Kickstarter didn’t start until April 2009, but has quickly become the crowdfunding platform of record for everything from independent music and film, to an array of prototype products.
Of those prototype products, none has demonstrated the power of crowdfunding quite like TikTok + Lunatik, two watch kits designed to put the iPod nano on your wrist. Scott Wilson’s goal of raising $15,000 to bring his idea for the watch kits to market went far beyond that and raised $941,718 from more than 13,000 people who pledged financial backing to see them put into production. How do you go from a $15,000 goal to nearly $1 million in pledged support?
Wilson is the founder of MINIMAL, a Chicago design studio, and served as Global Creative Director of Nike before striking out on his own. MINIMAL lists projects like the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Kinect sensor in their portfolio, and counts companies like Motorola and Dell as clients. Their design work spans categories including packaging, branding and furniture. With such a top-tier track record, why not pursue funding from traditional investors?
“We had shopped the idea around a little bit to investors, but thought we would try the independent route and give a creative funding platform like Kickstarter a whirl. Doing it independently allows for more creative control and equity ultimately,” says Wilson.
Still, MINIMAL isn’t exactly unknown or unproven, and we wondered how much of the project’s backing success could actually be attributed to the platform.
“Well, I think it was a real combination,” Wilson says. ”There is a certain amount of brand equity behind MINIMAL and my design work over the years, which helped give credibility to the project. But the Kickstarter community had a lot to do with the viral campaign that spread once the project started gaining momentum. We also had plenty of backers who read or heard about the product, but had not yet been familiar with MINIMAL or Kickstarter up until that point, so there were a lot of contributing factors.”
Having a launch plan doesn’t hurt though. TikTok + Lunatik was introduced in an exclusive on Fast Company
Fast Company CoDesign ran an exclusive story on the watch on November 17th, and shortly after was picked up by Gizmodo. After Gizmodo ran the story about the project, MINIMAL says the amount pledged went from $7,000 to $60,000 in a matter of hours – meaning the project met it’s initial goal in 24 hours. The numbers continued to go up from there.
While aspiring creatives looking to achieve ambitious Kickstarter goals may not be able to replicate that type of launch excitement, they can take note of the role that updates and interaction had in the exponential increase in pre-order backing.
“While we did engage press during the process, social media and updates/interaction with our backers also helped to keep everyone involved in the project and process as it was happening,” Wilson explains. When asked to expand on that, MINIMAL credited videos of the process for assuring backers had a sense of involvement beyond their pre-order pledges.
In an early comment on the project, Wilson said that a retail buyer told him just a month before that the metal LunaTik would never sell at $50, and that it should be done in plastic at a lower quality to be successful at a retail level. If the success of the project isn’t a giant “told you so,” we’re not sure what would be. So should we expect more MINIMAL projects to launch via direct demand? Wilson thinks it was a great first experience, but hasn’t decided on how Kickstarter will play into future projects just yet.
“Not sure where we will go from here. Right now we are working hard to fill all of the orders place by our supporters and deliver on our promised deadlines,” he says.
No one can say for sure if future projects will have the same level of record-breaking success, but Wilson does offer some advice for those who are aspiring to it.
“It is hard to say because obviously we underestimated the interest and demand in TikTok + LunaTik on our first go. I would say having clear, realistic goals about what you are trying to fund and include your backers in the process as much as you can. Our supporters were thrilled to be able to be involved in seeing packaging, factory visits, etc. and people felt like they were really a part of the process and community—which was awesome.”