Industrial Profile 8/10/2012

Kickstarter Profile with Korduroy.TV, MHM Gear, and Lumi Co.

Thoughts on Kickstarter from Korduroy.TV, MHM Gear, and Lumi Co.

If you're a creative type and you haven't heard of Kickstarter, the world's largest funding platform for creative projects, do yourself a favor and check out the site which was designed and developed to help people (like you!) kickstart creative and executable ideas.

Kickstarter was launched in the Spring of 2009, and in the three+ years of operation there have been over 27,000 successfully funded projects sourceing over $266 million in startup monies (as of August 10, 2012, according to Kickstarter stats).

The New York Times states Kickstarter is "an unexpected influence on indie culture, a new model for a D.I.Y. generation.” This is confirmed by the successful funding of nearly half of the projects launched on the site. According to the site, "every week, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields."

The average project on Kickstarter raises just under $10,000, but many  projects have raised significantly more. Just this week, Ouya - a company based in Los Angeles featuring a new game console for the TV - ended their campaign, successfully receiving 904% of their project's funding goal. Ouya managed to crowd-source $8,596,475, a successful campaign indeed.

Do you have an idea and want to start a project of your own? Or, are you curious on how Kickstarter works? Well, we spoke with three creative minds who successfully used the site to launch or re-launch a project of their own creation. Meet Cyrus Sutton, the Director & Photographer for Korduroy.TV, Casey Lorenzen, VP of Marketing & Brand Manager for MHM Gear, and Jesse Genet, the CEO of Lumi Co. Read on for some of their thoughts on Kickstarter.

What’s happened since you reached your funding goal?

Cyrus: KorduroyTV is known for our high quality video content centered around healthy, DIY outdoor culture. Since our Kickstart, we’ve been able to improve on the story and production quality as well as add new series like DIY-Not?

Casey: Since starting the company and launching our product just over a year ago, we have experienced crazy growth. With the success of initiatives like Kickstarter, we only see spikes in that growth. Since our project's success, MHM has gained a lot of recognition in and outside of the industry, including the cover of Backpacker Magazine’s Editors Choice Award issue. And, we recently launched our new line of backpacking packs at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City.

Jesse: Since we've reached our goal we've been working around the clock to fulfill our pledges as well as doing a lot of strategizing for what our next steps are. We are interested in seeing the Lumi printing process grow into a technology that is accessible to creative people all over the world and so Kickstarter represents a very early phase of sharing it with the world.

Obviously the benefits of successfully funding a project through Kickstarter is having those monies available to pursue your passion – can you think of any negative aspects of Kickstarter, if there are any?

Cyrus: There are definitely pluses and minuses. Many businesses get lured into the idea of crowd-sourcing thinking that it’s a meal ticket. But the cost of our prizes combined with shipping and Amazon fees ended up netting us about 10 dollars an hour. Looking back, we are very appreciative to have that $10/hr job and Kickstarter facilitated that opportunity but it was far from a free lunch. I think tech gadgets will have a longer run, but crowd-sourcing for media production and other endeavors are rapidly approaching critical mass. I equate Kickstarter to running a farm stand. If you’re the only food for many miles then you’ll sell a lot of fruit, but if you’re sandwiched between 4 other stands and a convenience store you better have some amazing deals and top quality stuff. This ultimately cuts your profits and makes you work harder for each dollar.

Casey: It really was nothing but positives from start to finish. The site has an immensely broad reach; it has a clean, user-friendly platform and was easy to maintain. The only real downside to our project was that with the incentive rewards, we had to cut pretty deep into our margins on the packs, which again, we just chalked up as a marketing expense. One thing we didn’t foresee was that, with the amount of packs sold, came the logistics of delivering that many packs in a short period of time to funders who were “eager” to get their rewards.

Jesse: Since we have a physical product and a very international audience there are some technical difficulties with the Kickstarter platform because it isn't arranged to make shipping charges and international shipping easy - but all in all this is a small issue. Our entire experience with Kickstarter has been overwhelmingly positive.

Were you surprised when the public answered your call and successfully funded your project?

Cyrus: When you are crowd-sourcing you put your company’s reputation on the line. There are so many opportunities for the endeavor to negatively affect your brand and falling short on funding is definitely the chief concern. Despite researching how to run a successful campaign and executing it to the best of our ability, there was definitely a sense of fear at launch and happy surprise when we surpassed our goal.

Casey: Initially, we were elated with how well our project was received. In the first few days, we raised way more than what we had imagined and it stayed quite constant over its entirety. Being a pack manufacturer, we knew going into it that our reach wouldn’t be as broad as some of the other consumer goods, such as electronics, but we knew that if done right, we could reach the right market.

Jesse: Surprise wouldn't be the most accurate word to describe our feelings about our Kickstarter success, extremely grateful to all of our supporters and backers is more accurate. We have been working on this project for over 8 years, so there has been a lot of preparation in building up to our recent campaign. So we aren't shocked that it went well, but we are overwhelmed by all of the help, kind words and connections our new backers are providing us.

If not for Kickstarter, do you think your company/site would be where it is today?

Cyrus: No, the support of our fans has put us where we are today.

Casey: Going into it, we knew whether the funding was successful or not, that only good would come from it. At the end of the day, it’s basically free advertising, and for a small company like MHM with limited resources, there was really nothing for us to lose. Like all opportunities that come our way, they only help spread the MHM brand, so I can’t say we wouldn’t be where we are without Kickstarter, but I will say that it has definitely helped propel the brand.

Jesse: It's hard to imagine our company without Kickstarter because it has played such a pivotal role in Lumi history. If Kickstarter did not exist we probably would've tried some other radical method for reaching out to customers because we don't like the idea of approaching our business in a traditional way - but there is no way to know exactly how far we'd be without the incredible Kickstarter platform.

Why did your company/site ultimately decide to feature your project on Kickstarter?

Cyrus @ Korduroy.TV: We chose Kickstarter as a means of connecting with our viewership directly rather than solely going through a third party such as an investor or company supporters. It makes sense because they are the ones who will ultimately benefit.

Casey @ MHM Gear: After exploring Kickstarter and seeing how effective a project can be, we felt it was a no-brainer. We really saw no downside to feature MHM on the site. Because ultimately, if the project is unsuccessful, there is no risk involved to the company. We saw it as a great opportunity to get the MHM brand in front of thousands of consumers who already had intentions of supporting up-and-coming brands and products.

Jesse @ Lumi Co.: For us, Kickstarter is far more than just a funding platform - it is a way to make powerful connections with our audience. Our company has prioritized grassroots organic growth from the beginning and Kickstarter is a way for us to give our products directly to customers first, rather than make them buy through retailers.

Anything we missed?

Cyrus: Under promise and over deliver!

Casey: Kickstarter is the ideal platform for the right company. MHM was in a perfect situation to start a project but I wouldn’t say it is for everyone. Part of the reason our project, hell, our company has been successful has been because we are seen as an underdog. In a market that has been filled with the same bigs for the last 30 years, we have entered it a couple of 20-somethings fresh out of college, basically with no right to be competing with these mega brands. Kickstarter shows people what else is out there and what creativity and innovation can accomplish.

Jesse: The Kickstarter experience is all what you make it. In order to have a great experience you need to put a lot of work into preparation as well as into conversing with your audience. We view the funds raised on Kickstarter as just one piece of our accomplishment, the connections we made with our audience and the goodwill press we received is also extremely important to us.

(from l-r: Cyrus Sutton [photo: Mark Tesi/Reef], Casey Lorenzen, Jesse Genet)

Remember - each and every Kickstarter project is the independent creation of someone like YOU!