In part three of Crowdfunding 101 PD looks at some of the problems that may be encountered in running your campaign and gives advice on minimising risk and how to deal with missteps. PD also launches the first featured project of the week.
CROWDFUNDING 101 PROBLEM SOLVING FOR CREATORS
PD has seen many projects from beginning to end and has seen some that have gone smoothly, some that have recovered from problems and some that were overwhelmed by problems and failed. Here is a potpourri of lessons to be learned from these.
This was covered last week, but PD cannot emphasize enough that this is often what will determine the outcome of the project and your reputation when things go wrong. Communicate frequently and be honest. Discuss problems and what you are going to do to overcome them. When backers ask questions or post comments on your page answer promptly. Nothing gets backers ire up as much as silence in the face of problems. They will think that you are doing a runner with their money, and remember that it is their money, given to you on trust that you will do the right thing.
Keep ownership of your project
During your campaign you may receive comments on how you should improve your project. Remember two things. Firstly, this is your project. Secondly, you cannot please everyone. Some suggestions are good and you may want to make small changes (see later), however think carefully how this will affect your finances and delivery schedule. There was one great project, a unique defence tool for joggers. Someone suggested adding a bottle opener to it. The project creator wrote that he would see how to add this. He got several responses against the idea on the grounds that it would be a safety issue. Also, why this craze to add a bottle opener to everything? The caps on most bottles these days twist off anyway.
Bed down the project
There was one project which for its time was great. It was a USB stick (thumb drive for PD's Transatlantic friends) with a screen that would store your passwords and PIN codes. It was unlocked by a fingerprint detector. Very useful for travellers. The project received huge backing, about US $500.000. The creators kept upgrading and changing the design throughout the campaign and after it had concluded, eventually running out of money. Another company took over the project, but just took the technology for itself and did not honour its pledge to backers, who lost their money. The lesson here is, once you are happy with your design, leave it alone. Minor tweaks are okay and may be necessary to enable manufacturing, however leave major changes for version 2.
This is where your delivery time may blow out. Again, if you have done your homework beforehand, this should be minimised. The manufacturer may not have been accurate with his estimates or materials may not have been delivered on time.
The manufacturer may have shown you a great prototype but then cut corners, delivering you a box of substandard items. You need to constantly visit the factory to supervise your product's manufacturing. This may be difficult if you are using an overseas factory, but PD has seen several projects fail because of this. If what is being produced is below the agreed standard, do not accept the product. Discuss it with the manufacturer and insist on a new run. Some factories are good and others are not.
This is easier to keep tabs on than having to fly to another country all the time. It may cost more to produce your goods, but then think about the time and money you will spend flying back and forth. A bonus is that backers like people who support their local community.
You need a contingency plan in case you have higher than expected demand. One creator was expecting a small response and was planning to manufacture the item himself in his garage. He had overwhelming demand that almost caused a meltdown, however he communicated well and with the extra funding was able to buy a bigger machine. Things were delivered late, but because he had handled things well he got the support of backers and has had several more successful projects since. Also, do not hesitate to call in favours from friends and family to help out with production, packing and posting.
Do not be a jerk
There is one "creator" who has put up several relatively cheap projects and collected money without any intention of delivering anything. This is fraud/theft/unethical/insert your own expletive and gives crowdfunding a bad name. Do not be a jerk.
At every step things can go wrong, however this is part of the challenge of being an entrepreneur, even a small one. Do not be put off by this. If you rise above it, it will prepare you for success. As they used to say long ago, this "sorts the men from the boys".
PROJECT OF THE WEEK
Welcome to PD's new segment. Each week PD will feature a crowdfunding project that has caught his eye.
CROZ D.I.Y. CAMERA
PD knows what you are going to say, something along the lines, "Why do I want to buy another camera, especially one without a screen? My phone has a better one."
In summary, this is a fun project, it looks terrific, you can see how it goes together, and it runs on easy to find AAA batteries. No more worrying about finding a place to charge your phone or other camera.
A complete version of this camera already exists. The creators have now come up with this upgraded assemble-it-yourself version.
There is a variety of cases, including a see-through one and ones made of wood.
A beautiful carry case is available.
Much cooler than pulling out a phone. And you will just have to wait to get home to see your pictures, the old fashioned way. You can share your excitement with your partner.
Important disclaimer: Remember that crowdfunding sites are not stores. You may decide to back this project and provide funds, however there is no guarantee that any project will be delivered - the rate of failure is about 10%. PD is in no way accountable for the success or otherwise of any project and writes in this column purely for entertainment purposes, not to promote any project, and will in no way be held liable for any failure or money lost by anyone. It is a case of "buyer beware". It is a sad reflection on the era we live in that PD must resort to this type of disclaimer.
Note: photographs and illustrations are from the relevant websites and are the copyright of the respective owners.
Note: PD does not get sponsored by any company and chooses to write about products that catch his eye while on the prowl, without the makers' knowledge. That way he remains impartial.
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