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Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform that has raised more than $562 million dollars for over 39,000 projects. 

Since Kickstarter was founded in 2009 it has been the go-to crowdfunding platform for entrepreneurs. Kickstarter lets you circumnavigate traditional forms of raising funds; as such, they claim no ownership over the projects that come from the funding, and they take a 5% flat rate of the funds raised. 

We've had a lot of entrepreneurs fund projects on Kickstarter and grow their business on Shopify. We asked the people behind eleven of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns to share some of their experiences and wisdom in raising capital on Kickstarter and moving on to running a successful ecommerce store.

Pebble

Goal: $100,000
Raised: $10,266,845
Backers: 68,929

The Campaign: 

Pebble is by far the most successful Kickstarter project of all time. If you haven't heard of Pebble already (unlikely), it's a smartwatch that's infinitely customizable. You can connect it to an iPhone or Android using Bluetooth to sync calendars, alerts, emails, even incoming calls. Within hours of going live, the project broke its $100,000 funding goal. Then it kept going, and going, and going until it reached over $10 million dollars. Pebble is pre-selling their watches for $150US.

What They Did Right: 

"Probably the best thing we did with our Kickstarter page was our 'use cases'. We knew that no one really wakes up in the morning with a desperate urge to buy a smartwatch, so it was our job to figure out exactly how to explain to future users how they will be able to use Pebble. I asked my mom a lot about what she thought; turns out it's important to target your marketing for people who probably aren't your core user base - you want to expand beyond that."

What They Did Wrong:

"We haven't done too much wrong, but over time the largest lessons we've learned have been just from launching products and listening to users about the problems they have and improving from there!"     (Eric Migicovsky, Founder)


PANDA

Goal: $3,000
Raised: $19,485
Backers: 275

The Campaign:

Panda sunglasses are like TOMS Shoes but for your face. They are ecofriendly sunglasses handcrafted from sustainable bamboo, and for every pair you purchase, Panda will provide an eye exam and a pair of prescription glasses to someone in need. Vincent Ko, the founder, decided to post his idea for Panda sunglasses to Kickstarter in late 2011 with a $3,000 goal. He surpassed his goal by over 600%. The funds allowed Ko to start production with a woodworking shop in China. You can buy Panda glasses for $120US which includes free shipping and a lifetime warranty. 

What They Did Right

"We offered a special offer to the first 100 backers of particular pledge amount, which allowed us to encourage the community to get involved early on in our Kickstarter project. Also, we made the choice to use Shopify so our webstore set-up was extremely easy and quick. This way people interested in pledging on Kickstarter were able to come our site before they pledged and see a well established ecommerce presence. Also, we leveraged the discount feature to seamlessly fulfill pledge prizes. We provided all or backers with unique coupon codes and allowed them to pick the exact style they wanted which eliminated all potential errors with copying information and it saved us countless hours. Now, we leverage Shopify for our wholesale business as well. I think this is something that is overlooked, the backend of Shopify makes it super easy to integrate both an ecommerce store and wholesale ordering system into one online destination."

What They Did Wrong:

"If we were to do another Kickstarter projectI would make providing updates to people who had pledged a top priority. We only provided 3 updates during the whole process. My advice to others in Kickstarter projects is to provide transparent and consistent updates. Your pledgers will appreciate knowing you're on track with your project and even if there are delays they will appreciate knowing about them proactively.

Regarding our online store, we tried our best to replicate an in person shopping experience. When we first launched our ecommerce store we lacked high resolution images from multiple angles. We found that many Kickstarter pledgers, although they loved the concept of our company, had trouble picking out the best style for them. Given that Shopify makes it extremely easy to add several photos, and the template editor enables easy implementation of product video we were able to quickly add several high resolution images of the sunglasses, pictures of people wearing the sunglasses, and even a 360 degree video. With all these resources customers were easily able to pick out which style was best for them. Even today, as we provide more visual references of our products we noticed a higher level of conversions."
(Vincent Ko, Founder)

Coffee Joulies

Goal: $9,500
Raised: $306,944
Backers: 4,818

The Campaign:

Dave Jackson and Dave Petrillo are two mechanical engineers from New Jersey. They developed polished stainless steel beans that regulate the temperature of coffee and called them Coffee Joulies. Their product is one of Kickstarter's most successful campaigns to date. They've been covered by Gizmodo, Mashable, WIRED, and Popular Science. Coffee Joulies also won our Build-A-Business Competition grand prize of $100,000 cash plus VIP trips to meet Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Seth Godin. You can buy a 5-pack of Coffee Joulies for $49.95US.

What They Did Right: 

"The best thing we did was to allow potential customers to opt-in to our email list between ending our Kickstarter campaign and starting to sell using Shopify. We didn't even know it at the time, but building and using a solid email list is one of our companies most valuable assets. After kickstarter ended we continued to get a ton of traffic to our site. Since we were busy fulfilling Kickstarter orders, we weren't selling or even pre-selling any Joulies for several months. Instead, we had a compelling opt-in email box that would notify you when Joulies were ready to order. When the time came to sell again, sending emails to this list was easy and of enormous value."

What They Did Wrong:

"Before we opened our Shopify store, we relied on shared hosting that didn't keep up with our sites traffic. We didn't know what our real traffic numbers were like on Kickstarter, and we also didn't really have a clue what levels of hosting were required to host and protect against traffic spikes since it was all behind the scenes during Kickstarter. When we did get spikes, like when a story about us got syndicated on Yahoo! homepage for 12 hours, our 'unlimited' shared hosting crashed within minutes and we lost hundreds of thousands of unique viewers. Bummer."
(Dave Petrillo, Co-Founder)

Tsaiclip

Goal: $3,000
Raised: $3,439
Backers: 89

The Campaign:

Eddie Tsai used Kickstarter to validate the demand for a moustache tie clip before investing money. Tsaiclips are forged from solid brass and coated in chrome steel or gunmetal, and they sell for $35US

What They Did Right:

"Publicity really gave us credibility and was the turning point for our Kickstarter campaign. Once we got on one big blog, the snowball effect took over and the next thing you know we're featured on big sites like Uncrate, Cool Material, and Handlebar Magazine. After Kickstarter, Shopify allowed us to take our project to the next level and truly become a sustainable business. Both of these tools, Kickstarter and Shopify, really made it easy for a creative person to make a professional presence and add an amazing amount of credibility to their project."

What They Did Wrong:

"Something I really regret was taking a traditional approach to promoting a non-traditional product. We started off using Google Adwords and were only targeting popular keywords like 'men's dress shirts', 'ties', 'tie-clips', and even some fashion labels. Our strategy was to go for quantity (we wanted lots and lots of clicks) instead of focusing on relevancy. I think we really burned a lot of money by advertising to the wrong crowds. We should have spent more time learning Google Adwords and Analytics. Also we haven't been keeping in touch with our customers - we should really be utilizing our e-mail list."
(Eddie Tsai, Co-Founder)


Opena

Goal: $15,000
Raised: $28,303
Backers: 578

The Campaign:

Rob Ward and Chris Peters solved a dilema of epic proportions: Having a cold beer but no way of opening it. These two Australians asked themselves, "what's the one thing people have on them at all times?" The answer? Your cell phone. Solution? A sturdy iPhone case beer bottle opener. Confirmation that their idea was a hit came as soon as they listed Opena on Kickstarter. Opena garnered 50% of its target funding in the first week. You can buy Opena in two different colors for $39.95US each on their Shopify store.

What They Did Right:

"One thing that really worked in our favor was making sure our online store was 100% ready to go live as soon as our Kickstarter project finished. We received a heap of press on the last day of our funding period and knew tons of people would be going to our Kickstarter project page only to find that the project had ended. Not wanting to lose all those potential backers we re-directed them to our ecommerce store to allow them to pre-order our products. We did this for both our Kickstarter projects (the Opena Case and the Quad Lock Mounting System) and found that the period between the end the Kickstarter project and the date we shipped could bring in just as much, if not more revenue than from the Kickstarter project."  

What They Did Wrong:

"The one big mistake we made which could have cost us a lot more than it did involved our credit card payment gateway. Payment gateways are a pain to set up and can be a little complex. Without going into to much detail we were informed at the time that our particular payment gateway allowed us to authorize the credit card but hold off on actually processing the payment for a period of up to 30 days. Once the 30 days were up we we're informed that we could re-authorize the card to give us another 30 days before we accepting the funds. In theory this would have allowed us to take orders but not charge the customer until we were ready to ship. We decided this was the right thing to do for our customers and is how we processed orders during the first month of taking orders. On day 29 we tried to extend the authorization period of the first orders and found that the payments had expired! We had almost a full months of orders and no way of processing the payments. Not a great way to start the week. We had no option but to cancel the orders and try our best to get the customers to re-order by emailing them and offering various incentives such as a discount if they re-ordered. In the end we managed to recover around 70% of the expired orders which wasn't too bad but it was an expensive lesson."
(Chris Peters, Co-Founder)

Ramos Alarm Clock

Goal: $75,000
Raised: $153,585
Backers: 525

The Campaign: 

Ramos Alarm Clock was founded by a group of young engineers outside of NYC. It's an alarm clock that is beautifully constructed with four glowing nixie tubes that display the time in a very unique way. The clock also comes with a wireless alarm deactivation panel that will get you out of bed to turn off the buzzer. In February 2012, they launched their project on Kickstarter where they received over 400 orders in a month and a half. Ramos clocks range from $200 - $800 and they're currently up for pre-sale. Expected delivery: September 2012.  

What They Did Right: 

"We seemed to have succeeded in generating a good amount of interest. We made it on the front page of Yahoo!, BBC, lots of tech blogs, and a bunch of news outlets. We even got made fun of on Saturday Night Live! I think having a project that so many people can relate to helped us in getting people to talk about us, regardless of whether they wanted to buy the product or not. I also think Kickstarter served us well in being a reputable and visible platform for us to start our project from. I don’t know if we could have generated that much buzz if we had launched elsewhere. Setting up a store very quickly after the Kickstarter campaign was over was also a very good idea. Right after the Kickstarter project closed, we were able to catch the spillover of interest in our own store, that we simply would have lost if we didn’t have a storefront in time. With Shopify, we were able to get up and running in very little time, and concentrate most our efforts on running our business, and not on how to make an online store."

What They Did Wrong:

"This whole project has been a learning experience for all of us involved. Planning is always a struggle, especially when the future is so uncertain. We’ve made decisions that were based on a mindset used to dealing with prototypes. One thing we’re constantly being reminded of is doing something once or twice is completely different than doing it 500-600 times. We offered things to customers at the onset of the project that seemed easy to do, but ended up adding a great deal of complexity to the manufacturing process. I would recommend a serious analysis on how to simplify your product and keep variations to a minimum when starting out on launching a mass produced product. Even things like handling communication of different needs for 2-3 hundred people is no easy task." (Paul Sammut, Co-Founder)


NeuYear

Goal: $5,000
Raised: $5,675
Backers: 159

The Campaign:

Jesse Phillips was disillusioned with his computer science degree and became determined to save himself from working in a cubicle for the rest of his life. He semi-quit his day job, began a Kickstarter campaign to help fundraise the development of a gorgeous whole year calendar. The calendar is big (27" x 39"), it's printed on premium quality, cream colored, uncoated card stock, and has a beautiful vellum finish. You can buy the calendar at a discounted price of $19.00. 

What They Did Right: 

"Our product is an inexpensive niche product. Therefore, we couldn't afford to spend a ton on marketing. We had to get customers for super cheap or free. So, early on, I started using social media (my own personal accounts I had built) to spread the word. This had limited success. What was really helpful for us was finding bloggers to review our product or do giveaways of our product. Because our product is design heavy and productivity related, we were a good fit for design or productivity blogs. I just emailed them, asked if they liked our product, sent them a free sample, and offered to give their readers a discount code (thanks to the handy discount code feature on Shopify). This was amazing for us because it costs only time to send an email and we would usually make between 10 and 50 sales from a blog. The more exposure we got, the more people saw it, they more popular the product was. Before spending hundreds or thousands on an ad campaign or mailer, I suggest using blogs & giveaways to spread the word."

What They Did Wrong:

"I've made lots of mistakes. That's what you do when starting a business - it's how you learn. Mistakes are NOT a bad thing (usually), they are an education. In other words, don't delay starting just to avoid all mistakes. You'll never have all the information and make the perfect decisions, so it's better to do your research, then jump in and make some mistakes and learn from them! One mistake I made is still haunting me today -I didn't do any consumer research with my product, if I had, I would have learned that many people prefer a dry-erase calendar. So I've missed-out on thousands of sales because the product is unusable by several people that otherwise would be interested. I'm going to make a dry-erase version next year, but will they ever come back to find-out? Probably not. If I had simply taken the time to put my product in front of people and get feedback, I would have created a much more usable product. Instead, I was too scared of what people thought, that I just decided to launch on Kickstarter and not ask for opinion. Now, it's definitely true that you can't just give people whatever they say they want (because a lot of times what they say they want and what they buy are different things) but, again, if I had known that many people really want dry-erase, I would have gotten lots more sales."
(Jesse Phillips, Founder)


SEIBEI

Goal: $9,000
Raised: $30,329
Backers: 570

The Campaign:

David Murray has run a t-shirt company called SEIBEI for the past few years. He designs and manufactures silly and weird tees and onesies. Not long ago his van and all of his equipment were stolen. David created a bunch of special designs and offered them as Kickstarter exclusives in order to raise some funds and get back on his feet. SEIBEI reached its goal of $9,000 in two days, and it didn't take long for his Kickstarter campaign to reach a whopping $30,329. 

What They Did Right: 

"I've worked in the printing industry for years and know how to keep costs low (not by cutting corners, but by doing certain parts of the work myself, offering multiple colorways of the same design, etc), so I was able to give everyone a lot for their money while still getting my business back on its feet. I worked it out so that pretty much every shirt that sold through the Kickstarter paid for itself and (at least) one more to be printed, so I was able to print a bunch of inventory for myself that I sold at New York Comic Con shortly after the Kickstarter wrapped up. When I see tee companies offering stuff at full retail price (or more) on Kickstarter, I feel like they're missing the point. You need to reward people for going that extra mile and supporting your work."

What They Did Wrong:

"On the organizational front, I was a bit overwhelmed by the response to the project. My original goal was $9,000, but we ended up hitting over $30,000 which is still amazing to me. It took me about a week to put together surveys for all of the reward levels - they were difficult to format because of all of the variables involved (roughly 25 designs to choose from, sizes for each design), but I should have had these ready as soon as the Kickstarter wrapped. 
 
The money also came in sooner than expected, so if I'd had the surveys done sooner, I could've started printing and shipping sooner. Between having a day job, preparing for New York Comic Con, and getting all the backer rewards together, I was in a little bit over my head (in spite of my best efforts and my meticulous spreadsheets detailing every order and its shipping status). Fortunately, people already knew from my project that I was just one guy, and were very understanding. Even if you've screwed up a little bit, a little communication goes a long way - I tried my best to be responsive and up front with people, though with almost 600 backers a few messages still managed to get past me. I'm actually still finishing up the last of the "sketch cards" from the project (small custom drawings added as a small thank you to all higher level tiers), which I'm ashamed to admit, but I told people I wanted to take my time with those and that they'd be a while.
 
Admittedly, with getting press for my work, I'm a bit of an idiot.I've always been of a "build it and they will come" mentality and have focused on making a quality product, so I could stand to learn how to promote myself better. I had lined up a few stories on the project in advance through t-shirt blogs who were familiar with my work, and managed to get some good press through organizations I was friendly with, but I didn't make a number of contacts until the project had actually begun. Considering that the project hit its funding goal within the first two days, by the time most bloggers saw my email about the project, I think some of the human interest of the story was gone (considering that I was clearly going to have a nice boost in getting my business back on its feet). I had friend-of-a-friend contacts at a pretty huge blog, and I'd heard through the grapevine that they were hesitant to cover me for this very reason. Still, the word of mouth on the project was huge, and I'm thankful that a lot of my fans and friends really put the word out for me, even when I'm not great at it."    (David Murray, Founder)

Fire Imp Sculptures

Goal: $5,000
Raised: $10,021
Backers: 156

The Campaign:

Artist John T. Unger from Mancelona, Michigan, created a series of 600 sculptures called fire imps using 100% recycled steel. Each Fire Imp is a beautiful one of a kind piece that is signed by the artist. You can buy a Fire Imp Sculpture on John's Shopify store for $150.

What They Did Right:

"What we did right for our Kickstarter campaign was very similar to what made Amanda Palmer's campaign hit a million dollars. I'd already cultivated a fan base as an artist and I'd spent many years building a reputation for helping other artists succeed. Also, I had a good story that was bigger than the project itself. In Amanda's case, her supporters want the music, but they also want to participate in the story of a new way to make records without the record industry. 
 
My Fire Imp Sculptures were part of a much bigger story about artist's rights which gained a lot of attention online. At the time, my existing copyrights for my Sculptural Firebowl series were under attack by a company seeking to overturn the copyrights in Federal Court and make unlicensed replicas. I launched a project on Kickstarter to create 600 one of a kind sculptures from scrap steel left over from cutting the Great Bowl O' Fire. Using Kickstarter to create a huge body of new artistic work helped on two levels— it gave me the funds to reach a successful settlement protecting my rights, while at the same time showing that the essence of my work was artistic creation rather than utilitarian design. The sculptures would have done well on their own, but I think our goal doubled because people wanted to stand up for artist's rights."
 

What They Did Wrong:

"The biggest difficulty we had with our Kickstarter project was finding a good way to let backers select the particular sculpture they wanted from those available at each reward level. Each series of sculptures contained 100 different sculptures that shared a style and color but were otherwise totally different. It didn't make sense to have 600 reward levels, but there also wasn't a way to let backers choose their selection from within Kickstarter. What we ended up doing was posting all the sculptures to Flickr and letting backers reserve their choice via the comments. That was horribly inefficient for both us and the backers. Using Shopify to create individual listings for each sculpture is a much clearer, cleaner, easier and faster way to let buyers select a specific piece now that Kickstarter provided the funding to create the sculptures."
(John T. Unger, Founder)

ZPM Espresso

Goal: $20,000
Raised: $369,569
Backers: 1,546

The Campaign:

The founders of ZPM Espresso love two things: Coffee and technology. Their creation, the Nocturn, encompasses both by offering PID controls, programmable presets, adjustable temperature and pressure profiles, and even open-source software! The result is delicious high-tech coffee at a good price. hey hit their funding goal of $2,000 on day 2 of the campaign. Nocturn is on presale via their Shopify store for $349.99. 


What They Did Right:

"The most important thing to us during (and after) our Kickstarter campaign was being ultra-responsive to questions and feedback. In our opinion, success on platforms like Kickstarter - where you're asking for money from strangers so you can do what you love - is about being honest and passionate, and convincing people that you're going to get the job done. We responded to thousands of emails during our campaign; we went out and talked to respected people in the coffee field; and we posted frequent updates about our progress to our Kickstarter page."

What They Did Wrong:

"There are a lot of things we would do differently if we could start our Kickstarter process over, but I think our biggest mistake was failing to do more publicizing of the project ourselves. We hit our funding goal on the second day of the campaign, and we ended up with 18 times the amount of funding we ever expected. When we went into it, we were basically thinking that we'd barely make our $20,000 goal, and that it would be a good way to get some beta machines out there and gauge interest in the market. 
 
We never anticipated the huge response we got. This was great, but also meant that we basically spent our whole funding period scrambling to figure out how we were going to make these machines, starting at a completely different scale of manufacturing. We were worried about having too much funding too early on, because it put a ton of pressure on us as first-time manufacturers. We also knew that our original schedule would never be kept at the new scale. In retrospect, more funds always helps, and we should've rolled with it and tried to gather as much momentum as possible, rather than trying to slow things down while we tried to figure out logistics.
(Janet Tambasco, Co-Founder)

ShyViolet

Goal: $500
Raised: $860
Backers: 11

The Campaign: 

Cecilia sells her own handmade silver jewelry on her ecommerce store ShyViolet. To launch her new men's line, she decided to start a Kickstarter campaign to raise $500. With 18 days left her project was fully funded.


What They Did Right:

"First, I knew how the Kickstarter project fit into my overall business plan. Since I make primarily women's jewelry, I didn't have much of a men's market, and the few male customers I had were mostly buying for their wives or significant others. My Kickstarter project was a way of pre-selling a new line, mitigating my financial risk. 
 
Additionally, I'm new to making cufflinks, and although I have some good ideas, I'm using this project as a way of gauging interest in different designs and doing market research. The Kickstarter forum also helped me reach a new men’s market that I hadn’t tapped before. The reward levels are pretty generous, much closer to wholesale prices than what I plan on selling my cufflinks for in the future, but it was a way of attracting backers. This was worthwhile, and I'm hoping to gain lasting value from the design input they'll provide. Additionally, I set my target amount as the minimum necessary for the project to be successful. It was enough to justify spending on supplies and enough to garner some interest, and small enough that it was likely to succeed."

What They Did Wrong:

"Next time, I'd do a much better job promoting my project before it started. I did some promotion, but again, most of my fans are women. While they were supportive, they weren't necessarily in the market for cufflinks (even for their husbands or significant others - more men buy jewelry for women than women buy for men!). It wasn't a terrible problem for me, since my project was small, but larger projects really need to take pre-kickoff promotion seriously. 

Second, I should have thought about my reward levels a little more. The sterling silver cufflinks were priced about right for my purposes (although again, this is basically a wholesale introductory price for my line), but the copper and silver designs are proving to be more time-consuming. It would have been smarter of me to price them close to the sterling ones; although the materials costs are lower, the time cost is higher. Next time, I'll think through the rewards a little more thoroughly."
(Cecilia Sells, Founder)

 

Thinking about launching a project with Kickstarter? Then make sure you check out our Kickstand Theme, an ecommerce theme designed specifically to help entrepreneurs who’ve just finished a successful Kickstarter campaign keep selling.