Kickstarter is an innovative crowd funding website for creative projects. The platform allows would-be entrepreneurs and product developers to secure the funds necessary to take an imaginative idea to the next level, or bring an existing product to mass market.

Not all funding campaigns launched on Kickstarter are successful however. It is usually only the most genius of ideas which will reach their monetary goal – those which do not receive zero investment (even if some pledges have been made).

Are there some steps which can be taken to ensure a project is successful though? I look at four recent Kickstarter successes to find out…

Example #1: Unlace

Total funding sought: $10,000
Number of separate projects backed by Unlace: 4

What is an Unlace?

Unlace is a “colourful, rubbery, twistable lace for untangling knotty problems with cords, cables, or any other loose end driving you mad.”

Quote from the Unlace Kickstarter page.

No one likes delving into their handbag or rucksack to fish out a pair of headphones, only to find the cable of such completely knotted up. Untangling unruly wires can be frustrating, and is often very time consuming also.  Inventors and iPhone owners Cindy Glass and Dante Pauwels (from San Francisco, CA) decided a solution was very much needed. As such, Unlace –a reusable silicon shoelace with a sturdy, flexible wire running through its length – was born.

There are two size variants of Unlace strips in production; a 5” inch for small cords, and a 10″ for thicker cables and power cords. Both kinds are available in a rainbow of colour options.

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What lead to the successful funding of Unlace?

Simple design

The best ideas are often the simplest and Unlace proves this point perfectly.

The fact that the product is embossed with the texture of a shoelace prevents it from being considered “boring”. The campaign for funding would probably have been far less successful if the product did not encompass the resemblance.

Clear demonstration of the product being multifunctional

Before watching the above video, one might have argued that Unlace is a niche product. However, it is perfectly demonstrated that the product had a multitude of uses in the garden and kitchen, and that one can even be used as a phone rest and hair/ fashion accessory!

This sees Unlace a product which has the potential to appeal to almost everyone, not just those looking for an improved cable-tidy solution.

Availability of different colours

Should there have only been one colour on offer, it likely would have taken the company much longer to achieve their Kickstarter funding goal, if at all! The spectrum of colours available allows a degree of ‘personalisation’ of the product, which is incredibly pleasing to consumers in this post-Fordism age.

The inclusion of black, white and grey variants meanwhile, allows ‘masculine’ businesses wanting to use Unlace in their own work to do so without negatively impacting their dignity (not that I would have a problem with a burley builder using a bright pink one in his work!)

Great incentives offered to Unlace backers

Offering great rewards to those who back a Kickstarter project nearly always inspires more pledges. The brand offers four 5” Unlaces in different hues, a thank you note and a name check on the Unlace website for those donating $20. Meanwhile $33 sees a 5” unlace in every colour received, in addition to the previously mentioned note and site accreditation.

Detailed product biography

The product’s beginnings and its production processes are detailed thoroughly on the Unlace Kickstarter page, without being dull. Attractive pictures are used effectively to break up the various blocks of included information.

Example #2: Mo Mug

Total funding sought: $5,000
Number of separate projects backed by Mo Mug: 0

What is a Mo Mug?

“One Mo Mug on average works out to 260 paper cups per year.”
Quote from the Mo Mug website.

A year and a half ago, coffee enthusiast Tony Small (from Western Springs, NZ) decided to attempt to make a living out of his hobby of painting moustaches on porcelain mugs for his friends. Conscious of the high number of disposable paper coffee cups discarded each year – a whopping 59 billion – Tony wanted to invent a cup which was not only aesthetically pleasing, but beneficial to the environment too. He also wanted his invention to in no way negatively impact the taste of his favourite hot beverage, in the same way the plastic alternatives he found did.

Enter Mo Mug; a charming porcelain solution. Mo Mug is available in three sizes; 8oz, 10oz and 12oz.

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What lead to the successful funding of Mo Mug?

Simple design

Again, the design of this product is extremely simple. There’s nothing overly complicated about a white porcelain coffee cup emblazoned with a silhouette of a moustache (even if such does comprise two separate layers so hands are not burnt, while the coffee within is kept piping hot).

Timing

With the charitable moustache-growing event Movember (held during November each year, to encourage awareness and funding for the treatment of prostate cancer) just around the corner, all products featuring moustaches are incredibly popular at the moment. Launching a Kickstarter page just four weeks before Movember then, was a very smart move. Clever Tony!

Even better; Tony has promised on the Mo Mug website that every one sold in October and November will see $3 donated to the cause. This makes the product even more attractive to consumers.

Environmentally-friendly product

Who doesn’t want to save the planet? Mo Mug allows people to do their bit, without very much effort at all.

Humorous video

The video included on the Mo Mug Kickstarter page (and embedded above) is amusing, and shows that the cup’s creator doesn’t take himself too seriously. This creates an affinity between Tony and those visiting his page. As such, visitors are more likely to part with their cash.

6 different moustaches available

As previously highlighted, personalisation of products is attractive to consumers. Buyers of the Mo Mug need to decide whether their personality is best summarised by a ‘Frank’, ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Lucky’, ‘Magnum P.I.’, ‘Pablo’, The Boss’ or the ‘Tommy’ moustache.

Promise to develop further designs

Tony promised on his Kickstarter page that further designs will be created should his Mo Mug prove successful. Such a promise meant eco-enthusiasts which didn’t fall in love with his lip-fur design would also want to invest in the project.

Example #3: Instacube

Total funding sought: $250,000
Number of separate projects backed by Instacube: 7

What is Instacube?

“Liberating Instagram photos from your smart device, Instacube feeds your favourite images wirelessly at 3x the size.”
Quote from the Instacube Kickstarter page.

Instacube is a device which features an Android OS, ARM based processor, 4GB flash memory, an LCD touch-screen, built in Wi-Fi and a rechargeable Li-Ion battery. It is designed to work with the very popular smart phone sharing photo app Instagram, as a ‘living canvas’, which updates in real time. The displayed images change as photos are submitted by those you follow, or as any picture is published with a preferred hash tag.

Instacube shows Instagram photos three times larger than they can appear on iPhones and Android mobiles, making photos treated by the various filters in the app more beautiful than ever before.

Instacube has been designed and developed by leading incubation studio D2M.

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What lead to the successful funding of Instacube?

Simple design

The product design – once more – is uncomplicated. The Instacube is…er…a cube, with just three buttons; ‘view’, ‘toggle’ and ‘love’ (though the design of the internals is obviously less simple!) This gives the impression that the device would be as easy to use as the Instagram app itself. Furthermore, the products clean aesthetics and fairly compact size means there are few environments in which it would be visually obtrusive.

Timing

The popularity of the Instagram app has surged impressively over the last couple of years – there are now over 30 million accounts registered! That’s a very large audience of potential customers to target!

Additionally, touch screen gadgets are very ‘now’ and the tactile experience of Instacube is alluring.

Offering a $99 Instacube to 1,000 Kickstarter backers

A ‘classic’ Instacube was offered for the discounted price of $99 for the first 1,000 individuals to pledge this amount to the campaign. The RRP will be much higher when the product hits mass market, and so this was a great way to ensure at least $99,000 was invested into the project.

The promise of possible Facebook integration

Several people questioned whether the device would be able to display pictures from the social network Facebook. While this was not an original intention of Instacube, the designers have taken note of the feedback they have received and are currently investigating whether this can be achieved. The fact that multi-platform ability does not seem unfeasible makes the product just that little more appealing to consumers.

The photo feed is fully customisable

While you can simply have an Instacube display all pictures submitted by everyone you follow in the app, you can also set it up to show pictures labelled with a certain hash tag. For example, if you want to stare at pictures of clouds while trying to drift off to sleep, or the New York skyline while munching your morning cereal, this is no problem.

This customisation also makes the device useful for business events and personal parties, at which guests can add photos the feed in real time.

Several different Instacube designs are available

If the ‘classic’ Instagram cube design does not appeal, buyers can choose from three other designs; black, white and ‘Vintage Spring.’ Custom skinning will also be available in the future. Providing customers with choices makes them feel more in control of their buying decisions, which sees more cash being handed over.

Example #4: Ostrich Pillow

Total funding sought: $70,000
Number of separate projects backed by Ostrich Pillow: 0

What is Ostrich Pillow?

“Ostrich Pillow offers a micro environment in which to take a comfortable power nap…in the office, travelling or wherever you want.”
Quote from the Ostrich Pillow Kickstarter page.

Developed by a design company by the name of Kawamura-Ganjavian (London, UK), the Ostrich Pillow is a (humorous) solution for napping anywhere and everywhere. Once placed over the head, arms are put inside the ostrich’s ‘eyes’, so that they are comfortable against the surface of the chosen nap area. The pillow can be used without making use of the arm feature though, useful should you want to catch a few winks while sitting upright.

It is thought that isolating yourself from your immediate surroundings better enables you to take an undisturbed kip.

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What lead to the successful funding of Ostrich Pillow?

Simple, but bizarre design

Let’s face it; this pillow makes the user look ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS. But this is seemingly the appeal of the product. I doubt many people will actually use this product in public!

Press coverage

During the Ostrich Pillow Kickstarter funding campaign, prevalent media bodies such as CNN, BBC, The Telegraph, Mashable, Tech Crunch and Glamour magazine have featured the product. Most of these big names simple commented on how stupid the product looks, as opposed to any health benefits it supposedly may offer.

Early backers promotion

The first 300 backers of the campaign pledging $60 would get a “free” ostrich pillow (actually heavily discounted). Again, this – in addition to the product’s extensive media coverage – pretty much guaranteed at least $18,000 would be secured.

The promise of life/health improvement

This element was likely less influential to those who invested to get their hands on an Ostrich Pillow, but maybe a few were won over by the various sleep-stats included on the Kickstarter page. One example is:

“In a six-year study, researchers found that those who took naps at least 3 times a week had a 37% lower risk of heart-related death.”

Conclusions: So what’s necessary for a successful Kickstarter campaign?

In summary, the reasons for the success of the above four Kickstarter campaigns include:

  • Simple design
  • Possible product customisation/personalisation
  • Decent incentives for early campaign backers
  • Clever timing of Kickstarter page launch
  • Engagement with potential customers (i.e. listening to feedback, including engaging photos and humour)
  • Personal or environmental benefits

While the inclusion of these doesn’t necessarily guarantee the success of every product entered into a Kickstarter campaign, more traction is likely should these elements be involved.