November 23, 2014

Funding For a Small Project or Product with Kickstarter

Despite its enormous popularity, Kickstarter is still not as well known in the small business community as you would expect. If you haven’t heard about this crowdfunding platform, read on and I’ll share how this still-new service is shaking up the startup and new product world.

Kickstarter is a funding platform as the screenshot above states, but let’s unpack that just a bit. This is not a venture capital or angel investor network. The simple explanation I share is this: You are pre-selling a product before its finished and getting real customers to take a risk on you by purchasing ahead of production.

Your “product” might be a movie, or a music CD, or a piece of art, or a new 3D printer that you’ve invented. There are some boundaries (guidelines) and you can read about them here, but more fun to consider the statistics.

  • 26,431 projects have successfully funded (at publication time; they update daily).
  • Of those, 18,271 raised between $1,000 and $9,999.

That’s not a lot of money. But if you’re a small, micro business and you want to test the waters and launch a new product (again, product can be defined in many ways that might fit what you do), Kickstarter is one of the top places to consider.  Some projects have hyper-funded — seven have raised over $1,000,000.

The Kickstarter website helps define what a “project” is:

  1. A project has a clear goal, like making an album, a book, or a work of art. A project will eventually be completed, and something will be produced by it. A project is not open-ended. Starting a business, for example, does not qualify as a project.
  2. We currently support projects in the categories of Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film, Food, Games, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology, and Theater.

As you can see, there’s a lot of room for small business owners to create a project and get funds to make it a reality.

Here are a few of my current favorites:

  • OpenROV:  A do-it-yourself underwater robot that has potential for helping medical and scientific research, not to mention it looks like a lot of fun.
  • Small Projects:  This is the list or category of projects under $1,000 and it is often filled with some of the most entrepreneurial-minded ideas. Right now, the new closet guitar hanger looks pretty interesting.

Gadgets and consumer items tend to be super popular when designed well. Books, music and films are hyper-popular, too.  The Kickstarter team offers up its staff picks and there are also curated collections. I mention all of these to help you brainstorm if a crowdfunded project or product is in your future. I’ve tried it a few times and even though my projects have not funded I have learned a ton and adapted my business. I view it as a real-time customer research lab.

Let us know if you launch a Kickstarter project and your experiences.

10 Comments ▼

TJ McCue - Product Editor


TJ McCue TJ McCue served as Technology/Product Review Editor for Small Business Trends for many years and now contributes on 3D technologies. He is currently traveling the USA on the 3DRV roadtrip and writes at the Refine Digital blog.

10 Reactions

  1. Hi TJ, Having used Kickstarter a few times, what would you do differently next time? Put in a smaller amount to raise? Promote it more? Change the description? Any thoughts you’d like to share?

    – Anita

  2. Hi Anita,
    Hmm. Wow, there’s a ton I should probably share. Maybe I’ll weave it into a post all its own, but here are just a few:

    1. Allow enough time. 30 days is probably the best duration. I tried two projects with less than that. I thought less duration would equal greater sense of urgency. My projects ended just as they started to gather momentum.

    2. Don’t be afraid to test a smaller project (under $1,000). 2 out of 3 of mine were in that category. I’m okay that they didn’t make it. It is real-time customer research. I tried a book concept that I thought would really fly and it didn’t.

    3. The video is clutch. Test your video among friends and family (everyone does), but also test it with people you don’t know or who will give you the brutal feedback you need. Then take that advice and make the video more compelling.

    4. I didn’t make this mistake, but I see it a lot — videos or projects don’t make it clear what the big vision is. They make it sound like the project is about getting a new piece of machinery or equipment or a better DSLR camera for their own use. The project has to have an other-centric direction. Some of them sound like selfish pursuits and those almost all fail.

    I have loads of other thoughts and I spent a ton of time studying what others have done and continue to do. I find it a fascinating new way to connect directly with customers with your ideas and inventions.

  3. Another important thing to remember – YOU can market yourself and your Kickstarter project elsewhere. Anywhere in fact. SO be creative and get the word out. We are about to go live with a book idea and we are adding small ads on websites we own that points to Kickstarter for buy.

  4. Excellent point, Lisa. Thanks for sharing it. I did a bunch of external marketing on my projects. It helped.

  5. I’m totally nervous for my Kickstarter project. It’s definitely something that I have been working on for quite some time and have a clear vision of how should benefit small businesses and consumers. I just hope that I don’t mess something up (unclear vision, bad video, wrong impression, not enough marketing, wrong market timing, not cool enough, etc.)
    I found this article very helpful. It reemphasized that vision is key, test the video with others outside your inner network, and outside marketing efforts.)
    I’d love some preliminary feedback from people outside of my network. I’ll post my experience I have with Kickstarter here. I’m sure no matter what, I will learn a lot and hopefully meet some people along the way.

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