Scaffolding: Construction work at the Lehrter Hauptbahnhof, Berlin. By Tup Wanders, via Wikimedia
So. You have an idea. You’re sold on crowdfunding. Now you’re ready to jump in headfirst. Where do you start? In this part of the crowdfunding series, I will cover how to get ready to launch your project.
There are two sides of launching: Structural work (the boring stuff) and Storytelling work (the exciting stuff).
Structural work refers to the way you set up your project to operate. This includes figuring out how much money you should raise, how long your project should run, how to set up your Reward Tiers, looking into patent protection, etc. It’s boring stuff, but extremely necessary to make sure things run smoothly.
Storytelling work is how you will describe your project to the world. This involves shooting a video, what types of images you should use, writing copy, etc.
There is a lot of ground to cover for both of these aspects, so we’re going to split them into two parts. This part will focus on building your structure.
Note: From here on out, this series will focus mainly on running Kickstarter projects. They are the go to site for product designers, and it only makes sense to talk about how to work within Kickstarter’s parameters. However, there is a lot of overlap in how Kickstarter works and how other crowdfunding sites work, so even if you launch your product on another site, you should still get something out of this.
But before you start…
Every product design Project Creator should first decide what phase they will launch their project from. Lets go back to that development timeline I talked about last time.
I launched my own project somewhere between the Proof of Concept and Refinement phases. At that point, I had a working proof of concept, quotes from vendors, and a pretty good sense of how my Stylus Caps were going to be made. The reason I turned to crowdfunding was that I had gone as far as I could go on my own money. I had a lot of work and several surprises still ahead of me, but looking into crowdfunding was the only way the project was going to continue.
A proof of concept is a prototype that mostly looks and works like the final product will. It exists to tell you that your idea works, that it’s manufacturable, and to communicate to others what your intentions are. It should answer most, if not all, of your questions of how you will proceed with your development. You will also need it to help you demonstrate your idea in the video that will be on your main project page.
Production quotes are cost estimates that you receive from manufacturers that tell you how much it will cost to produce your idea and how long it will take to make it. Its good practice to get multiple quotes and make sure you have trust in the people you will eventually work with. Make sure you put all of those quotes plus any other anticipated costs, including shipping, into a Bill of Materials or BOM, that will give you a detailed look at how much money it will take to make your idea.
So what phase should you launch from? Manufacturing? Refinement? Proof of Concept? Obviously, the further along in development you are, the less chance for delays and surprises you will have.
My recommendation is to do as much as you can on your own dime, before you try to crowdfund your product. The further along in the process you launch, the more predictable the outcome and timing of delivering your project will be.
At minimum, you shouldn’t even consider launching until you have a working proof-of-concept and production quotes. Launching with anything less is asking for a world of pain. You owe it to yourself, your manufacturing partners, and your future Backers, to know if your idea will work and how much it will cost to produce. Once those things are in place, you can think about how to set up your crowdfunding structure.