Secrets to the Most-Successful Kickstarter Campaign EVER!

In this next sequence of blogs I'm going to cover the most remarkable crowd funding stories ever, that of Pebble Watch, and its creator Eric Migicovsky. I'll summarize Eric's top insights on how you can realize your dream project through crowd funding. This is one of my favorites.

I first learned about Pebble Watch's breakaway crowd funding success reading about it online. Here was a 26 year-old entrepreneur, Eric Migicovsky, who was running out of money, had literally NO funding options left, and used Kickstarter to turn eminent defeat into a grand-slam success. This was someone I had to meet and write about, so I invited him to come and address the Graduate Student Program at Singularity University and tell us his secrets to unlocking over $10 million in funding from 68,929 backers in 34 days. This is his story and the details on how he pulled it off... But first, some background on the Pebble Watch and Eric.

The Pebble Watch is a customizable watch that can display messages from a smartphone connected by Bluetooth. It can feature different watch faces and runs apps. The Pebble Watch grew out Migicovsky's work on an earlier watch, the inPulse. "The idea is that you're carrying around in your pocket a cellphone that's connected to the Internet every day. You're already paying $30 a month for a data plan, so why not have your Pebble Watch connect to the Internet through your phone," Migicovsky said. "The watch doesn't have a keyboard. It's not a computer that you have to sit in front of. It's just there in your everyday life and it vibrates: It can alert you to things, notify you. You run apps on the watch itself in the same way your iPhone or Android can run apps."

To fund his first inPulse watch prototype (developed exclusively for Blackberry phone users), Migicovsky cobbled together his own savings, along with winnings from a business plan pitch competition and a $15,000 loan from his parents. After graduating from the University of Waterloo, he next moved his project to Y Combinator in Silicon Valley, which provided him his next tranche of seed money, enough to start manufacturing the inPulse watches and selling them to customers.

"The best thing we did to get ready for selling the Pebble resulted from our talking to our early inPulse watch customers," said Migicovsky. "We had sold $200,000 worth of those early watches. Those people paying you money and using your product give you your best feedback -- much better than just talking to your friends. The reactions we got from our inPulse customers provided us with the inspiration to create the Pebble Watch. The feedback was pretty clear: focus on more of a sport and fitness watch and port it over to the iPhone and Android operating systems."

The improvements to the watch all made sense, but the funding didn't materialize. Over the course of a month, Eric pitched about 20 VCs, many of whom had invested in him previously, but in the end no funding materialized. "I needed about $200,000 to take the next step, but they all said no. We had general interest, but didn't get anything signed," Eric recalled. Frustrated but not beaten, and with just enough cash to keep going for another two months, Eric and his partners decided to try their luck with Kickstarter.

"I had actually backed a project on Kickstarter," Migicovsky said. "I supported another person in the fall of 2010 on, by coincidence, a watch." He had put $50 into the project and four months later received the product, an iPod Nano watch. "It felt cool to see in a box something that came from the website," he said. He realized he could do something similar on Kickstarter, and set about creating the campaign.

I asked Eric to describe to me his most critical advice on what he did right, and would recommend to others, to maximize success on a Kickstarter campaign. Here's the five key items he had to offer:

1. Do the research on the Kickstarter site. "We looked at all the famous Kickstarter projects, the ones that were most successful, and took cues from their videos."

2. Keep the pitch personal. "In your video, always talk directly to your backers. Keep it personal. Keep the video simple and discrete," he said. "Focus on how your product will be used by the viewer -- boil it down to three concrete example-use cases and show your product being used in those fashions."

3. Take the time to get it right. "We spent a month and a half working on the Kickstarter campaign," Eric said. This included building a prototype for the video, shooting the video, writing the text, taking photos, and designing the Kickstarter page and pledge levels.

4. Involve the media. "Kickstarter is similar to Craigslist in that the real thing that makes a Kickstarter project explode is how you drive traffic to your website," Eric said. "We looked at every single blogger in the gadget space, and charted how often they wrote about Kickstarter projects. We had a spreadsheet of 60 to 70 media contacts, writers and bloggers that we approached the moment that our project went live."

5. Choose an exclusive launch partner. "We decided to choose an exclusive launch media partner to announce the campaign. We had been working with Engadget for two months before we launched on Kickstarter. I met the senior mobile editor and showed her the technology in advance and she agreed to write an article about our watch and campaign. As it turns out, when that article went live at 7 a.m. on launch day, it drove the traffic and it blew up from there."

While Eric's initial funding target was only $100,000, in its first 28 hours, the Pebble Watch campaign raised $1 million and in 37 days it had raised more than $10 million from 68,929 backers.

In my next blog I'll go even deeper with Eric on the seven "must-do" steps for a successful Kickstarter campaign.

NOTE: Over the next year, I'm embarking on a BOLD mission -- to speak to top CEOs and entrepreneurs to find out their secrets to success. My last book Abundance, which hit No. 1 on Amazon, No. 2 on the New York Times and was at the top of Bill Gates' personal reading list, shows us the technologies that empower us to create a world of Abundance over the next 20 to 30 years. BOLD, my next book, will provide you with tools you can use to make your dreams come true and help you solve the world's grand challenges to create a world of Abundance. I'm going to write this book and share it with you every week through a series of blog posts. Each step of the way, I'll ask for your input and feedback. Top contributors will be credited within the book as a special "thank you," and all contributors will be recognized on the forthcoming BOLD book website. To ensure you never miss a message, sign up for my newsletter here.

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