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:
- 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.
- 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…
- 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.
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.