Kickstarter Mini Series: Lessons from our first 24 hrs live | Ep. 12

Building Astropad Podcast Episode 12:

We were shocked by the first 24 hours of our Kickstarter campaign. We share what worked and what barely performed for us in those opening hours of our campaign on this episode. Hear how our biggest email list underperformed while our smallest list delivered way beyond our expectations. We discuss why it was hard to get press traction and what we’d do differently next time. If you’re launching a hardware product on Kickstarter this is a must-listen.

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Matt Ronge 0:06
Hi there, Matt, here. Here with Savannah. Hey, so we are talking about the first 24 hours of our Kickstarter. So we launched our Kickstarter, it was not last week, the week before. And we were pretty amazed with how much we learned within the first 24 hours, at least I was. I was blown away by how much we learned. We had done a ton of prep. Of course, when you launch something, some stuffs gonna work, some stuff isn’t. We were able to tell pretty quickly what was and wasn’t working. So you want to talk about that on this episode. What worked really well for us. What didn’t work well and insights we had beyond that for the rest of the campaign.

Savannah Reising 1:10
Matt actually asked me if I wanted to record this episode last week. I was not ready. I was still recovering from the launch. And I think I’m I’m still recovering, because it was all we worked towards for a long time.

Matt Ronge 1:32
Maybe we should start there. I mean, how are you feeling right now.

Savannah Reising 1:35
It has been an emotional roller coaster, definitely. In the days, weeks leading up, I was working long hours, getting ready to launch. I definitely had a lot of adrenaline and nerves leading up to the launch day. Then when you when you go live, it’s just like, within a few hours of going live, I felt exhausted immediately. All of this anticipation leaving my body that it was out in the world, this thing that we had been working on for so long. And then in the days after that, we’ve been referring to it as like a Kickstarter hangover. It’s just pretty surreal to know that it’s live. There’s no more guessing how’s it going to do? Do you think we’re gonna reach our goal? For so long we had anticipated how much money we would raise and finally we have all these questions answered. So yeah, it’s been a roller coaster. Definitely.

Matt Ronge 2:48
Yeah, for sure. We do all this prep, and then you launch it and the least for me, the days after, it’s like now what. You’re doing all this preparation and you feel kind of wandering. That’s how I feel.

Savannah Reising 3:01
So much goes into thinking about the minute it goes live, and then, you spend not as much time thinking about what happens after that. Or what happens beyond the Kickstarter, at least on the marketing side. You have to readjust quickly once it goes live. Are you over your Kickstarter hangover yet?

Matt Ronge 3:25
No, not yet. It’s better this week, but it’s still not completely gone. I’m still sluggish. I feel like I could use a long vacation. There’s no where to go right now with COVID.

Savannah Reising 3:38
Well, you’re going camping this weekend, unplugging sounds nice.

Matt Ronge 3:43
Yeah, that is part of my launch recovery. The other thing is, we found this happens with other launches and projects we’ve done too. You work really, really hard for a goal, you get to it and then you’re like now what? So we’re hanging in there. We’ll feel better once the Kickstarter is over. Then we can move on to the next thing and ship it. Our next big hairy goal is actually shipping and fulfilling the Kickstarter. It helps that we’ve been through this a couple of times at different launches, so we know this is normal. We’ve felt this way before and we’re not doing anything wrong. We’re not just unproductive for the sake of it, this is okay.

Savannah Reising 4:27
Yeah, you’ll get over it. You’ll move on to something else and feel better. Another hard part about launching the Kickstarter was within the first few hours, we realized that this campaign is so different from our previous Kickstarter campaign. So many things, which we’ll talk about today performed differently than they did in the first one. It was hard not to compare this campaign to the last one. I’ll admit I was really hoping to raise more money in this second Kickstarter campaign for Windows. Within the first, 24 hours it became clear like that the momentum wasn’t as explosive as it was in our first campaign. So I was feeling some doubts and feeling a little bit deflated about that. But when I take a step back and look at it, wow, we just raised a quarter million dollars in a week. Now we are 15 days into the campaign, and we’re at $280,000, which is

I mean, that’s amazing. That money is going to make a really big difference for the company, especially because we’re bootstrapped. So I’m trying to put things into perspective and not compare it to the last campaign too much.

Matt Ronge 6:11
Yeah, it’s really hard not to compare the two because we had the previous campaign that had crazy momentum from the beginning. We realized in the first 24 hours were that this is a very different campaign. The same things that drove our last campaign aren’t the same here. So we should really stop comparing it because this campaign is still super, super fantastic. We’re doing really, really well. We expected it to progress at the same rate as our last campaign. But again, just to highlight how they’re different, our last campaign had more momentum in the beginning. We raised more money in the first couple days of that campaign, but it really slowed down in the middle. Versus this campaign has continued to be much stronger throughout. So yeah, they’re different. That’s what we’re learning. So why do you think this campaign started so different than the last one?

Savannah Reising 7:12
Yeah, I think the number one thing has to do with our existing customer lists. So for our first Kickstarter, in 2017, the majority of our backers came from our existing customers for our Astropad software product. These were people who were Mac users who wanted Luna Display for Mac. We had a huge email list at the time, it was like 100,000 people that were ready to ready to buy Luna. And this time around, we hit send on those emails and just did not get the conversion rate from our Mac customers that we were hoping. It was really the first time ever that we were disappointed by our mailing lists. And because normally, we try not to email them, unless there’s something really important that we want to say. Like, oh, here’s a really great blog post, or a new update for you, or a good sale. This was the first time where they didn’t perform like what we were expecting. It’s really easy to see why now. Those are existing customers, Mac users, and we’re selling a product for Windows. And I mean, it seems so obvious now. We’ve been hearing for so long that our customers wanted us to move to Windows and go cross platform. So we just assumed that they would come out and buy the product. We’re realizing that actually, this is just a totally new group of people from our existing user group. If you think about it, it’s actually a really exciting thing, because that means we have like all this untapped potential on the Windows side.

Matt Ronge 9:14
To elaborate on that even more, we definitely knew that Mac users weren’t going to convert the same way as our first Kickstarter, but we assumed that there would be some overlap. Okay, somebody’s got a spouse, or somebody else in their family, or a friend that has a PC, and they could tell them about it. Like, “Hey, you should back this.” Or maybe somebody uses both, they use a PC at work and they use a Mac at home. We assumed that there’ll be some kind of crossover. So we made our estimates, according to that, we never expected the turnout to be as much as it previously was, but even our lower end estimates was off by 10x. There was just so much less interest in it than even the lower end of what we were predicting.

Savannah Reising 10:03
And our list, our email list is over twice the size as it was during our first Kickstarter, and it still just didn’t. It didn’t perform like we had hoped. It’s interesting,we didn’t expect that. We are still happy with how the campaign started.

Matt Ronge 10:29
The Astropad, and Luna lists didn’t turn out, and as you’re saying Savannah, in hindsight, it makes total sense We did have one list, though, that really drove the beginning of our campaign.

Savannah Reising 10:41
Yeah, our smallest email list, We call it the “Interested in Windows list”. These are people who have been begging for us to go to Windows. We’ve been collecting their emails for about a year. since right after the Sidecar launch in the summer of 2019. This list was about 14,000 people when we launched the Kickstarter. This list showed up. They came out and they backed our Kickstarter. And it’s because these people are the most qualified leads. We grew this list by putting out content on our blog that talked about our Windows journey. We didn’t have anything to sell them at the time or anything to give them, but they’ve been hungry for Windows. And yeah, they really showed up. In hindsight, I realized that putting a lot of effort into growing that list was totally worth it. I wish I could have spent more time on it. We spent a year on it, so I don’t know how much more time we reasonably could have spent on it. It was totally worth it. If I was planning another Kickstarter campaign, that’s where I would spend my efforts.

Matt Ronge 12:15
This really drove home the lesson that the audience you have really needs to overlap with the product. And this really drove that home. And now we’re going to spend more time continuing to build our windows list in the future. We’re realizing we’re gonna have to build a completely new audience, as you were saying earlier, which is exciting. There’s a huge chunk of the market we haven’t gotten to yet. We need to put more time into it. We’re not going to be able to rely on the same websites, the same tricks, the same things we’ve been doing. We need to tap into the PC windows crowd.

Savannah Reising 12:51
So I was really pleasantly surprised with that Windows list. It was small. I figured some of these people are gonna backer our Kickstarter but I was shocked by how well it performed compared to our other customer lists, which are so much larger.

Matt Ronge 13:09
Our other lists is almost 250,000 people? Maybe not quite that. The 14,000 person list just blew it out of the water completely and got us to our goal. It was amazing to see.

Savannah Reising 13:27
Quality over quantity. Yeah, that’s what it comes down to.

Matt Ronge 13:30
Right. That’s totally the lesson here. Quality over quantity. Absolutely. That is definitely the lesson. So what else do we expect to work but didn’t?

Savannah Reising 13:45
Well, I’d say the biggest thing was press coverage. So this is another area where I’m kind of disappointed with how it played out, but I’m also not that surprised. Thinking about it, in hindsight the problem that we ran into is that. We talked about press before, and how how we reach out to the press. We have a bunch of great press contacts, but they’re all with the Mac and Apple press. We were launching Luna display for Windows and these people just weren’t interested in our launch. Even though Luna Display uses an iPad, still the Windows thing just didn’t resonate with the Mac crowd. So there was this whole chunk of our press coverage that we were hoping for, that just didn’t happen. And then on the other side, with the Windows press, we didn’t have any reputation with them. We’ve never launched a Windows product before. We didn’t hear back from a lot of the people that we wanted to cover us. Don’t get me wrong, we did get good press coverage like TechCrunch, Windows Central, iMore and Forbes. They all covered us, which is amazing. I’m super grateful for that, but it was just really different. It was, wow, okay, this is a whole new market. Something that we were disadvantaged by was that we didn’t get to send prototypes out ahead of our Kickstarter. We did this for our first Kickstarter, where we sent out Luna Display prototypes. The Mac press was able to test it out and review it before our launch. But because of our engineering timelines, we weren’t able to do that this time around. So I think if we had sent out prototypes to the Windows press ahead of time, they would have been like, “Wow, this is a really great product, I’m going to cover this.” We didn’t get a chance to do that. So we probably looked like some random Kickstarter, reaching out to them without any sort of true prototype to share.

Matt Ronge 16:06
Yeah, I think reputation gets to the core of it. When we did our last Kickstarter, it was for the Mac community. We had had a reputation with the Mac community, we had gone to the press there multiple times. They knew us. We were a fairly regular source of news. So when we went to them with a Kickstarter, it wasn’t “Oh, here’s some random Kickstarter,” it was “Okay, we know this company, they’re going to Kickstarter. That’s pretty cool.” And then on top of that to really catch their attention, we sent a prototype. Now we’re back to square one. The Windows folks didn’t know us. So they’re like, “Yeah, we have no clue who you are. Also, we’re hesitant to cover a Kickstarter, because, you know, there’s so many Kickstarters that don’t succeed and don’t ship.” They probably don’t want to put it out there for their readers and potentially have them back a project that doesn’t succeed. So I can understand why a lot of these places are hesitant to cover Kickstarter. It seemed like a key word that they would see Kickstarter and be like “Oh, okay. Yeah, you know, we’re gonna hold off for now.” Really, when we fully ship, then they’d be more interested.

Savannah Reising 17:16
It just would have been totally different if they had a prototype and really vetted and reviewed the product first before promoting a Kickstarter. So yeah, if you are able to send product samples out to the press ahead of time, I think that can really help you get over that sort of stigma around Kickstarter, when you’re trying to get press coverage.

Matt Ronge 17:40
Yeah, it makes total sense. It’s in their hands, they’re trying it. They’re like, “Oh, this actually works. This works well. They’re likely going to ship.” So that’s key. That’s really key. Well, what else do you think worked this time around?

Savannah Reising 17:57
We’ve been doing a lot of things like sponsoring newsletters, and paid ads, but we’ll get into those in another episode. Right now, I really want to focus on what made a difference in those first 24 hours. So the two remaining things that I want to talk about are, adding banners on our websites to direct traffic and also doing preparation ahead of time to answer FAQ questions from potential customers. Starting with website banners, within the first 10 minutes of the Kickstarter launch, put up banners on our Shopify and WordPress sites. They’re kind of ugly, they’re so in your face. Like that bright green Kickstarter color, you can’t miss them. But people have been totally clicking on them going to Kickstarter and backing the product. And so it helps to just put something right in your face when you’re trying to get website traffic over to your campaign. Definitely don’t wait to do that. Just put it up on your site right away.

Matt Ronge 19:19
It’s been driving a good amount of traffic too. Granted, our regular sites we’ve built up over the last couple years have a good amount of traffic. It’s pretty cool seeing in our Google Analytics, how much traffic our sites were sending towards the Kickstarter. So it made a very measurable difference.

Savannah Reising 19:35
Yep. And then the other thing that I thought really worked well was our support team put together a whole list of FAQ items ahead of time. When we went live, they immediately published those technical questions on our Kickstarter campaign. That pretty much minimized our support load. Instead of people emailing in, or messaging on Kickstarter, the questions that they needed ahead of time were already there. We didn’t do that in our first campaign, I think because we didn’t even realize that there was an FAQ tab on Kickstarter. I’m really happy we were able to do that this time around. We’ve been adding to it and sharing those FAQ questions in a backer update too. It just makes everyone’s jobs easier.

Matt Ronge 20:35
Yeah, we were not so organized the first time around. It helps that we’ve got a support team now that’s really organized. Rachel, who’s on our team and heads up support, did a great job. Getting that all together, getting organized, getting the FAQ up. They spent a bunch of time to brainstorming questions like “What would people ask?” So we had that covered from a lot of angles. Last time we were frantically trying to respond to people. So it was so much better this time. This time was so smooth. It was crazy how smooth it was, compared to last time because of those FAQ questions.

Savannah Reising 21:09
Those were the main things for the first 24 hours, those insights set this campaign apart from our first one. Speaking more generally about burnout, I think you kind of have to give yourself some time to recharge after that launch. The other important part of your campaign is going to come at the end for that final push to get people to back your campaign in the last 24 or 48 hours. So I think it’s probably normal to feel that low in the middle of the campaign. So, yeah, rest up and get ready for the end, because it’s going to be another roller coaster!

Matt Ronge 21:58
That’s what we’re doing right now, trying to try to rest up. Give ourselves space to be, unproductive at times. You can’t expect peak performance all the time and it took a lot of energy to get everything launched. So we’re in that zone right now. From what we learned that 24 hours, what are you going to take forward and do differently? In the last, say, 48 hours or so of the campaign? What does that change with the game plan?

Savannah Reising 22:25
I’m glad that we are a very flexible, nimble team where we’re willing to adjust our strategy as we go. We’re not super set on a strategy, because we’ve learned so much. It’s okay, not everything that we had planned is going to perform like we wanted it to in the last 48 hours. We need to rethink our press strategy. I think we still have some brainstorming to do on the marketing team about how to approach the press, is there a different angle that we can go with? One thing that we’ve been talking about is doing a technology preview, a beta to try to garner some press interest. Now we know we had to change up the angle for the Mac press if we want any coverage there. The press is the main thing, and then we’re being a little more thoughtful about how we’re emailing our lists. We had planned to be emailing our Astropad list all the time throughout our Kickstarter, because we figured, if there’s any time to be annoying with emails, it’s during our Kickstarter. But because it seems like that group really isn’t that interested. We are pulling back because we really want to preserve the integrity of that list. We don’t want to just annoy them so much that they unsubscribe. So we’re pulling back. We’ll talk to that list for other things that we have coming up, like, a beta for Astropad Studio on Windows.

Matt Ronge 24:21
It makes total sense. I see it as doubling down on what’s working, and skipping things that didn’t work. We had those last campaign as well. Last campaign we spent a bunch of time on Instagram influencers that never really went anywhere. But let’s not chase after things that we might have put a lot of effort into, but are not giving results. And we don’t see how we can tweak it to get results. So instead, let’s put that energy towards what is working and be flexible. We’re trying to make the best decision, the best strategy at any given point with the given information we have. We have so much more information and we need to take a fresh look at stuff. As you’re saying a benefit of being on a small team we can be flexible. We can pivot on a dime like that.

Savannah Reising 25:11
Within the first few days of the campaign, me and the marketing team, we sat down, we were like, “Okay, what have we learned?” And what are we changing for the next few weeks? What are we going to stop working on? Where are we going to spend most of our time on. I think it really helps, especially working with a startup, you have to be flexible and ready to adapt with whatever gets thrown your way.

Matt Ronge 25:40
And again, different campaign than last time and different things are working. We didn’t really talk about it too much on this episode, but we we can in the future, but paid ads are working. Facebook and Instagram ads are working so much better for us this time around. The last time last time it didn’t really work very well. This time it’s working. So that’s another interesting thing that we can touch on in the future. Well excited for the end of this campaign. We’re getting there. Thanks for the updates.

Savannah Reising 26:09
I’m sure that in the next, you know, 16 days we’ll learn even more.

Matt Ronge 26:13
Yeah, we will have to do another episode after our Kickstarter is over with what we’ve learned even at that point.,

Savannah Reising 26:18
Like debrief therapy session, that’s what I’ll need.

Matt Ronge 26:23
Absolutely. Let’s do it. Bye now!