Being an idea guy in a large organization means constantly looking for new ways to muster up support for that next big innovation. It’s no secret that you need a great network to influence change and building one can monopolize quite a bit of time. The rules of the networking game are also changing with advances in virtual or mobile work force capabilities. Inspiration for ideas can come from anywhere and this holds true for networking strategies as well. The way people come together and collaborate online is constantly changing and rich with examples to learn from.
One example, crowdfunding, is a practice of leveraging the resources of a large online netwƒork to support your desired outcome.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve been flirting with the idea of writing that best selling novel and a recent layoff has given you the gift of time to complete it. Maybe you have a bit of written content to share but minimal funding to publish and nobody to help you promote the finished book. Should that hold you back? Well not in today’s world. The internet now provides endless opportunities to leverage large networks of people who, believe it or not, actually have the means and desire to help you. One example is Kickstarter.com. Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects and been featured on CNN, The New York Times, Time Magazine, BBC and many more media outlets because ideas and projects are being launched successfully.
I was interested in knowing how an online platform and community like Kickstarter could help me learn how to better drive support for idea adoption in my own work environment; so I decided to conduct an experiment. I joined the Kickstarter community as a financial backer, or investor, ready to use some of my own money to fund an idea. After looking through a number of projects I decided to go with a clever twist on holiday celebration called a Yamaclaus. A Yamaclaus is a Yamaka that has been modified to look like like a Santa Claus hat, in turn creating a multi-cultural novelty for celebrating the holiday season.
Project creators, Larik Malish and Alan Masarsky, had already partnered with a manufacturer capable of producing their product but needed $2,500 to kick start the production line and bring the Yamaclaus to market. The campaign on Kickstarter gave them 30 days to raise the money.
After putting $100 towards the project I was instantly offered the option to promote my decision through my social media networks , including Facebook and Twitter, which I did in hopes of making others aware of the project and also hoping others might chip in to help reach the funding goal in time. I also found myself checking the project’s progress daily to see if it would make the deadline to raise the money. A project on Kickstarter that does not reach the funding goal by the deadeline established does not continue forward. In the case of Yamaclaus the funding goal was achieved and I found myself feeling exhilarated and accomplished for backing an idea that ended up taking off. The experience of searching through, deciding to support, following and celebrating the success of an idea was so amazing from my perspective as a backer. I had to learn more about what it was like from the perspective of the one with the actual idea so I contacted Larik and Alan to interview them.
Cameron: “Where did the idea for Yamaclaus come from?”
Larik and Alan: “The inspiration behind Yamaclaus came from a fun holiday event we attended a few years ago. We wanted to be apart of the festivities, but wanted to showcase something fun and unique at a party. Needless to say, it was a hit and friends from different traditions and religious backgrounds showed tremendous support. ”
Cameron: “What made you decide to use Kickstarter?”
Larik and Alan: “It’s a platform for strapped and low funded projects to get the exposure to an audience interested in new products. Kickstarter is known for being off beat, it’s user friendly and is known for helping to create campaigns.”
Cameron: “You both have day jobs so how were you able to manage them and facilitate the Kickstarter project?”
Larik and Alan: “Its been a challenge and a little bit of a struggle. We had to manage jobs, personal lives and school so it took a lot of dedication and our excitement for the product helped us have a ‘do what ever it takes’ attitude. At one point we were working around the clock modifying our user experience and manufacturing the product. We had an assembly line in our living room.”
Cameron: “How did you promote your Kickstarter event?”
Larik and Alan: “Kickstarter was very useful in the sense that it allowed us to go social with it. We were really able to leverage our social networks and social media best practices to get the event out there. One of the first things we did was park URL’s for Yamaclaus creating pages in multiple channels including Facebook and Instagram created profiles so people could post pictures using our product and share them on our profiles. It involved a lot of participation from friends and family at first. But we gained visibility from people all over the world. We collected e-mail addresses and sent e-mail blasts. E-mail marketing was very effective. Because our product is a physical tangible product we were able to do a lot of word of mouth marketing by bringing the product to social events and gatherings, wearing them, and talking about our Kickstarter event there.”
Cameron: “Would you recommend Kickstarter to someone who is currently unemployed but might have a good idea?”
Larik and Alan: “A common mistake with Kickstarter is that people use it as platform to test ideas. Instead, use it when you are ready to go to market and when you are ready to deliver on the support of you backers. You really only have a 30-60 day campaign get the support you need so you have to be ready to go if it’s a success. For example we had a manufacturer ready to go when we launched the event. Make sure that what you do is protected. If you come out with a really unique idea, be smart about copyrighting or protecting it. For us the primary goal of launching a Kickstarter was not to throw out an idea and get early development feedback. We found that people aren’t really willing to open their wallet for you if they can’t see where you are going with their money.”
Cameron: “What were the biggest challenges to getting Yamaclause off the ground through Kickstarter?”
Larik and Alan: “We were one of the few Kickstartes that did not have a video prepared. We would have liked to be more prepared considering the amount of outreach and marketing we wanted to do throughout the campaign. You can do project updates and other types of things to market your event but video has been proven to be incredibly effective for a lot of Kickstarter campaigns. In hind sight it would have been better for us to have that and we could have had more backers and connected with our backers better. The other challenge is to break out of your bubble and comfort zone and really do that outreach to friends and family. If you really believe in the idea you have to reach out and friends and family are the best ways to get initial feedback and spread the word. Ask them to talk about the product, take pictures and share on their social networks.”
Ultimately I recognized a number of parallels between getting something funded on Kickstarter and getting an idea off the ground in the workplace. What I found to be truly unique about the experience is the way Kickstarter kept me engaged, empowered me to promote the idea and facilitated the crowdfunding process with efficiency. I also loved the measurable phases of collaboration as the idea moved through to it’s ultimate outcome. What can companies learn from crowdfunding ventures like Kickstarter to help enable internal ideation aimed at solving unique challenges? Can crowdfunding be a viable solution for the unemployed dreamers of the world, sparking the new products and job opportunities of tomorrow? Tell me what you think by commenting on this blog.
I want to thank both Larick and Alan for being so willing to share their personal experience.
Have you used Kickstarter?
What was your experience? Do you prefer other crowdfunding sites?
Disclaimer: This is not an official site of The Hartford. The opinions expressed by participants are those of the participants and are not those of The Hartford.