To Kickstarter or Not? Hard Lessons You Don’t Hear About Anywhere Else

Six months ago we decided to begin what seemed like a simple task, to create and launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the BraLadder Hanger. It was all the rage. Products, entrepreneurs, and artists were raising thousands, sometimes millions, through Kickstarter campaigns. Well, we should do it too, right?

So, like anyone else trying to chase the Kickstarter rainbow, we put together a list of what we needed to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign:

  • A good product
  • A decent video
  • An inspring story
  • Creative rewards for contributors
  • Knowledge of Kickstarter’s guidelines

So we began the process of creating a Kickstarter campaign.

What you don’t hear about Kickstarter

What we found is something you don’t hear about anywhere else. We already figured it would take some time and money to create a campaign. We knew that only 50% of Kickstarter campaigns successfully raise enough money. Those were risks we were willing to take, and felt we could offset with a few simple strategies:

  1. Lower our raise - If we didn’t raise at least your target amount on Kickstarter, we don’t get any of the money. After watching some friends launch a Kickstarter campaign and fail to raise enough contributions (and come out with $0.00 for their efforts), we decided we could just lower the amount of the raise to improve our chances of getting any money at all. Granted there are other crowdfunding sites where you get to keep partial raise amounts, indiegogo and RocketHub. Seeing as how Kickstarter was the largest and most well known crowdfunding site, we decided to stick with Kickstarer.
  2. Hire a freelancer to make a good, but cost-effective video – The video on crowdfunding sites is essential. All the experts say you don’t have to spend a ton, just make a decent enough video so that it won’t detract from our campaign. So we hired a $10 per hour freelancer, wrote our own scripts, and did everything on the cheap, but got a quality video out of it. See our BraLadder Hanger video…
  3. Follow the guidelines – We meticulously followed the guidelines. We made sure we had a “project” worthy of attention. We make sure it had function as well as form by hiring international industrial designers. We weren’t raising money for charity.

And then the rest of the story…

What we didn’t realize is that it after spending months creating videos, drafting press releases, emailing friends for pre-launch commitments (recommended to get 20-30% before launch), brainstorming unique rewards, setting up Amazon payment accounts, and preparing ourselves for the coming tidal wave of questions, with one fell swoop of an anonymous mouse click, our efforts would never see the light of day on Kickstarter.

I’m not talking about the 50% of Kickstarter campaigns that fail to raise enough money. I’m talking about the thousands more campaigns that don’t even make it onto Kickstarter. There aren’t any statistics for what Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan, would call the “cemetery of unpublished works.” These campaigns that never were are forgotten in the sands of time.

In essence, we spent six months, thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours creating a Kickstarter campaign, and then . . . our campaign was denied by Kickstarter because “Unfortunately, this project does not meet our guidelines.” No further reason was given. As far as we knew, our project followed the guidelines.  Well, luckily there was an appeal process…

We researched the guidelines again and submitted an appeal to see if there was something we could change or tweak to get our campaign approved. We asked why we were denied the first time. Twenty-four hours later we received a response.

DENIED AGAIN. No reason, just denied. No re-appeal. No resubmission. That was it. That was the end of our BraLadder Kickstarter campaign that never was. We were officially in the cemetery of unpublished works. No one would ever know about our campaign. The worst part was we had no idea why we were denied, so we aren’t sure what we could do differently in the future.

Lessons learned

So while a tough lesson to swallow, we learned that Kickstarter isn’t quite the angelic resource that it’s made out to be. If you want to do a Kickstarter campaign, not only take into account the fact that your campaign might fail, but take into account the high number of campaigns that are denied for Kickstarter and never launched in the first place.

Is it worth the risk to use Kickstarter? That’s for you to decide. For us, we were hoping to use Kickstarter for other projects, but have soured on that idea. If we do decide to give crowdfunding another try, we’ll probably try another site that has a lower barrier to entry. At least that way we will at least be given a shot to succeed.

bottleBOSS Launches Movember Mustache Bottle Opener

Mustache bottleBOSS Opener

Mustache bottleBOSS Opener

bottleBOSS just launched its latest design, the Mustache, purposefully for Movember and will donate 1% of mustache bottleBOSS bottle opener, mustache money clip, and money clamp sales to the Movember Foundation.

What is Movember?

During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of mustaches on thousands of men’s faces, in the US and around the world. With their Mo’s, we raise vital awareness and funds for men’s health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancer initiatives. For more information visit Movember.com.

Not only do we donate to Movember each year, I will be sporting a Mustache during November to show my support. Here is a picture of my BOSS ‘stache from last year. I will be keeping a Mustache Diary on the bottleBOSS Facebook page.

My Movember Mustache

My Movember Mustache

Launch of Our First Licensed Invention – BraLadder Hanger & Organizer

I’m very excited because last week was a huge milestone for Long Tail Products. After nine months of development, and contributions from industrial designers and partners from around the world, we launched the BraLadder Hanger.

Why was this a milestone?

In January inventor and medical student Jacqueline Romanies approached us with a rough prototype of a bra organizer and a story. She had a hard time drying and storing her bras in a way that didn’t cause them to lump, warp, and wear out over time. Existing bra hangers wore out straps, and drawer bra organizers crushed her bras. She needed a way to neatly hang them to air dry, and compactly store and organize bras in her closet. After talking with dozens of women to see if this was a common need, we decided to license the BraLadder.

So the reason we are very excited to launch the BraLadder was because it was the first product that Long Tail had licensed from an inventor and brought to market. Our long term goal is to work with more inventors to help them bring viable products to market. Learn more about the BraLadder Hanger, Organizer, & Drying Rack…

How Business Owners Get the Most Out of Acton’s Entrepreneurship MBA

The Acton Blog recently interviewed myself and another business owner who had to put their business on hold for Acton. See how we ran a company while studying 100 hours per week…

RISE Week Austin – How to Create a Kick-ass Culture at Your Company

RISE Week, the SXSW of Entrepreneurs is almost over, but there’s still plenty of great sessions left. I’ll be speaking tomorrow (Friday 3/30) on the topic of corporate culture. I’ll take small business owners through 10 steps to create a kick-ass culture using case studies from Long Tail Products, local companies such as Whole Foods, and nationally-recognized cultures such as Zappos. Sign up now…

Check out other RISE Week Friday events

Look forward to seeing you there!

Ross Perot, Herb Kelleher, and Philip Romano, oh my!

A few months ago I was fortunate enough to receive an honor from the Texas Business Hall of Fame and attend a luncheon in Dallas with some of the biggest names in Texas business. The best part . . . I sat right next to Ross Perot and Ross Perot Jr. at my lunch table, gave a bottleBOSS to Herb Kelleher (founder of Southwest Airlines), and hob knobbed with the founders of Cinemark and Romanos Macaroni Grill, all while donning my Movember Moustache . Here are a few pictures from the event.

Acton Video About Webko!

The folks at Acton were kind enough to come visit Webko Products to learn why I’m an entrepreneur and what I learned at the Acton MBA in Entrepreneurship.

Building a Business Around YOU – Acton MBA Entrepreneurship Article

I recently wrote an article for my alma mater, the Acton MBA in Entrepreneurship, about how it’s best for entrepreneurs to align their personal goals with their business goals, and how I’ve been able to build my business around inventing, traveling, and napping.

Read more on the Acton MBA in Entrepreneurship blog…

An MBA for Entrepreneurs

If you had read my posts from the last few years, you’ll see that I’ve been considering getting an MBA for a while. However, I debated with myself and discussed with others whether the cost was worth it or not for entrepreneurs. After searching and searching, I narrowed down my search to two programs:

  • Babson University outside of Boston, MA – ranked #1 for their 1-year MBA in entrepreneurship by Entrepreneur Magazine for the last 17 years.
  • Acton MBA for EntrepreneursThe Acton MBA in Entrepreneurship in Austin, TX – a relatively new, radically different MBA program founded in 2002 by an entrepreneur and two ex-University of Texas MBA professors.

I decided that I wanted a one year MBA program, which both of them offered. There is not only a higher cash cost for attending a school for two years, but an even higher opportunity cost (because of what you could be making).

I researched and visited both programs, both of which were far superior to traditional Top 10 MBA programs that are great for corporate ladder climbers or future consultants, but useless for entrepreneurs.

Even though I received financial aid from Babson, I decided to choose Acton. Here’s why:

  • Classroom environment. Although when I visited Babson I sat in the best classes with the best professors, Acton had a more engaging, energetic classroom environment. If you are the least bit interest in getting an MBA in Entrepreneurship, then visit Acton’s classroom and I guarantee it will blow you away.
  • 100% of the classes at Acton are case method. I had been recommended by entrepreneurs that the case method is the only way to really learn what the real world is like. At Acton, when the teacher would ask a question, 10-20 hands would bolt up in the air to have the first chance to respond. It was just incredible how much energy there was in the classroom. Babson had a good number of case method classes, probably around the 50% mark.
  • 100% of Acton students want to be entrepreneurs. Although 25% come in to Acton having founded a company and 40% start a company right after school, these statistics are much higher than the single digit percentages shown by other top entrepreneurial MBA programs. A good chunk of Babson students want to be entrepreneurs, but I’d put it in the <25% range
  • Every Acton teacher is a full-time entrepreneur. This means they teach part time, which most schools and students would consider a turn off. But as an entrepreneur, it’s exciting. That means the teacher can bring in real world examples from his or her own business rather than just live on theory.
  • Types of classes. Rather than arcane topics like Accounting or Organizational Management, at Acton I’ll be taking classes like Life of Meaning, where I’ll discover my innate strengths and interests, talk to successful entrepreneurs about what’s important in life, and learn how to contribute my skills and talents to the world. I’ll also be taking a class called Customers where we’ll practice sales techniques selling door-to-door. In our Operations class we’ll simulate and run real assembly lines. In the People class we’ll learn how to find, motivate, and keep the best people, investors, and partners.
  • Philosophy. Although you may discount this reason, it was very important for me. Over 99% of businesses in the US are started by bootstrapping, credit card debt, and friends and family. Why then do most programs (including Babson), continue to focus on venture capital and private equity backed businesses? Acton believes that good business is one that generates internal cash flow, thus doesn’t need investors. This was a very important philosophy to me because I don’t want VCs meddling in my business (if I wanted a boss I’d go get a job). Acton also had some other philosophies I believed in, including that every business is made up of only two parts: Sales or Operations. Also, yes writing a business plan can be helpful, but what’s more important is execution. Then why do so many schools focus on business plan competitions?

When I was making my decision, here were the concerns I had about attending a relatively new program:

  • Reputation. Babson did have a much better, and longer, reputation than Acton. But as an entreprenur, what matters most? The pedigree of your institution or your track record. I decided it would be my track record that would attract investors, partners, and employees, but the pretty piece of paper on the wall.
  • Cost. A really tough part of this decision was because of the fact that Babson would have been cheaper with the financial aid. However, after talking to friends and family, I decided that the difference of $10-$20k spread over a lifetime is minimal, especially when you consider that if I learned one important concept at Acton that I wouldn’t have at Babson, that one concept could make me millions as an entrepreneur.
  • Workload. Acton is known for its ultra intense workload of 100+ hours per week (I thought I could get by with less but after talking to several alumni they say its impossible). I was and still am worried about this, but that’s the price of cramming 2 years of knowledge into 9 months. Had I gone to Babson, yes, I probably could have run my business(es) on the side. But now that I’m going to Acton I’ve had to train my team to grow without me.

Even when I wasn’t sure what to do, I decided that it was best for my entrepreneurial future to go with my gut, and so I went for Acton.

**As a closing remark, I’d like to point out that because I’ll be in Acton’s intense entrepreneur MBA program for the next 9 months, I probably won’t have much time to blog. Once I’m out of the program though I do have some big plans for this blog.

Bryan Daigle

Be Ready for Change

I love the quote, “Change is the only thing that remains constant.” I think it really gets to the essence of life, relationships, interests, and professions.

If you accept that change is the only constant, then life suddenly becomes much simpler.

In fact, I don’t know about you, but I enjoy change. Of course, I like change on my own terms, but most of the timing is not up to us. I expect whatever it is I’m doing, wherever I’m living, and whoever my closest friends are, will change. Actually, in the next few months, all of those things will change.

  • I’m going to get an executive MBA for entrepreneurs
  • I’m moving from Ann Arbor, MI to Austin, TX
  • With the move and going back to school, I’ll be making new friends and probably losing some old ones

That’s just life.

Of course, if you don’t have change in your life, it makes it easier. However, without change you don’t get to live your life to the fullest extent. It’s like going to the same restaurant everyday for every mean and ordering the grilled chicken sandwich. Now I love grilled chicken sandwiches, but not everyday. And not for every meal.

A related question that pops up in my mind is, how long will I be making the Headset Buddy? It could be months if all the cell phone and PC manufacturers decide to standardize their headset jacks. It could be 10 years if we keep growing like we have been. It could be 1 year if someone decides to buy the Headset Buddy brand. Who knows? Life’s funny and I look forward to one day looking back and laughing.

Daigle

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