Lessons From a Successful Crowd Funding Campaign
Funding WatchDock Steel
On September 9, 2014, I learned with some many other eager fans of Apple live streaming the news on the latest products, there would be One More Thing! Tim Cook had been giving select press access to the new iPhone, but about an hour into the presentation, he revealed a much anticipated new product, Apple Watch.
I have always had a fascination with watches. Reinventing the watch would be a staggering challenge, but Apple’s mini me companion to iPhone was unique. I was immediately struck with the rectangular screen and minimal styling. It had several hallmarks of the Marc Newson designed watches for Ikepod. The band and clasp design were a virtual match and the detail on the digital crown was reminiscent of pair of salt and pepper shakers for Alessi, I own! It was clear if Marc Newson lead the design with Jony Ive it would seem a perfect match of design expertise. Apple Watch appeared perfectly thought out and presented in brilliant Apple fashion. Except?
Tim Cook continued to present the attributes of the product including the inductive charging method which is very cool, but I had some questions? Would this magical connection require two hands? Would you have to locate the charging end of the cord every time, much like that of a lightning connector which gets frayed of broken at the connection? What about the watch? Would it just sit on a surface to charge?
The presentation left me to speculate on the size of the battery, the watch is small, there are a number of features at work too; screen, accelerometer, Bluetooth, there would need to be a daily charge. If this was going to be a daily occurrence, I would expect every user might want constancy in the charging method. If one could secure the charging end of the cord you would have a Watch Docking station. I was excited because this could be a whole new class of consumer product.
I teamed with a couple designers to help me elaborate on the product concept. We went as far as to write a provisional patent for a mechanical utility we had conceived for a plastic version which held the cord inside, a great charging companion. We developed the design and launched a campaign on IndieGOGO. Friends and Family dropped in donations, we worked social media and heard just about every pitch to help market the campaign, but we didn’t reach our goal. Apple Watch was long to emerge in the wild. Until Apple Watch was in hand, we were a solution to a problem no one had yet. Undaunted and with some online encouragement from potential backers who thought like we did, the World needed Watch Dock, we came up with another design that would allow us to hit a less ambitious goal which did not include the significant expense of tooling.
We redeveloped a new design, more practical and utilitarian, WatchDock Steel. This product would require a steel component, a much smaller and less costly tool for a rubber grommet to secure the charging puck. We set out be one of the first to offer this new product, but others were emerging with their own version. Re-launched a Kickstarter Campaign and made improvements based on our previous campaign; a better video to introduce the product, a reasonable goal target and an improved social media presence.
After 30 days, we hit our Goal! While we did not see a tidal wave of support for the product that may have pushed us to produce in greater volume, we had none the less, hit our goal, the campaign was a success! We would go into production to support the requests of our backers and trust that if the product were to be readily available, we would have more requests.
WatchDock Steel turned out to be a nice product for the backers and others who bought one. Unlike any other Docking method for Apple Watch, WatchDock Steel was the only product made with a heavy material which gave the product significant weight for it size. What we did not anticipate, was a flood of other docking methods that would give fans of Apple Watch a wide variety of products to consider. Some of these other product solutions were much less expensive or came with a variety of additional features, like lighting, material variety or a dual charging methods for the iPhone and Apple Watch.
I learned a great deal in the process of developing a product with crowd sourced funds:
Be transparent an open to your Backers as they are your investors.
Describe the process to your approach, report your progress, including highs & lows.
Consider your partners in the development and understand your roles clearly.
Be Appreciative, Be Honest & Do what you say you are going to do, Follow through.
Would I do a crowd funding campaign again? I sure would, in the process of launching these campaigns, I met a number of great people from all over the World, many have become friends. After all, you are building an audience, not just a product. We still make WatchDock Steel in small batch production. You can find one on our Amazon page here: Buy WatchDock Steel