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Why We Cancelled Our Kickstarter And Funded It Ourselves

Five months ago we launched a Kickstarter campaign for Draft. On the first day we had over $5,000 in pre-orders and were on track to shatter the funding goal. On day 10 we decided to cancel the campaign, and fund it ourselves. This is the story of that journey.

Draft has since been re-launched as Mod Notebooks. It’s now live and available for purchase.


The kickstarter project

The concept for Draft was simple. Nothing beats pen and paper for making quick notes, sketches, and doodles. We tried every iPad and stylus available, but kept coming back to our trusty paper notebooks. The tactile feedback from a stylus and touchscreen just sucks.

That being said, we wanted everything saved digitally. To combat this, we’d take pictures of every page with our smart phones. This process is tedious and produces imperfect results. From these pain points, the idea for Draft was born.

The original pitch can be best summed up in the Kickstarter video below:

Getting to this point was no easy feat. The campaign cost us about $5,000 to launch (detailed here).


Great press coverage

Draft was our second Kickstarter project, the first was for SmartBedding. The campaign for SmartBedding taught us big press write-ups can help drive massive results.

After a bit of research, we stumbled on a company called Fundzinger. They peg themselves as a PR firm catering solely to crowd-funding projects. Their top tier offering gives you a dedicated PR team for the duration of your campaign. For this, they ask for 7% of the project’s funding total as their fee. We really liked this model because it’s a win/win scenario. They’re motivated to make the project as big as possible, and you don’t pay anything upfront.

It’s an “application only” type thing, understandably so. Luckily we were able to convince them to take us on as a client.

Their results were awesome. Prior to the campaign even starting, they lined up an article with TheVerge to go live the same hour as our campaign. Mashable, and several others all followed with coverage of the project. We can’t recommend those guys enough.

Mashable’s write-up of us

On track to hit our funding goal

We launched at 9am on Tuesday October 22nd to much excitement. Our goal was to raise a minimum of $20,000 in 30 days. Within the first 24hrs we surpassed $5,000 in pre-orders. Things were off to a good start, especially since we had 30 days to get the word out and hit our goal.

The pain point we were aiming to solve seemed to really resonate with a lot of people. We felt great.

While the campaign was running, we were making about $1 per video play. The below screenshot was taken months after the campaign ended, distorting the view count.


Some stats for the Draft Kickstarter campaign

Amazing partners reached out

As the messages and comments poured in, some amazing companies started to also reach out.

Evernote

At the end of the first day, we received a message from the Head of Platform at Evernote.

Hey Guys,

I work the Evernote Platform team and I’m interested to hear more about what you’re working on. This sounds like a great product for our ecosystem.

Let’s chat!

We already had plans to integrate with Evernote, but now we had direct contact with their platform team for support. They even invited us out to their HQ in the Bay Area for lunch and an office tour. We were introduced to their whole team.

Needless to say, they were enthusiastic about what we were building. After all, Draft was a great way to bridge the gap between customers that still prefer to use paper instead of digital note taking apps.

Standing outside Evernote’s HQ in Redwood City, California

Microsoft

A couple days later, someone from Microsoft messaged us asking to jump on a phone call. Intrigued, we agreed. It turned out they were gearing up to re-launch their OneNote product. OneNote is basically a pre-cursor to Evernote, bundled with the Office Suite. They would be adding an API, along with tons of new features. They asked us if we’d be interested in being a launch partner for the new OneNote app. We signed their NDA, and agreed to add OneNote as an integration to our own apps.

A fulfillment company

The founder of Monthly Boxer, a New York fulfillment company also reached out to us. At the time we were planning to just use Shipwire for warehousing and fulfillment. We took his call anyway. As it turns out, he could be really flexible. This ended up being a godsend later.


Customer feedback

As things progress, we began to receive hundreds of comments and messages about the project. After a while, we started to see a pattern emerge.

People LOVED the core of the concept – take notes in physical, have them forever in digital – but took issue with a couple key things.

  1. We were offering Draft as a $10/month subscription service. Every month you’d receive a new notebook from us, and presumably send the last one back for digitization. The problem was, the majority didn’t think they would fill an entire notebook in 30 days.
  2. Our scanning partner was only setup to digitize the notebooks with one scanning method. They would cut the spine, take the pages out,  feed them through an industrial scanner, and then recycle it. It was highly efficient. However, a lot of people began asking if they could have the option of getting their notebook back after we digitized it. We wanted to do this, but our scanning partner wasn’t setup to be flexible in this way. It just wasn’t possible to offer this option with them.

We began to brainstorm how to modify the concept, and better meet our customer’s needs…


Deciding to cancel

At first we thought it was a few vocal people complaining about the above two issues. As time went on, we decided to jump into the data and tally everyone’s feedback. It was clear. We needed to modify the concept.

The question now wasn’t if, but when.

We had customers who were willing to pay for the subscription. Many even. Do we take the funds (at this point, we were on track to raise over $30,000), build the original concept, and then modify it later to suite customer requests? Do we cancel the campaign completely and re-launch another Kickstarter? It was a tough choice.

We ran through every scenario we could come up with in painstaking detail.

After several days of this, we both agreed canceling, re-factoring, and then re-launching would be the best way to go. We’d kill the subscription model, and somehow figure out a way to allow customers to get their notebook’s back if they wanted.

Aside from potentially leaving a lot of money on the table, we were also up against two additional issue if we cancelled.

  1. Fundzinger had a clause in their contract that if you for any reason cancel the project before the end of the campaign, they would bill you at their hourly rate. This sounded like a nightmare waiting to happen!
  2. We  just signed a contract with our original scanning partner for a minimum of 2 years, and include monthly minimums.

Ruh roh.

For Fundzinger, we got on the phone with them and explained the situation in detail. They were more than understanding, and offered a deal that worked for us. In addition to their great results, they’re just really nice guys.

For the first scanning partner, we reviewed the contract and realized it only went into affect if we met our funding goal. Crisis averted.


All was not lost

In the end, it was incredibly difficult to click the cancel button on Kickstarter, but we were optimistic about the future.

People definitely wanted what we were doing. We received the best kind of customer validation – people paying for what we made. We just had to tweak a few things and then find a way to build it (easier said than done).

We made sure to notify all of our backers what was happening, and then capture their interest via email. Between our pre-launch landing page, and customer interest during the campaign, we collected well over 2,000 emails. This meant when we did re-launch, we’d instantly have a group to market to.

In addition to the feedback, validation, and interest, we acquired some great partners for the future re-launch.

Looking back, we wouldn’t have changed a thing.

We weren’t 100% sure how we’d fund it yet, but knew when we did, people would buy.

Eventually we ran the numbers and agreed to fund it slowly over 5 months from our personal funds.


Draft has since been re-launched as Mod Notebooks. It’s now live and available for purchase.

In the next post, we’ll outline everything that went into re-launching, including all costs. Subscribe below to know when that goes up.

If you found this post interesting, order a Mod Notebook of your own and experience it for yourself. We’re @Marshal and @Jon on Twitter… let us know what you think!

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