The straight dope: Kickstarter success story Wipebook shares its list of dos and don'ts

Frank Bouchard, one of the founders of Wipebook, knows a thing or two about crowdfunding. His first run at Kickstarter had a modest goal of $4,000, but he ended up raising more than $400,000. A subsequent campaign raised more than $100,000. In about a month’s time, Wipebook will be launching another campaign for its latest iteration of an erasable notebook. TECHOPIA asked Bouchard to give us the straight dope on his successes – and even a few failures – when it comes to crowdfunding.

 

 

TECHOPIA: Why was crowdfunding an attractive option for Wipebook?

BOUCHARD: I think the No. 1 factor was it was really a last-ditch effort for us to validate our product in a very lean and inexpensive way. We thought the platform has a lot of visibility because of the community that constantly checks the new products that are happening. For absolutely no money, we could make our own little video, post it up online, and get some feedback from that community. It ended up working really well for us.

TECHOPIA: How did you promote it?

BOUCHARD: The biggest one that we had, we actually didn’t promote it whatsoever. It really just grew organically, virally. We posted it on a Friday morning and we saw right away the traction it was getting … We raised our goal in the first 24 hours.

The subsequent campaigns after the fact were very different in nature because it wasn’t just a brand new, novel idea. We really had to mechanically try to push the product. We really relied heavily on e-mail campaigns. We pinged the database of people that we already had. Talking to other people that have had successful crowdfunding campaigns, e-mail seemed to be the No. 1 way to actually get people to back your campaign.

TECHOPIA: Where does crowdfunding fall short?

BOUCHARD: It has a lot to do with what your product is and who are the community of people who are going to be looking at it. It really is a sales channel per se and you have to look at what your typical customer is going to look like on each platform and see if your product is conducive for those people.

For example, we had someone ask us for crowdfunding advice and they had a product that was a giant construction-type drill for manufacturers. And it’s kind of obvious that the people on Kickstarter are more of the trendy, techy people who are looking for cool, innovative things and that type of product may not be conducive to that channel.

It may not be that somebody’s idea is bad, but it may not the right channel for that product.

TECHOPIA: They were both incredibly successful, but why was the first campaign more lucrative?

BOUCHARD: We made a lot of really stupid mistakes on the first one that ended up being very, very good for customers. We really didn’t expect to have like 8,000 customers. We thought we would have maybe 20 customers. So we were saying five dollars, international shipping, anywhere in the world. Our product was in a range where it was $20 to $25, so it was pretty affordable for someone to try something new out …That created a snowball effect. It was tough for us because we had not calculated what anything would actually cost, and I’m actually surprised we made it out alive.

But the second campaign, we really wanted to put some buffer in there. So we increased the shipping, we increased the cost of the product, and that deterred some people.

Just make something that seems like a really great deal to the people you’re trying to attract. Whether or not you can make that happen is a different story!

TECHOPIA:  Any other key things to keep in mind when deciding to crowdfund?

BOUCHARD: Customer support is something we totally underestimated. Especially if your campaign is doing really well, you have something like 8,000 customers that are constantly personally messaging you, asking for updates, changing their orders, and that’s a resource that we totally underestimated. So just keep that in mind to have resources for that if ever the campaign does really well.

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“We made a lot of really stupid mistakes on the first one that ended up being very, very good for customers. We really didn’t expect to have like 8,000 customers. We thought we would have maybe 20 customers. So we were saying five dollars, international shipping, anywhere in the world. Our product was in a range where it was $20 to $25, so it was pretty affordable for someone to try something new out …That created a snowball effect. It was tough for us because we had not calculated what anything would actually cost, and I’m actually surprised we made it out alive.”