My biggest fear was that we would win. Then what?
It was the first ever Maker Edition of Startup Weekend in Seattle and the competition was fierce. My team was up against hardware veteran Marc Barros, Founder of Contour Cameras and Kyle Kesterson CEO of Freak’n Genius, who blew my mind at my first ever Startup Weekend event 2 years prior. The entire weekend I anxiously told my team that we had better be amazing to beat these guys.
Then Morgan, who is now my cofounder, blew everyone’s mind by developing algorithms that could track weightlifting reps with an accelerometer and an Arduino device; In a weekend! And sure enough that put us over the top to win the first ever Maker Edition of Startup Weekend.
But that was a problem. Starting a hardware company is hard and expensive. But we decided to maintain the momentum of the win. We adjusted our focus from rep tracking to a much more fundamental and wide spread problem: sitting. With a more narrow use case and clearer problem to solve we were ready to test the market. We talked with several mentors and friends they suggested that we launch a crowdfunding campaign to see if our product had legs. The thinking was that we could make a quick video, 3D print some prototypes, take some pictures and be done. Simple and quick right?
Wrong. Crowdfunding is tough work. It involves a lot of preparation, particularly in getting the word out. Luckily I had a great mentor along the way: Joe Heitzeberg. Joe had recently successfully launched and funded his campaign for Poppy on Kickstarter. One day, while running errands in his car with him, he unfolded the mystery of crowdfunding to me: I call it Reach.
Essentially there are 3 levels of Reach: 1) Friends and Family 2) Top Tier Media 3) Other Media. Joe explained that each one is essential to reaching your crowdfunding goals and each one requires their own strategy.
Level 1) Friends and Family: With friends and family you have to bring them along on the journey. 6 weeks prior to our launch we started an email list on Kickmailer that included all of our friends and family. Each week we would update them on our progress and include a few pictures to keep it interesting. We got invaluable feedback on the product and our campaign. This is where we also found connections that helped us with both Top Tier Media and Other Media.
Level 2) Top Tier Media: 2 weeks before our campaign was live we sent out an email to friends and family to ask for connections to Top Tier Media. Very few people had these connections and when they do they guard them close. It took a lot of hustle but we eventually got intros to the WSJ, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, GigaOM and others. Then a week later we flew to SF to do in person demos. Joe explained that this was key because it would help us stand out from all the product pitches they get and he was right.
Level 3) Other Media: Through a friend on our email list we were introduced to Vivek an MBA student that was invaluable to this level of Reach. He made a list of 200 blogs with their email addresses so that we could blast an email to all of them the day of the campaign. We then set up a Media page on our site with a sample story these bloggers could copy and paste from, with high res and blog size images, and essential info about us and our Indiegogo campaign; everything to make it easy for them to cover us.
In the end our Reach was pretty significant. Between all 3 strategies we have woven a strong web of connections that we hope will make the difference in reaching our goal on Indiegogo.
Still, each time we have a win, I find myself nervous about the next stage and asking myself now what? But the momentum of progress blazes a trail just far enough ahead to guide us into the next win. That’s what I love about Startup Weekend: it gives you a penchant for action which always leads you to a win, in some way or another. So get out there and build something this weekend and see where it will take you.
Please take a moment to view our Indiegogo campaign. We appreciate any support!