Diary of a Kickstarter. Day 23.

archerIt’s day 23 of the Kickstarter for The Hawaii Project, Friday, April 24.

OK. I have 1 week left. $8,615 pledged, 24% funded, 119 backers.

My average donation so far is $72. I have 115 backers. To hit my goal, I need 370 more backers at my average donation. That’s 45 donors a day @$72. I’m getting about 1 a day on average. Game over, thanks for playing 8).

Here’s the questions I’m asking myself: do I just give up and stop trying to manufacture pledges? Or do I go down swinging? I HATE sending out more begging letters to friends and family, but that’s where most of the donations are coming from. And it’s likely wasted effort – if I double the number of friends & family donations, it doesn’t get anywhere near the goal. Do I go after some big ticket donations, try to get a James Patterson or Neil Gaiman to get excited and cough up a really big donation? That seems equally unlikely.

For that matter, do I really care if I make the goal? My primary objective with the Kickstarter wasn’t really to raise funds – it was to have an event to talk about and effectively use as a product launch. Raising funds was a secondary objective. I’ve been successful at getting a reasonable amount of press (Bost Inno, the Boston Globe’s Tech Site, Hawaii Public Radio, PJ Media and Xconomy), and setting up other press for the eventual “real” public launch of the product. But, it would be ideal not to have to explain away why the Kickstarter failed.

Let’s do a quick analysis of the effectiveness of the channels I’ve tried. [Before I do this, friends & family, please don’t feel like this is a transactional relationship or you’re just a number or I’m judging you by whether you contributed. I truly appreciate each individual I’ve been in contact throughout this process! This is just how the sausage gets made 8)].

For the non-initiated, “conversion rate” means the % of people I invited to contribute that actually did so (mostly through email or social media). My joking label for this is “Spam” – any mail I sent “en masse” to a group of people, I call spam.

  • Friends & Family ( a few hundred people) – Pledged $2340 at a ~17% conversion rate (note: most of these mails were hand sent)
  • Endeca spam (a few hundred people) – Pledged $885 at a ~6% conversion rate.
  • goby spam (about a thousand people I crossed paths with, when I was at goby) – pledged $1025 @1.5% conversion
  • Acquaintance Spam (~800 people I am acquainted with from various life activities) – pledged $280 @ 1% conversion
  • Beta testers (~150 people in my beta test) – pledged $1785 @ 8.5% conversion
  • Librarian spam (I emailed every library in Massachusetts!) – pledged $0, no conversions, but about 2% of them converted to beta testers
  • Literary Agent spams (I crawled the web for about a thousand literary agents’ email addresses, and mailed them either personally or through a bulk email) – pledged $210 @ .15% conversion rate – not a lot of money but I made some great friends and got some deep insights, so well worth it.
  • Press: I’ve been reasonably successful with press, 4 or 5 high quality articles in high quality outlets. It’s generated roughly ~$750 or so, so far as I can tell. It’s valuable coverage, but more of it isn’t likely to move my $ in the near term.

For comparison, I have friends who run marathons or do bike races for charity. They report that ~40-50% of their “list” converts into a charity donation. So my numbers don’t feel that off, considering I’m not a charity, I’m asking for donations to a for-profit enterprise.

So. The top three out of that, based on volume + conversion rate: Friends, Beta Testers, and Endeca folks. So I guess the data’s telling me to hit them up again. Sorry guys. Inbound tin cup headed your way one last time. Spending more time on press or libraries or agents seems contra-indicated at present, as the short-term ROI at least doesn’t look worth it. I am intrigued by the Librarian community as a longer term customer acquisition channel, and have a visit to a few set up in the near future.

It won’t take too long to update my big 3 with an email, and I should do it anyway – but I’m left with the calculation that even if I double my contributions from those sources, I barely crack $10k out of $35k. It’s not going to get me there.

Today’s music: The Crystal Method’s soundtrack for the movie London. Half EDM, Half Soundtrack. Perfect working music.

PS. I send the mail to friends, family and beta testers. There’s a fair contingent of folks who got distracted and hadn’t backed yet, and do so now. That raises another $1,000, for which I am very grateful! But the hill to climb still feels too high…..

So: After sleeping on it, I’m going to let nature take it’s course, and mostly go back to work on product. It doesn’t look like making the goal is in the cards right now, unless events outside my control kick in. I’d rather invest my time now in making the product better, clarifying the market differentiation, and getting it actually finished and on the market.  I don’t look at this as “giving up”, I look at it as a rational investment of my time given the current situation.

Those of you who pledged, THANK YOU. Rest assured the project will move forward, just without some of the things the $ would fund.

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