Since launching in 2009, the crowd-funding site Kickstarter has changed the way people start and finance businesses. In that short time, the site has raised $345 million and successfully launched 29,000 projects.
One of those projects was Peak Design, a company that offers products for photographers to transport and maintain their cameras. The campaign Peak Design launched on Kickstarter raised 3,000 percent more than its stated goal. Peter Dering, founder and chief designer of Peak Design, offers other aspiring small business owners tips on how to start a business with Kickstarter.
Commercial intent vs. creative expression
"There are really two types of projects on Kickstarter, those that seek creative expression for their own reasons and those that are trying to launch a product with commercial potential," Dering said. "Both are worthy endeavors for the Kickstarter model; however, the top 10 best-funded Kickstarter campaigns have all been of commercial intent—including our project last summer."
"If you really want to be noticed, bring a project to the table that delivers a genuine benefit to a specific audience," Dering said. "In my case, I designed an intuitive solution for a common irritation with SLR cameras — a work-around for obnoxious neck straps. SLR camera owners could easily recognize the value of what we were doing and Kickstarter provided a friendly platform to purchase at a discount."
If you come to play, bring your bat
"Before I came to Kickstarter, I spent nine months designing, testing and paid out of my own pocket for the initial tooling of the Capture Clip System," Dering said. "When we came to the table, we had a very complete and compelling product and were able to confidently communicate the pitch. We also were set up so that we could nimbly scale manufacturing just in case we accidentally hit it out of the park (which we did)."
Know your market
"For those seeking to launch a product like Peak Design, it's important to understand Kickstarter is not a philanthropic gifting site: it’s a pre-sales platform," Dering said. "We knew going into it that there are around 100 million global SLR camera users. Every one of those people has to figure out a way to carry their camera. For projects whose value propositions are not immediately tangible, beware."
Don’t lose your momentum
"Make sure your pitch is much more than a fancy art project," Dering said. "Understand your manufacturing costs, production timeline and how you're going to deliver if you find yourself overextended by several thousand percent of your goal. The caution is that if there is a lag in the time it takes to get a product to the buyer, then you might very well lose all that juicy buzz that you had going."