Next month AppyLab will be taking to the Kickstarter stage with a crowdfunding campaign that we hope will finally bring our little Lairies to life. We’re experiencing equal measures of excitement and gut-clenching anxiety.

So now seems like a good time to take a breath and share a few lessons we’ve learned from our crowdfunding prep so far (it’s early stages for us so please do drop us a message if you have any tips).

1. Stamina

Getting ready to crowdfund appears to be 98% hard labour, 2% good idea. There’s a towering mountain of work to be done before you can actually put your begging bowl out, and that means you’re going to need a decent amount of lead time as well as a few buckets of blood, sweat and tears.

Some of the things we’ve done before we’ve asked for a penny in investment:

  • Built a website: Our Kickstarter investor friends told us that a web presence will help us with credibility up front, an important element when we’re asking people to trust us with their hard-earned cash.
  • Produced lengthy campaign content: All our favourite crowdfunding campaigns include detailed explanations of the idea, images, videos and well thought-out incentives. We’ve also had to hone our business case and figure out achievable milestones.
  • Put together a PR and marketing plan: We figure the platform isn’t going to help us much if we don’t help ourselves, so we’ve created a publicity strategy that can adapt depending on what happens during the campaign. We’ve also been all over social media, looked at paid-for marketing (none attempted so far – anyone else tried paid-for Kickstarter advertising?), and created email lists and campaigns.
  • Created a budget: Who knew asking for money could be so hard? Putting the budget together for the purposes of literally kickstarting our project has been the biggest challenge to date. Our biggest tip of all is acknowledge that you don’t know what you don’t know, and ask someone who’s been there. People are quite frankly amazing and you’ll be brought to tears by their willingness to share their expertise.
  • Built almost half of everything: You thought the whole point of this was to raise funds to start your project? If only… We’ve written and edited stories, designed and animated characters, recorded voiceovers and audio, built 50% of our app and user-tested the whole lot. So far.

2. The head-switching talents of Worzel Gummidge

Less than topical pop-culture references aside, this one’s a doozy. AppyLab is made up of a writer, a software engineer and a designer. So who’s job is it to do the financial forecasting? Marketing? Run the social media accounts? Create a viable business plan?

The answer, of course, is everyone’s. We’ve all had to turn a hand to anything that has cropped up in the course of getting Kickstarter-ready, whether it fits with our current skills sets or not. Some things we’ve discovered natural aptitudes for,  and other times it’s been a lot tougher to get to grips with new knowledge areas. If I never see another Excel spreadsheet it will be too soon.

3. Fortune-telling

Move over Mystic Meg, crowdfunding entrepreneurs are coming for your spot in The Sun.

Despite a background in user testing, figuring out what will appeal to micro-investors has not been easy and we’re still not 100% confident we’ve got it right. Our research suggests people like to see an educational thread to projects aimed at children, as well as a strong moralistic foundation, so we’ve shifted the focus of our concept to take account of that. When your product will sit next to first-hand accounts of war written by former child soldiers, every little helps.

You get a title, a thumbnail-sized image and a strapline to initially pitch your idea on the Kickstarter platform. Those are the tools at your disposal to stop the scrollers in their tracks and entice them into making one little click or tap.

What kind of image will our prospective investors respond to best? Should we put a head-and-shoulders shot of a giggling kid up-front, or will one of the Lairies prove more interesting?  Are puns really funny or will a ‘does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ approach work better? Answers on a postcard please. No really, PLEASE.

4. Networking

Now’s the time to call in every favour, swap skills, and lean heavily and without remorse on the kind hearts of friends and acquaintances whose expertise you lack in your team. And here’s where we’ve really lucked in because, as it turns out, most of the people we know are really rather wonderful.

From troubleshooting support with the technology we’re using for our app, to marketing advice and hands-on help, we’ve leveraged our network for all their knowledge and they’ve come up trumps every time. Our professional and personal networks have saved us time, money and some big potential failures.

We’ve learned to give as much as we can when we’re approached for help; we can guarantee you’ll need that good will at some point.

5. Storytelling

Almost a year ago we started this blog to document the experiment that is AppyLab. Essentially a bunch of friends, giving stuff a go.

Over that year the blog has turned into the story about our journey bring the Lairies to life and that has now paid dividends in the effort to explain to potential investors what the Lairies are, why they’re important and what we want to use them for.

We think stories are the best medium for pushing boundaries, testing new ideas and learning about what we love as an audience. Why would we ditch that philosophy now? Our campaign content is, at its core, the story of how we came to be three grown people using farts to get kids creating.

No doubt we’ll learn lots more during and after the campaign, whether it’s successful or not, so check back in October for updates. We’ll be celebrating or commiserating by the end of the month; either way we’re likely to be drunk.

Please add your own challenges, successes and questions in the comments, we’d love to hear how you’re getting on. And potentially pinch your great ideas 🙂

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