How a failed Kickstarter campaign led to Kickstarter success

By Ryon Lane, April 21, 2013

Sometimes it’s hard to examine failure while the pain caused by it still lingers, but I guess being an entrepreneur means sometimes getting back up off the canvas when you’ve been knocked down, and simply refusing to accept a result you don’t like. Failure is often a great chance to discover one of the many paths to success, and Kickstarter is no exception.

Kickstarter offers its project “Creators” a few analytical tools that can help determine what went wrong in a failed campaign, increasing not only the chance of success in a follow-up campaign, but also for your business in general. Simply running a Kickstarter product design campaign is a fantastic market feedback exercise for a product, and sometimes early mistakes in design, marketing, or positioning can be identified and corrected by the time a product transitions from Kickstarter to retail.

I currently have a Kickstarter campaign running for the YogoMat, the eco-friendly yoga mat that folds and secures to fit in bags and purses, and that can also be cleaned and hanged to dry. The campaign’s original goal was $16K, but in the first 4 weeks of the campaign the YogoMat has already raised over $24K, and the campaign will continue for another 4 weeks.

However, about 5 weeks ago the YogoMat was dead in the water. I ran a first YogoMat Kickstarter campaign for 36 days with a goal of raising $36K. It failed convincingly, having raised just over $10K when the clock reached zero on March 15. It was frustrating to watch the failure happen gradually over the 7 week campaign period, and during that time reasons for the failure became painfully obvious: most of my mistakes were made before the first campaign even started.

So what did I learn? What lessons did I take away from my failure that has made my second (Redux) campaign successful?


Here are 7 factors I’ve identified that helped me turn a failed Kickstarter campaign into later Kickstarter success:

1) Listen to your backers

Aside from your friends and family who back your project because they love or feel sorry for you, backers are people who want the reward(s) you’re offering, and are part of the same group of consumers who would buy your product if they found it on a shelf in a retail store. They are a concentration of people who like your idea and identify with the benefit(s) your product will give them. You should know the general characteristics of this demographic of folks because you want to reach more of them. I learned to listen to the backers who backed my first failed Kickstarter campaign.

I took many good pieces of advice about the YogoMat’s presentation on Kickstarter in correspondence directly from backers, but their backing behavior, easily evaluated with the Kickstarter “Creator Dashboard,” was extremely valuable as well. It gives you insight to 1) funding progress over time, 2) where backers arrived from on the Internet, 3) stats on your video (if you use one), 4) reward popularity graphs, and 5) individual backer activity (comments, backing activity, etc.). I also highly recommend the custom Kickstarter dashboard the Soma water carafe team built and shared.

2) Your Kickstarter “Story” and Rewards should be limited, simple, and clear

In the first campaign, in addition to the YogoMat, I offered other yoga accessories and t-shirts. Backers loved the YogoMat itself, but were not very excited about the additional reward items, which were too numerous and distracting from the YogoMat itself. Backers overwhelmingly selected only YogoMats as rewards, and tended to avoid the additional items.

The reward language of the first campaign was also much too verbose - some of my rewards were 15+ lines long! Who is going to spend the time to read your gi-normous novel of a Kickstarter page? No one – except your mom. I discovered that more than 3-5 lines of very straightforward text is too much text to expect a backer to quickly read and digest. I’ve even caught myself impatiently skipping over rewards that are too long when looking at others’ Kickstarter pages. I’m positive this factor alone lost me many backers.

In my Kickstarter “story” of the first campaign, which is main body of the campaign, I was equally overly-verbose. There were too many ideas and there were visually too many paragraphs. I simply threw enough text at potential backers that I’m sure many of them couldn’t wade through it all to get to the core messages of the YogoMat. And then they lost interest and didn’t back the YogoMat.

In the Redux campaign only single and multiple YogoMats are rewards, plain and simple. The reward language is concise and limited in the page’s body and its rewards, and it’s all easily digested. Incidentally, more than twice the amount of people have backed the new campaign in the same period of time as the first one.

This is the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle in action.

3) A reward’s language, value, estimated delivery and int’l shipping fees are unchangeable once a reward is selected

Despite having read everything before launching the first campaign, I didn’t realize that a campaign’s reward language is etched in stone after it’s made available in a live campaign and just ONE backer selects the reward. Once it’s selected by a backer, you can’t change anything about a reward except the number of those rewards available at that level of backing.

Complicating the process of crafting reward language is the fact that no text formatting is available for rewards – no bolding, no italics, nothing. Only CAPS can be used to distinguish certain plain text words from the rest.

4) Be conservative and realistic in setting your fundraising goal

The original YogoMat campaign sought to raise enough funds to pay not just for one run of 500 YogoMats, but two runs, in order to allow for two different color combinations of mats. In addition, the other yoga accessories and t-shirts added to the overhead needed to successfully fund the campaign and get rewards in the hands of all backers. $36K was not a realistic goal because it wasn’t the bare minimum amount I needed to raise in order to realize just a small first round of successful product production. It was unnecessarily ambitious.

In second the Redux campaign, I only sought to raise enough funds to bootstrap a starting run of 500 mats ($16K), the color of which will be selected by popular vote following the successful funding of the campaign. Additionally, I’ve communicated with my backers that if $25K is raised, I can afford to offer two colors, and three at $34K. By lowering my fundraising goal, I drastically increased my chance of reaching that goal, while leaving contingent room for campaign expansion and inclusion of additional bonus goals.

5) The length of your campaign matters

As news of the first YogoMat Kickstarter campaign spread, it grew both in backers and funds. However, when it failed after 36 days, it was only 30% funded. Had the campaign run for another 24 days (the Kickstarter maximum campaign time is 60 days), and had some level of virality developed, it’s entirely possible that the campaign might have reached $36K and been successful. But to be honest, I’m glad it failed for many reasons.

In the Redux campaign, building on the great word-of-mouth effect the YogoMat began to experience at the end of the failed first campaign, in 30 short days it has raised over $24K. The new campaign is set to run for 60 days, and it may well eclipse that original $36K fundraising goal.

 6) You’ve got to be social, and you’ve got to show the value you’re providing

A video is wonderful if it conveys how awesome your product is AND conveys enough credibility about you, the Kickstarter Creator, to establish a sufficient level of trust that a backer needs to feel in order to back the campaign. But not many of us are filmmakers by birth, so the chances that your video alone is going to grow word-of-mouth virality is slim.

You, the Kickstarter Creator, need to talk to people about your product, both online and in person. Potential backers won’t trust the product unless they trust the person selling the product first. And, it’s a great way for you to get instant feedback and to practice your presentation of your idea.

Tim Ferriss wrote a great blog post on hacking Kickstarter, in which Soma inventor Mike Del Ponte shares his team’s online Kickstarter campaign strategy. If you’re starting a Kickstarter campaign, it’s fantastic reading and invaluable strategic advice.

In the analog world, without being irritating, if your idea is relevant to them, tell your friends, your neighbors, and any groups you belong to about your idea. Go stand on the sidewalk and demonstrate your product if that will be helpful – it’s the cheapest form of publicity. The more people you talk to about your idea who are interested, the greater your chances that one of them will become a backer or tell a friend who is a potential backer. If you fail to reach out to anyone you know who might actually, reasonably love your product, you probably haven’t worked hard enough to get it in front of your core audience of likely backers.

7) You can still send a message to all backers of a failed Kickstarter campaign

When the first campaign ended unsuccessfully, my immediate and first thought was, “have I just lost all of the momentum that I just built?” Fortunately, even after a campaign fails, the Kickstarter Creator can still send all of the previous backers a message in the form of a posted update. In fact, such an update can also be posted for the whole world to see, which can also be a valuable redirect tool for potential backers who arrive at your failed campaign’s page by accident.

After starting the Redux campaign, I posted an update to the old campaign which included the URL for the new campaign. Within two days of launching the Redux campaign dozens – then later more than 200 – of the first campaign’s backers signed up to back the new campaign.

Ryon Lane is the CEO and Founder of YogoSport, and the designer of the YogoMat, an athletic mat that’s great for yoga, P90X, Pilates, and other mat-related athletics. While recovering from a broken neck, Ryon discovered yoga, which later helped him grow strong and fast enough to run a sub-3 hour time in the 2010 NYC Marathon.

Bella is gonna hate this post…

Bella and Dad

Bella and Dad

I wanted to share a picture of my daughter and I on a rare occasion where we’re both actually cleaned up and in front of a camera. (She usually looks nice, I’m usually in need of cleaning up.)

I can’t remember if Bella likes this picture or not, so she may dislike that I posted this. :)  Incidentally, I’ve removed the mustache since then (pic was taken during Movember).

Proud dad

My talented daughter Bella performs onstage.

My talented daughter Bella performs onstage.

I just discovered a really good original song my daughter Bella just wrote, recorded, and posted on YouTube yesterday:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pv0ltnsqJ5g

She’s in high school and is, in quite talented fashion, now writing and recording her own music, as well as rewriting others’ songs into often very creative personal covers. I have to admit that I’m not quite sure where she gets the musical talent – I’ve toyed with playing music and singing, but definitely don’t have the gift that she does. I’m extremely proud of her.

She’s recently started performing in public venues and I think would like to play coffee shops soon (she won’t be old enough to play bars for a while!).

(P.S. Bella, I hope I don’t embarrass you by posting this!)

The YogoMat by YogoSport

IMG_0466

Introducing the YogoMat, debuting January 25, 2013 on Kickstarter.

Entrepreneur and guru Guy Kawasaki said “build the product you want to use, hope that there are others like you and do the damnedest to enchant them.” (Guy Kawasaki on the Art of Enchantment, Entrepreneur Magazine, April 2011)

After I broke my neck, and before I could run again, I discovered yoga, which became integral to helping recover from my injury. Yoga (and lots of physical therapy) rebuilt strength in my neck and body, and with it I became flexible and balanced again. When I was strong enough to run again, I wanted to run to the yoga studio, (practice yoga), and run home again. But, it almost impossible to run while carrying my huge, bulky rolled yoga mat because it was about the same size (and weight) as two 1/2-gallon jugs of milk stacked together.

I quickly discovered that the heavy, massive mat that I used limited where, when and how I practiced yoga. I couldn’t run to yoga while I carried the mat, I found it nearly impossible to commute with the mat and do yoga after work, I couldn’t practice yoga while traveling without using someone else’s mat, and carrying both a daypack and a rolled yoga mat during hikes so that I could practice yoga outside was more hassle than it was worth. So, I searched everywhere for the product I wanted to use: a yoga mat that would fit nicely into a small running backpack when folded up, but that also wouldn’t come unfolded in my bag. I wanted a yoga mat that would allow me to take yoga anywhere.

proto2_IMG_2260

IMG_0341 Above: The YogoMat’s comparative size when folded. Below: Product-testing the YogoMat in the hills overlooking San Francisco.

That’s why I created the YogoMat – it’s the product that I wanted to use, and I’ve now practiced yoga over the last two years with it. The YogoMat solves all of the problems I encountered: when unfolded, it’s a full-sized yoga mat, but when folded it’s only as big as a folded newspaper, and it fits in almost all bags, backpacks, purses, briefcases, and anything else people regularly carry with them.

I also started a company called YogoSport that is dedicated to making yoga easily accessible to everyone, everywhere, at any time. YogoSport will launch on January 25th on KickstarterThe company features the YogoMat and other similar items that make it more convenient for you to live a healthy lifestyle, and that allow you to decide if you want to practice yoga in a studio, at home, in a hotel room, or maybe even at the top of a mountain.

More details will be available on this website and our company website shortly.

One last note – YogoSport will donate 5% of all profits made during the Kickstarter launch campaign, as well as 5% of all future profits to my favorite charity, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which funds programs that improve the quality of life for people living with paralysis, as well as funds research that will someday find a cure for spinal cord injuries. Yoga is now being used as a form of treatment for those with spinal cord injuries, and YogoSport is extremely proud to be able to help contribute to The Reeve Foundation’s goals.

Everyone is busy and always on the go, but now yoga can go with you.

Yoga + Go = YogoSport

go farther,
Ryon Lane
Founder & CEO, YogoSport

Ryon Lane featured in April 2011 issue of Runner’s World

RW article snippet

Ryon Lane featured in the April 2011 issue of Runner’s World.

Runner’s World featured a short article about how I broke my neck in September 2008, and then recovered and trained to run a sub-3 hour time in the 2010 New York City Marathon. The article was featured on page 26 of the April 2011 issue of Runner’s World.

I’m extremely flattered to be featured in the article. Not mentioned in the article, but a group of people without whom I could not have accomplished the feat, is the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation (Team Reeve). It was truly the spinal injury community that inspired me as much as my own legs which pushed me to finish.

It should be noted that I never actually “spent four weeks in total numbness,” but was lucky enough not to suffer a spinal cord injury that would have caused total numbness. Unfortunately, as far as I know, people just can’t become paralyzed and then completely recover four weeks later. The real story is that after my diving accident, my right shoulder and arm were numb for 4 weeks, which in itself was extremely frightening.

It is true, however, that after man months with a neck brace, followed by many more months in physical therapy, I was only allowed to run 10 minutes in my very first run post-accident. Although short, that first run was probably the most gratifying 10 minutes of running that I will ever experience in my lifetime. And where did I run, you might ask? Why that’s simple – I headed for the hill closest to my house so I could get started training again after a long, long hiatus. And, training always begins with your first your steps out your door and your first steps up that metaphorical hill.

I’m no one special, I’m just a guy who got really lucky and was given a second chance.

go farther,
Ryon

P.S. I have eight titanium screws. ;)

Team Reeve Jersey and news of Runner’s World article

me looking cheesy

Ryon Lane with Team Reeve NYC Marathon race jersey featuring names of persons with spinal cord injuries

A lot has happened in 3 months since a very successful New York City Marathon race, and in the end I’m proud to say that I raised over $5K for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. After 6 weeks off doing only yoga and a few more of light training, I’m finally running again after a bit of soreness and bruising. Thank goodness for yoga – it’s really played a major part in recovery from NYC – I’m so lucky that I discovered it during the recovery process after I broke my neck.

2010 was the best year of my life, and 2011 is already even better – in terms of career, friends, and relationships. I’ve just accepted a new job with a fantastic company, I’ve met an amazing woman, I’ve started a company, I feel closer than ever to my daughter, and my choices are more decisive and clearer than ever. In other words, I feel like I can do even more good in this world than ever before. I feel like the luckiest man in the world, which has nothing to do with money or material goods, and everything to do with enjoying what I’ve been given and what I love about life.

AND, HERE’S THE KICKER – I received a phone call today from a close friend who told me that when he opened the new April 2011 Runner’s World that an article about me is on page 26! (page 26? As in 26 miles in a marathon? SO COOL!) I’m really hoping that there is gratuitous reference to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. It’s important for me to reference here – even if no one ever reads this blog posting – that I have only ever done any of this self-promotion in hopes that it would benefit my favorite non-profit, CDRF. Thank you to everyone for patiently tolerating the endless emails about how CDRF helps those with spinal cord injuries and how I’m endlessly grateful that I am physically able to aid CDRF.

So, what can I say? I haven’s seen the RW article, but it feels like I’ve already accomplished something for the spinal cord injury community. In the picture above, the front of my race jersey has the names of people with spinal cord injuries for whom I ran the NYC Marathon in November 2011. They and so many others are the people that need CDRF’s help, and I’ll continue to promote on their behalf and on the behalf of CDRF.

I look forward to sharing many more adventures and many more wonderful experiences in the future with you.

go farther,
Ryon

P.S. One last thought – I wish warm thoughts and a beautiful day to Christina Cohen, Nick Calabro, Christina Symanski and Frank Schumacher IV. You are all the core of my inspiration.

Ryon Lane beats all odds

Here’s an article about me posted today on the Garmin blog about how I ran a 2:58:37 in the 2010 NYC Marathon on Nov. 7 using the Garmin 405:

Ryon Lane beats all odds.

Thank you so much to Garmin for a very generous donation on my behalf to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation!

go farther,

Ryon

P.S. Race review of the 2010 NYC Marathon to follow shortly.

Now and then

Ryon, broken then healed

Ryon, broken then healed

I thought it would be fun to present a glimpse of the long road that I’ve traveled since breaking my neck on September 18, 2008.

Here’s a small collage that shows, from top to bottom, me in my cervical collar / neck brace directly after vertebral replacement & fusion surgery in September 2008; the tattoo I had inked four days after surgery of my personal mantra, “farther”; and me in a race earlier this year representing Team Reeve.

This, of course, doesn’t include:

  • The 5 months of wearing three different neck braces (the one worn daily, shown; a waterproof neck brace worn when showering; and a ‘Michelin Man’ spongy white one worn during the entire last month of healing before physical therapy began)
  • The 5 months of physical therapy, where I worked out for about 15 hours per week doing strength and stretching exercises, as well as spent much time with my nemesis, the evil treadmill
  • The hundreds of miles I walked while I was in a neck brace, and then in physical therapy (because I wasn’t allowed to run)
  • The 2,000 or so miles I’ve run since breaking my neck
  • The dozens of truly wonderful people that mended my body, inspired me, loved me, and helped me as I worked very hard to come back from the brink of bodily destruction. It is they who deserve as much credit for my recovery as I do.

So, that’s a small glimpse. Even as I sit here and write about my experiences, I am drawn back to thinking how truly amazing it is that I’ve come so far. And, I’m excited to think about all of the things I can still and will accomplish. For example, running the 2010 NYC Marathon – and completing it in less than 3 hours – for Team Reeve. Please help me in fundraising for the Christopher & Dana Reeve foundation!

The 2010 NYC Marathon is a great start, but there’s so much more…

I want to run the Boston, Chicago, Grandma’s and original Athens Marathons. I want to run Miwok, Rocky Raccoon and Moab. I want to run the Western States 100. I want to run Badwater. And the list keeps growing…

I get to run.

Ryon Lane
go farther

New York City Marathon: Putting my good fortune to work to help others

Ladies & Gentlemen, Friends and Family,

Next month, in less than four weeks, on November 7, 2010, I will attempt to break the 3 hour marathon barrier (run a 2:59:59 or better) in the NYC Marathon. What this means is that I will run at a pace of 6:50 per mile or better for 26.2 miles. Normally this would be a lofty goal for any serious runner – often it is the division made between weekend warrior runners and those who are crazy enough to dedicate a good portion of their lives to running.

But, as many of you know, it is an even loftier goal for me, as I will rely not only on my healthy body and strengthening will, but also on the titanium plate and screws, as well as the donor femur that serves as a pseudo-vertebrae in my neck. I am SO thankful that I can run after surviving an accident where I broke my neck in September 2008, and I want to share my gift with those who suffer from Spinal Cord Injuries by running for Team Reeve.

Through Team Reeve I continue to raise funds for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which is committed to finding treatments and cures for spinal cord injuries. The Reeve Foundation has even helped people with paralysis WALK AGAIN, which, if you’ve never thought about it is a gift I can only assure you is priceless.

Will you please help me support the vital work of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation?   All donations are 100% tax deductible and come with a guarantee of my sincere and heartfelt thanks. I will also be wearing a shirt during the race on which I can write your name or the name of someone else of your choice, such as someone you know with SCI.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email! Hope to hear again from you soon!

If you have already donated or don’t have the ability to do so at this time, would you please forward this message to others who might be interested in helping me fight SCI? The more people who hear about this cause, the more I can help benefit Team Reeve!

Thank you so much for your support!

Best Regards,

Ryon

P.S. My fundraising webpage makes it easy to donate online (via credit card): http://www.christopherreeve.org/nyc2010/ryonlane  

You can also make a check out to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation (be sure to include my name and “2010 NYC marathon” in the memo field) and mail to:  

Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
636 Morris Turnpike, Suite 3A
Short Hills, NJ 07078
Attn: Team Reeve

(Delayed) Race Review: Cherry Blossom 10-miler

Ryon in the Cherry Blossom 10 miler (2nd race since recovering from broken neck)

First of all, I realize that I may be pushing the boundaries of copyright law by posting a proof of a photo that someone is trying to sell amongst thousands of others for the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run. However, because my budget can’t afford the astronomical amount of money the photo service is requesting to download ONE DIGITAL FILE ($39.95), I have decided to personally take the calculated risk of displaying my Team Reeve jersey once again in race form, and worry later about a letter asking me to remove the photo from my blog (if such a letter were ever to arrive).

My apologies for the delayed nature of this race report – the race was in fact 9 days ago and took place on April 11th. However, there could not have been a more beautiful morning for a race! It was sunny without a cloud in the light blue sky, but the temperature was perfect – probably in the low to mid 50s. And, the course itself was inspired – the picturesque course started and finished at the Washington Monument and its path wound around many of the famous DC monuments and sights, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Memorial Bridge, and Kennedy Center. The course was fast and for the most part entirely flat – probably the most difficult thing about the race was the sheer number of people racing around you at all times. Even toward the end of the race I was never ‘alone’, as is apt to happen on longer or more remote/trail courses.

I felt really great throughout the race, but definitely needed to push in the last couple miles to keep my pace below 6:45. I ended up running a 1:05:44, which equates to a 6:35/mile pace. Not too shabby for the 2nd race of my new running career! Two side notes, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty ran a 1:05:53, and my friend Nate ran an amazing sub-hour 10 miler!

This was my first time running this course and I will definitely do it again!

go farther,
Ryon