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Financing and Funding April 2, 2015

10 Steps to Crowdfund an Idea into a Product

Most people think you need a brilliant startup idea and venture capital to start a successful company...  and this is completely wrong! 

The internet has made it easy to fund almost anything.

You don't even need your own ideas... just the entrepreneurial spirit and some marketing savvy.

This is a quick step-by-step guide to kickstarting your own company from scratch. All you need is time and the resolve to carry out these instructions and see your campaign through to the end. 

I used a similar process to raise $70,000 to launch RaveNectar on Kickstarter in April 2013.

1) Find a product on Yanko Design.

Yanko Design blog is chalk-full of brilliant product ideas & prototypes that never make it beyond the designer’s notepad and into fruition. 

Go through a hundred pages or so and pick out 15-25 products that interest you the most and meet a need for consumers that you can empathize with. 

Save a list of the product links somewhere for safe keeping.

Two of my favorites:

Even if you already have an idea (which you probably do if you're reading this) it's worth taking a look to see what's out there that may not have taken off and if there's a reason for that failure to launch.

2) Read The 4-Hour Work Week (4HWW) by Tim Ferris.

This book will give you a thorough run-through of how to take a business out of the idea stage and into the "real world". 

Pay careful attention to the chapters talking about:

  1. How to test the waters for product demand before going into production
  2. How to get in contact with manufacturers to create a physical prototype

3) Contact the designers of the Yanko products.

Find the email or contact form for each designer and send them a message saying you’re an entrepreneur who would like to help take their product concept to the market. 

Mention that you have contacts who will be able to create a physical prototype and the know-how to crowdfund the company using Kickstarter or IndieGogo. If you don't have these connections that's okay, you'll be using the skills learned from "The 4-Hour Work Week" to generate these contacts once you have some interest in a partnership.

You should also mention an ownership split that you think is fair; 50/50 usually does the trick. Reduce your list of products to those with designers who were enthusiastic about the proposal.

4) Choose the final product

Using the knowledge you gained in 4HWW, decide on one product to move forward with. 

Make sure to consider these factors:

  • Consumer demand (size of target demographic + sheer demand)
  • Competition (make sure there aren't too many similar products on the market)
  • Complexity of the design and ease of securing manufacturing channels
  • Competency of the designer in terms of making the product work (It has to work…)
  • Final selling price

5) Make a working prototype.

You've got a product selected and a designer / visionary on board.

You don't need a prototype to run a successful campaign but nothing will produce the same results as a physical, working example (or functioning demo if it's not tangible). 

If you can get the prototype before the campaign starts that's even better, because you can make a product demo video and take live pictures.

Use the websites and resources mentioned in 4HWW to contact the manufacturers and compare quotes for creating the first version of your product. 

Base your final decisions primarily on reviews, followed then by price. If you don’t have the extra cash to pay for the prototype, ask your friends and family to help you; they're the original crowdfunding solution after all. You could even run a quick IndieGogo campaign to get funding from everyone in an organized, professional way.

If you don't want to wait for the prototype, or it isn't feasible to have a working prototype for a while, you'll have to either use the designer's drawings or get someone to do renderings of the product based on the blueprints / concept. If the product isn't physical (software, game, etc) consider animating some of the core aspects into what would look like the product in a working state.

6) Brand It.

  1. Pick a name - It doesn’t necessarily have to be relevant to the product, just make sure it sounds cool and isn’t already taken. One word names are best. Test out your different name ideas on friends to see which one is most popular.
  2. Create a Logo – You have 3 options, in order of awesomeness:
    1. If you have extra cash, run a 99Designs contest
    2. If a friend does graphic design, ask them for a favor
    3. Pick a sexy & unique font from and put your brand name over a solid color. White on black or vice-versa always looks good. Better safe than ugly.

7) Design your crowdfunding campaign.

  1. Research crowdfunding — Start by reading EVERYTHING you can about running a campaign on Kickstarter (aim for Kickstarter over IndieGogo because it has a much more traffic). There are a lot of little intricacies about running a crowdfunding campaign that can bite you in the ass if you don’t think them out before launching.
  2. Create a video – The video is the most crucial part of your campaign. You don’t need to get fancy with this unless you have the cash to pay someone. Otherwise, find a friend with a high-quality video camera and take the time to get the lighting and sound right. If we can see you and hear you clearly, you’re golden. Ideally get the designer on camera, since he/she is the one who was originally inspired to create the product. Don’t be intimidated by video editing! Get a copy of Final Cut (the lite version if need be) and watch a few YouTube tutorials. It’s dead simple to cut a few scenes together with some music in the background.
  3. Design your rewards – Research other successful campaigns in your category and adapt their reward levels to your campaign. Be careful not to dig yourself in a hole by promising to send hand-written letters to each backer, or something of the like. Be wary of sending any physical reward besides your product, unless absolutely necessary. Digital rewards are the best and cheapest!
  4. Calculate your funding goal — Be scientific about this. Calculate every known cost, and then add 10-20% padding just to be sure. Nothing would be worse than not having enough cash to fulfill your Kickstarter. On the other hand, don’t get too lofty. It’s better to shoot for the bare minimum and have stretch goals than to fail and get no money at all (unless you’re using IndieGogo with a flexible funding campaign, but that’s risky in itself).

8) Prepare to market that baby!

  1. Find Influencers - Identify 50 websites / blogs that might post about your product/campaign. Save their submission contact form links and emails into a list so you can go through all at once when you’re campaign is live.
  2. Find Marketing Channels - Identify relevant subreddits to post on (Reddit brought me a solid 10% of my funds for RaveNectar)
  3. Buy a Domain - Create a basic website using WordPress, Wix, or any other site builder. Google ‘wordpress product landing page themes‘ and pick a premium theme with support forums in case you need help. Be sure to include an email subscribe form via a solution like Wufoo so people can request email notifications for when your campaign launches.
  4. Create social media profiles - minimum: Facebook, Twitter, G+. Include follow / like buttons on your website (they should be included by default in the theme of your choosing). Make sure the logo, descriptions, and links are all similar and point to the campaign somewhere in the about / bio.
  5. Drive traffic to your website - Try to create a fan base prior to launching your campaign. Share it on social media platforms, relevant forums, friends & family, etc. Start selling yourself and get used to repeating yourself, you'll be doing a lot of it...

9) Start the crowdfunding engine.

Launch your campaign on your crowdfunding platform of choice and utilize every marketing force at your disposal to drive traffic.

Your only job at this point is to continue marketing the hell out of your campaign and generating interest / backers. Make regular updates to your backers on the platform's communication channels as well as on your site and social channels.

Send out requests to the email list that you built from your website once the campaign has some traction (25% or more funding) and conitnue to be absolutely relentless about getting the word out.

10) Run your business

If all went well, you now have a fully-funded company with a large initial customer base. Congrats! 

Now you have to actually do the work of fulfilling the rewards, putting in the manufacturing orders, and then running the business from there on out.

For tips on THAT, you can go back and read 4HWW again for ideas on how to automate every aspect of your new business.

This post originally appeared on and has been republished with permission.

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