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How SunPort Raised Over $55K on Kickstarter

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On July 28 2015, SunPort launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a new solar energy product that allows users to simply plug it in and “demand solar anywhere”.

The team behind this campaign believes that the best way to encourage investment in solar energy projects is to increase the demand for solar energy. With SunPort, you don’t need to buy expensive solar panels – you just need to ask people with the panels to use their energy!

So far this campaign has raised over $55K of its $75K goal from nearly 800 backers.

I recently had the chance to interview SunPort’s creator, Paul Droege, to learn more about the background of this campaign and see what tips he had for up and coming creators.

sunport

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your project?

paulI have been in the power business all my career, as a power engineer, and I’ve sold electrical power equipment and services to the utility and industrial world all that time.

Professionally, I’ve been into solar for the last fifteen years or so and in the last five or six years I’ve started getting into it beyond my personal interest and really professionally, where I was attending industry events, learning about the industry and all that and I guess that’s where this idea bubbled up.

2. Why did you choose to raise money on Kickstarter and through the crowdfunding medium?

Well, a couple of things. One – the very concept that we have is sort of a crowdsourcing concept. What we’re trying to do is crowdsource demand for solar energy. We’re trying to get regular people to rise up and do something and begin to make a difference, and so it’s only natural that it would take us into the world of rewards crowdfunding. And obviously we’ve got a product, so it is well suited to that environment.

We did kind of waver back and forth quite a bit between Indiegogo and Kickstarter.

They each have unique advantages. In the end, I think that we got some good attention from the folks at Kickstarter and we were convinced that the crowd that they had was large and interested in the gadget sort of thing that we were offering, and so that was a really important element.

You could argue either way. The argument for Indiegogo was about more of a cause type of thing and they tend to have a little more of that kind of character to their platform. So, if I had to do it over again I can’t say for sure that I would have picked Kickstarter again.

We’ve also learned a lot more about the limitations and challenges of the platform. As you think about your audience, one of the things I would recommend is: if you’re trying to do some kind of big deal project you might try a couple of small projects on various platforms to learn the process and learn the ins and outs and pros and cons of the different platforms.

3. Were there any specific downfalls to Kickstarter that you’ve experienced?

I think the biggest challenge I see to Kickstarter is that their tools probably aren’t as sophisticated as they could be. I mean, they’ve got some great tools to be sure and there are also other tools out there that are third party. For instance, we’re always keeping our eye on Kicktraq which follows what’s going on in Kickstarter and give us stats and projections which is really nice.

The challenge that I’ve seen is that we’d like to be able to code some things in the page using HTML or something like that so it could be a little more sophisticated, maybe like a clickable graphic or something like that, and you can’t do that. They don’t support those types of things.

Those are relatively minor but there are definitely some limitations there so that’s why I think if you’re really trying to do your homework learning those things by doing is probably a lot better than trying to look at a list of features side-by-side.

4. What do you think are some important things to remember when putting your Kickstarter video together?

I would say that the most important thing is testing it. Test it, test it, test it.

Our message is pretty challenging and confusing so it was vital for us, but with any video basically you’re going to have people coming from zero and hopefully they’re clicking ‘Back This Project’ by the end of the video. But you have to assume that they’re going to come with very little prior knowledge and context.

You have to get their attention, tell them what the issue is you’re addressing and show them that you’ve got a solution or a product that meets that need. Help them understand how they could use it and then finally, ask them to back you.

That has to come through clearly and there’s no substitute for testing, where you show it to people and see how they react. For us it was a ridiculously long and difficult process to refine this and get it to the point where it sort of clicked for people.

5. Your campaign has been gaining pledges fairly steadily, with jumps on June 29th and 31st. Did those increases correspond with any media attention?

I think the 29th was probably simply that it was the day after we kicked off; we kicked-off late in the day and actually there was a little bit of a misfire on our side in terms of timing where we had gotten a bit out of sync on some press releases. So the surge that we would have hoped for on our first day we never really saw. We realized that there were things we should have done a little differently but it was too late.

On the 29th I think that was the big thing, we kind of regrouped, got on our game and that was in a sense really our real kick-off day because it was our first full day and we had things a little more synced up.

Then, the other day was the 31st. I think that we were just getting some coverage. We had the Fast Company article a week before we actually started, which turned some eyes our way and got us some attention. But then we really got our PR ramped up and started getting some people just finding us.

We had to prod some friends and family a bit to get them to click over to Kickstarter and check us out. I think it was just a question of push, and then the weekly rhythm that seems to go on in Kickstarter overall.

6. Is there any other advice you would like to share with people thinking of launching their own campaign?

I would say figure out how much time you need and then double it, and to prepare.

You know, there is no substitute for preparation really, because once the campaign is live, you just get so busy with interacting with your backers and prospective backers that you need to have a lot of things on autopilot at that point.

The other thing is, do your job in terms of lining up PR and social media. I’d say the biggest thing is you have to figure that it’s your job to bring in and drive your own crowd. You can’t assume that just putting it up on the platform will bring you the traffic you need, you have to create that traffic.

Conclusion

Paul Droege made a lot of key points. You need to do your homework before launching a Kickstarter campaign and make sure you are thoroughly prepared.

Running any kind of crowdfunding campaign will keep you very busy, and creators are bound to come across some obstacles in the process. In this case, the SunPort team may have stumbled on their first day, but they came back strong and have raised 73% of their goal with two weeks to go.

If you’re interested in this campaign (and solar energy), be sure to check it out on Kickstarter! SunPort is available for as little as $49 on Kickstarter and comes in four bright colors: yellow, pink, blue and green.

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Krystine Therriault

Journalist & Blogger at CrowdCrux
Krystine Therriault is a journalist, blogger, and the community manager for CrowdCrux. She loves learning about new trending projects and dissecting them to bring new tips and information to creators.
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  • Dustin Hendricks

    Lot’s of useful information here. Great write up. Thanks for posting!

    • Krystine Therriault

      Happy you found it helpful! Paul had a lot of interesting ideas to share.

    • CrowdCrux

      Glad it was useful!

  • OwnerBattle

    Great info. I agree that interacting with backers in key, but I am having a bit of trouble getting that first wave of backers to come in. So thanks for sharing – I can use all the advice i can get.

    • CrowdCrux

      Happy to hear the advice was insightful!

  • Anzy Games

    Great and useful information. We have also tried to “do our homework”, but we couldn’t postpone our launch any longer to test the materials we’ve prepared. Also our problem is that we had no prior audience, so everything was started from scratch. So now we are trying to promote like hell.
    Nevertheless these articles always help you get new ideas 😀

    • CrowdCrux

      If you have a really compelling game, I do think that you can draw more from the Kickstarter marketplace than other categories.

  • David Worth

    Every time I launch a campaign, I’m always brought back here for your great articles. Last time, I did not have much of a following at all, so interacting with backers was really difficult. As a startup, we did not have an audience to draw from. This time, we have the backers from our last successful campaign, but still, it’s always good to look for more outlets.

    Really appreciate all the work you do to help us SMBs out.

  • Julie

    It would be helpful to know what Mr.Droege did to get media attention. I have sent hundreds of e-mails to targeted audiences and have not had much luck. Did he pay a PR company for exposure or did he do it all on his own?