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Kickstarter as validation tool

I recently ran a failed Kickstartercampaign. We were trying to raise $25K, and the majority of the funds were going to be used for paying for injection molding tooling.

Now, I'm pretty happy that I didn't spend $25K of my own money to find out that this wasn't going to launch on Kickstarter, but I'm also out months and months of time, from concept design, prototype testing, to factory sourcing, marketing, etc...

Of course, the lesson is fail fast,but I'm trying to figure out what to do next. Would you still call Kickstarter a validation tool if it takes months to get ready for it? How would you vet ideas?

-Sam

13 Replies

Lona Alia Duncan
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Lona Alia Duncan Entrepreneur
Founder at Style Lend
I would strongly recommend following the book "running lean". It has been extremely helpful for me honing in on the problem and validating your hypothesis way before you start building.
Alex Gourley
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Alex Gourley Entrepreneur
Founder at Active Theory Inc
I think that's just the way it is. Validating ideas is fundamentally expensive. Kickstarter was a good short cut, but it's not a magic bullet.

You could create a low-fi version of the video (and nothing else) and see if you can get even 10 strangers to commit money... but that's not a perfect test.
Douglas Tarr
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Douglas Tarr Entrepreneur • Advisor
Entrepreneur and Software Architect
Sam -

So, you had 199 backers and $7734 raised, how is that a failure?

It feels like you could have argued (in a different world) that there was sufficient validation in the market to continue.

I'm curious how you decided that it "failed"

- Doug
Joshua Butner
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Joshua Butner Entrepreneur
Founder / Partner at Vulk
Sam, I would make sure and recognize that with any campaign of this type, there are so many factors that can contribute to success or failure. It can be more than just your idea: perhaps your reward levels weren't right; perhaps you just didn't appeal in your intro video, if you had one. I haven't seen your kickstarter page, so obviously this is conjecture. Don't give up on your idea if it's something that you truly believe in and want to pursue. -Josh
Michael Grassotti
1
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Michael Grassotti Entrepreneur
Founder, Technologist & Coder
I wouldn't read too much into it. My friend Adam tried using kickstarter for his Kingdom Death project. First one raised $1000, 2nd one failed, third time took off and pulled in just over $2M.

Thing about kickstarter is that it's not really setup for rapid build-measure-learn cycles. Behind the scenes Adam always testing new ideas against his own mailing list and experimenting with variations of the product. Ideally you would be doing lots of customer discovery and validation leading up to a kickstarter campaign, with the campaign itself as a way to fund a validated concept.
Rob Mathewson
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Rob Mathewson Entrepreneur
CEO at Geedra
I haven't run a KS campaign yet, but if/when I do it will be the culmination of a 3-6 month offline validation effort. Totally agree with @Lonna's comment about following the Running Lean methodology for validation of the problem definition, solution strategy and your minimum viable product. If you had established those in advance, then the KS campaign would provide the final, confirming market validation that you would need in order to begin scaling your proven solution. Plus, every person whom you touched during the 3-6 month validation run-up becomes part of your KS early-adopter crowd, providing a starting boost to your campaign.
Michael Sattler
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Michael Sattler Entrepreneur • Advisor
President, Splitzee
Glass half-full: 200 people validated your concept.

My advice? Pivot and try again. Message the 200, thank them for their support and ask why they thought it didn't hit the goal. Use that (and whatever else you learned) and queue up another campaign for round two. Round two should take you far less time - you're already 200 people ahead, and you should be able to re-use a lot of material from round one. Keep going until you nail it. Refine your marketing and outreach techniques too - you may actually be close on the product side, but haven't yet figured out how to reach your tribe effectively.

As to whether the campaign was worth it: absolutely. It saved you the cost of an misplaced MVP.

What you're doing is the future of entrepreneurship. Why? Because the cost of validation has dropped below the cost of building an MVP. I make that case here. Let me know what you think.
Sam Feller
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0
Sam Feller Entrepreneur
Mechanical Engineer at Foliage
Thanks all! This has been helpful.

with regards to the Kickstarter campaign, we may license the idea (the Kickstarter attracted a potential licensee, probably the best outcome from the campaign), and we're seeking other funding sources. no telling where it will turn out yet.

with regards to future product ideas, it helps us think about the approach we take to our development process.


James Setaro
0
0
James Setaro Entrepreneur
Software Development Manager at Pearson
I remember seeing this so you did something right! Maybe you could share more about this. How many people actually viewed this kickstarter(I haven't done one so I don't know what kind of metrics you can glean)?

I am assuming that with the coverage you got the number of people who committed was very low versus the reach of the campaign and that's why you are a little down on it?

I totally agree with Michael about reaching out to the 200 people who bought in, and you would certainly want to reach out individually to the people who pledged $59(especially the $1000 backer) or more right? They clearly loved you idea and may be able to tell you more that could help you improve.
Michael Coates
1
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Michael Coates Entrepreneur
It really depends on your audience. Is the Kickstarter "audience" the consumer of your product or service? And if they are, did you tell your story well and get their attention? Seems like if the answers are "yes", that would be validation. If not, there's probably a better way to gauge reception.
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