If you’re on the site now you probably already know what my product to be built was, but if you do not know I’ll give a couple sentence intro. Growing up playing hockey outside in Alaska there were days I couldn’t feel my hands or feet at all after 30 minutes in freezing temperatures. If I could make gear to keep blood flowing to my extremities I would feel better, play better, and maybe even look better. So after some entertaining times messing around with different insulation materials and testing different outer shells (Check out gag gloves, which albeit may not be pretty at all, but they work great) I was able to create the Refhlex gloves. These gloves met the three criteria I was looking for: Looks good, works good, and feels good. It took me over a year of material testing to find the perfect combination, but I was pumped to have made it work. Nothing like these had ever been created before, so I knew these were worth sharing.
And they failed. It was a bit of a rushed effort in comparison to my successful trial run, but I still expected more out of Third Assist. After failure I debated what steps to take next, but out of failure I’ve learned a heck of a lot more. And this may be the reason you’re visiting this post in the first place- The Lessons Learned.
I knew this before I went for the Third Assist campaign. My rationale was if I went for the campaign in the late summer, I could fulfill before the holidays. Just in time for prime pond hockey season. Well that was wrong move #1. It was also the wrong move for one of the most successful KS campaigns ever: The Coolest. The Coolest ran in the winter and failed. They returned in the summer and made a cool thirteen million dollars on Kickstarter.
I learned that Kickstarter ‘Popular’ rankings are based off of how much funding has been raised, number of backers, and time spent on Kickstarter. Staying in the ‘Popular’ rankings keeps eyes on your project and therefore more potential backing. Having a strong start from the beginning can keep up the momentum because your campaign remains ‘Popular’. This is especially the case given the typical “U” shaped curve of a Kickstarter campaign where you lose momentum quickly after the first couple days. Popular rankings reshape the standard “U” curve.
Lesson 3: Pump up backers, pump up momentum
A placement in the ‘popular’ rankings is huge for keeping a campaign relevant over thirty days. Although nearly half of the backers on the initial successful Kickstarter campaign came from outside sources, the other half came from within Kickstarter, especially from repeat backers. This makes sense as one who has participated in crowdfunding before is more likely to back than someone who is doing it for the first time. This is where I’ll give credit to someone who figured this out and played it to their advantage big time: The Passion Planner. The planner offered a PDF version of their product at $1. Why do this? Well it costs nothing and in return you get huge backer numbers. This keeps your product in the ‘popular’ rankings for number of backers, and further it gets shared over and over. The back of $1 goes way further than simple financial benefits. This strategy helped the planner raise over $700K.
Success Factor 1: It’s winter. Simply put its outdoor hockey season. Frozen fingers aren’t on your mind when you’re turning up the AC in the middle of August. That was fail number one on round one.
Success Factor 2: Lowering the start-up costs (Kickstarter funding threshold). We were able to knock down the start-up costs slightly on round two given lower minimum order quantities (MOQ) negotiations and changes with patent processing.
Success Factor 3: Backer base. If we can get the same KS backer base from round one, that’s a heck of a lot of momentum to start for round two. Day 1 can make or break your campaign. This worked out for a former Kickstarter partner of ours called Hydaway. The group over there initially failed on round one receiving $20,000 of their $40,000 goal. Round two proved completely different. A strong start propelled them to success in the first couple days and they ended up with over $260,000 in backing.
Success Factor 6: In writing this I keep switching off from “I” and “we”, and I should start getting used to saying “we”. During the last campaign most of the efforts were made solo. That’s quite the challenge when working and going for a Master’s full-time. I’ve read a number of posts from project creators comparing running a Kickstarter to a full-time job in itself. That said, I know I needed an extra hand to give this a round two. More than that I brought on a bigger brain too in my MBA-wielding and lifelong hockey playing friend Alex. We’re hoping an extra brain and extra effort can take Third Assist to a successful Kickstarter relaunch.
Operating a small business is one of the most exciting and challenging projects I have ever taken on. It’s a constant learning process and I believe it must be viewed that way. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say I’ve learned how to run a perfect campaign or a perfect business, but I hope I can say I’ve learned enough from my failures not to repeat them. I wrote this post today so that others can learn from my challenges and maybe one day give their own Kickstarter a run. For now I hope I’ve learned enough to confront the challenge ahead and make Third Assist successful in 2016.
-Third Assist Founder Chris DeVore
”A smart man learns from his mistakes. A wise one learns from the mistakes of others”