Kicking off your crowdsourced fundraising with dynamite

Ever caused sales of $14,000 $18,000 in a day [ETA as of 10/6 1am: $50,000 in two days] for a product you off-handedly mentioned you were buying?

If you’re a fan of good design and of Apple products in particular, you might well have heard of Daring Fireball. Even if you haven’t, you’ll want to find someone like DF’s proprietor, John Gruber, and get them in your corner.

Today’s example of Gruber’s outsize influence on his tribe of readers is a Kickstarter project creating an iPhone tripod mount and stand: it took about an hour (according to Eric Hastings on the project comments page) to go from $6000 needed to fully funded once Gruber posted

Count me in for this Kickstarter project: Dan “The Russians Used a Pencil” Provost and Thomas Gerhardt have designed a combination stand/tripod mount for the iPhone 4.

That was it: no “go buy it”, no “get them funded”, just bringing an interesting project to his readers’ attention. The project is now $8000 $12,000 overfunded, and I fully expect the meter to keep running upward the rest of the day and beyond.

What gave Gruber such influence?

  • His audience knows they’ll like the things he likes. He’s been blogging for a long time. He points people to multiple interesting things a day. He has a track record. He’s a perfectionist about design, so anything with his seal of approval is likely to be good.
  • People enjoy supporting the little guy. Kickstarter is all about getting funding to do the project you always wanted to do. People like funding the projects whose authors are passionate about them. Something customized for a small audience will gain raving fans within that audience. And the Internet has made it easy to run small-scale, highly targeted projects.

Where do you find a Gruber to point people to your own project?

That’s both the easy and the hard part. Easy, because if they already exist, you find them, and your project is exciting to them, they’ll happily point people your way. Hard, because the commitment needed to build a following like Gruber’s is very high – it takes a lot of time and energy – and not many people have invested so much in their audience. And hard because your project has to be pretty exciting to deserve their attention.

So think carefully as you design your project about who’s going to care about it. Who’s going to care enough to talk about you to all the people they know? If you don’t know, then your project needs to be more awesome. Aim higher.

Should you follow the (small and passionate) crowd?

I supported the Kickstarter project. It looks like a great product – and if it’s not, I spent $20 encouraging people trying to build innovative new toys. If that’s something you want to see more of, go ante up and join me.

About Jennifer Berk

I'm an Analytics Director at edo Interactive in Chicago, IL. I'm an alum of MIT and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. I like online newspapers, science fiction and fantasy, and ugly fish.
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