating this feature to be included if we reached the next stretch goal of $350,000 to finance the extra development it would need. At the same time, we threw in a couple of other features that had also been requested by the crowd during the first day of the campaign.
Quickly recorded video to illustrate how the double tapping feature will work.
It all happened very quickly, but in just over the first 48 hours we had made some crucial insights on how Kickstarter works:
1. A) It’s a crowd funding platform. (Notice the two words; not “crowdfunding”). It is a CROWD that is funding you, not a single person or VC firm that you can schedule a Skype meeting with when you have time a week from now, but actually a (potentially very large) group of people willing to take out their wallets and give you money for something that no one knows whether or not it will ever exist. They are more than “users,” more than “customers.” They are champions of your idea and they should be treated with respect, gratitude, transparency and an eagerness to go a whole bunch of extra miles to meet their expectations.
B) During a Kickstarter campaign, the best investment you can make is to spend time talking with backers, converted or potential. Done right, you get both inspiration and positive feedback to get you through the hard work needed, plus you learn what works with your product and what doesn’t. Your backers essentially become a virtual product development team. If you doubt it, think about the costs of running a focus group or market research campaign. (Even that is not fair, since respondents in a focus group rarely have made the same commitment to your product as your Kickstarter backers have.) Help them help you (at Memoto, we did a “how to” page to help newbies to Kickstarter) and you’ll get it back 11 fold…
C) Community management takes time. A lot of time. At Memoto we, had to double our community management team from two to four people during the Kickstarter campaign in order to monitor and manage the questions and feedback coming. You are expected to be extremely quick and correct in your interaction on the Comments section, in your Updates, when personally contacting backers and in your feedback emails, Twitter discussions and Facebook threads. See A+B above for arguments.
2. Stretch goals are great, but not in the way we thought. It’s hard to prove with A/B tests, but our feeling after having announced a total of three stretch goals and reached two of them, is that stretch goals don’t work as triggers for backers. We saw little or no effect on the backer/funding graphs after announcing a stretch goal. Why? We don’t know. (If you have an idea, please post a comment as we are eager to understand.) What a stretch goal does enable though, is the ability for you to talk about things to come, thereby inflating your original product with more valuable features even before they are made. For instance, being able to offer the stretch goal reward of “double-tap to take a picture”, made the idea of the Memoto camera bigger and better without costing us money upfront for development. The basic idea with Kickstarter, in other words, but on a feature level. Plus, it proved that we listened to our backers.
3. It’s a process, not a product. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the insight still grew on us as our project evolved. Your initial Kickstarter page and video is basically just a statement on where you’re at by the time the campaign starts. With the help of your backers, this will change and improve over time and you will have iterated your project plan over and over until you come out on the other end with a different product than you first launched. To talk in tech project terms: Kickstarter may require a waterfall spec to launch your project, but it is actually a scrum platform.
4. Don’t be cheap on details. Your backers deserve to know whatever they want to know about your product. What is the name of the sensor in the Memoto camera? Will I be able to use your API to build a Windows app? What’s the photo quality in dawning light? Tell it, and tell it honestly. Use Kickstarter’s various media platforms to place your level of information right: large-scale, top-level “sales points” in the video, essential product information in the page body, nitty-gritty nice-to-know stuff in your FAQ.
After those first hectic days when everything was chaos, we started to get on top of things again. We brought in extra personnel to assist with the community management. Niclas Johansson (@NiclasJ) and Lina Boozon Ekberg (@BoozonLina) came in after a week or so and made the whole difference. Now the rest of the communication team could spend some time on figuring out the next steps and the dev team could focus on developing the product.
As the campaign went on, we kept getting the most unexpected inquiries and requests. Adventurers wanting a camera for their walk around the world, researchers seeing a use for a Memoto camera when doing research on sheep and a world-known rock band asking to have a couple of cameras to document their next tour. And then, there were distributors offering to get the cameras out on the most unexpected markets, super cool social media brands initiating partnerships and one or two investors placing their money on the table for a stake in the company.
So far we’ve had to turn most of them down. Not because we don’t like their ideas, but simply because we have increasingly seen our need for focus. In a few weeks we literally went from zero to thousands of buyers and with that comes a responsibility to also ship what we’ve promised. Seems obvious, I know, but it doesn’t happen out of nowhere and at the time of writing we still have many hard hours of work ahead of us before the first camera lands on all of our backer’s doorsteps.
Today, we closed the campaign. It feels great, of course, having raised 11x our initial goal. No question about that. As we described in the first part of this blog post, we were never sure we would even reach the original goal set for the campaign and ending up with >$550,000 was light years beyond what we could have ever dreamed. We’re still amazed and forever grateful for this.
But even more important has been the validation of our idea that we’ve received from the thousands of camera sold and the thousands of comments, tweets, emails and random cheering from each and everyone. The positive feedback has, for sure, kept our egos running, but it’s been in the mix with the more, should I say constructive, feedback that we’ve really been able to tighten our product development and keep ourselves on the right track. For this, Memoto owes it to our backers to have a kick ass product in their hands within a few months. And that is what we will spend all our time on now.
To sum up, and in the spirit of lifelogging inspired data collection, we’d like to share some data from Memoto’s Kickstarter campaign:
- Campaign starting time: October 23rd 7am (CET) 2012
- Campaign ending time: November 30th 12pm (CET) 2012
- Total campaign time: 38 days, 5 hours
- Number of backers: 2871
- Number of new Twitter followers: 802
- Number of new Facebook page fans: 2,414
- Number of visits on Memoto.com: 116,439 (99,177 unique)
- Number of visits on Memoto.com directed from external sources: 57,282
- Country yielding most visits on Memoto.com : United States (43,494) (California being at the top with 9,119)
- Number of countries yielding visits on Memoto.com: 178
- Most popular pledge level on Kickstarter: $249 (45% of backers, 59% of money raised)
- Total amount pledged: $550,189
- Percentage funded: 1,100%
- Average pledge amount: $191
- Traffic source delivering highest percentage of pledging: Kickstarter.com/discover/categories/hardware (19,48% or $107,185)
- Number of video plays: 102,788 (62,054 on Kickstarter, 40,734 outside of Kickstarter)
- Number of cameras sold: 2,346
- Getting feedback from awesome backers: priceless
Again, thank you for the fantastic ride this has been! We can’t wait to get the freshly baked cameras in your hands. Now we’re going to crawl back into our startup cave and get everything ready for shipment ASAP. But we’ll keep you posted about our future progress and we look very much forward to hearing from you along the way.
Lots of love,
Memoto Team through Oskar Kalmaru
This blog post has been inspired by Niclas Johansson’s roundup of his FundedByMe campaign “Bar-deli”. It’s a great read for anyone planning a launching a crowd funding campaign, no matter the size or place. Thank you Niclas for the inspiration!