Ask The Expert: Building A Successful Crowdfunding Campaign


Editor’s Note: Ask The Expert is a recurring TransWorld Business series that explores strategies and tips from experts within and outside of our industry. The goal is to help you strengthen and grow your business, your products, or your career.

GNARBOX Raises $540,000 in 1 Month on Kickstarter

On the heels of a successful crowdfunding campaign, raising over $500,000 in just 31-days, we sat down with Will Africano, GNARBOX Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to ask the ultimate head scratcher: How did you do it? The pocket-sized portable device, that stores, edits, and shares HD footage on the go, garnered a viral following through the 31-day Kickstarter. The crowdfunding campaign raised $540,776 from 2,988 backers, exceeding their funding goal of $100,000 by 541%. Africano laughed, “It wasn't easy! There were a lot of sleepless nights leading up to and through the campaign, but we pulled it off. We couldn't be happier…but now it's time to roll up the sleeves once again and finish building the product."

Will Africano, GNARBOX,

Will Africano, GNARBOX CMO

We couldn't be happier with how it wound up, but now it's time to roll up the sleeves once again and finish building the product. -Will Africano, GNARBOX CMO reflects on their successful Kickstarter campaign

In recent years crowdfunding has become a viable alternative to traditional sources of investment. Crowdfunding is a popular platform to raise money, launch a new product, and create buzz around your business. There are two main types or models of crowdfunding. The first model is capital-based crowdfunding where supporters back a project in return for products and rewards (Kickstarter and Indiegogo). The second model is equity crowdfunding where businesses or projects sell ownership to potential shareholders online who are seeking a financial return (crowd funder).

Kickstarter and Indiegogo are truly selling platforms where consumers come to buy BEFORE a product launches because they want to be on the cutting edge. They want the newest gadgets, they want to be a part of product development, or they just love the brand/company/product. It is also a way to gain capital for operational costs of creating a product like manufacturing contracts.”  -Africano on capital crowdfunding platforms

Kickstarter or Indiegogo: which do I choose?

Africano’s answer: If you can get into Kickstarter you should (they have more exclusive rules), because it has a bigger following, a better standing with the press and truly is the ‘Kleenex’ of crowdfunding. If you already have a big following, are running a much smaller project (<$10k) or don’t qualify for Kickstarter there are a lot of cool features in Indiegogo to take advantage of. Many successful campaigns come out of Indiegogo every day. Kickstarter is a great place for tech hardware, movie projects, and games. If you are making hardware, go to Kickstarter.

 What it Takes to Build and Launch a Product on Kickstarter

  • Build a community and an e-mail list

The first step is to build a community around your product or project. Do this before you ever start your campaign. You want to generate interest and build demand for your product before it’s ever available.

Tip from Will: We started with an Instagram account two years ago where we featured other users' photos who tagged #GNARCISSISTIC in their photos. Many of our early backers were the photographers and videographers who were with us from the very beginning. They often reach out to us with questions and comments, and even share our major campaigns on their Instagram accounts to support us. Whenever talking to new entrepreneurs we recommend building a community on the social media network that is most relevant to your product or idea- Reddit, e-mail, Youtube, Facebook and Instagram are some of the best. Instagram was incredibly relevant to GNARBOX since we work with digital media!

We were able to convert incredibly well from our Instagram and Facebook communities when we launched on day 1. Lucky for us, it was, by-in-large, our BEST DAY and represented nearly 15% of our campaign.

E-mail lists are also incredibly important. Most $1m campaigns have over 100,000 e-mail subscribers. We came in around 40,000 and had another 10,000 Instagram fans. Building an e-mail list with giveaways, contests, beta tester signups, and service offerings (i.e. internet tools, guides, or newsletters).

Tip from Will: E-mails are especially important to any Kickstarter.


  • Ask your audience what they want

Validate your assumptions. The best form of product development is insight from the consumers that will be using it. Test your product on your target market before you launch your campaign. This will expose you to new product use cases and ideas to improve your product.

Two ways we tested our product and gained valuable insights about our product were to 1) using Survey Monkey we tested market assumption about our target market by giving away a gift card to our Instagram community. 2) We experimented with branding and product marketing concepts by building $100 ads on Facebook and seeing how many people clicked through and commented on them!

Tip from Will: This part of the process was more so when we were in the building stages of GNARBOX, before the launch of our Kickstarter. It's just a great step in product development any entrepreneur should go through.


  • Craft a message that fits the audience

Now that you have formed a community and know what they want, deliver a message that speaks to them effectively. Build your campaign and branding around a message that will reach the community you have built.

Tip from Will: Going back to that social media community is a great way to test your ideas.

  • Give them ownership of idea

Including your backers in the process will make them feel like they are a part of the project. This greatly improves the chances of them sharing your campaign to friends and family.

Tip from Will: Surveys are key to empowering users and giving them an opportunity to provide feedback and ideas. Engaging them by sharing results is the most important because then they know you are listening!

  • Talk to Other Creators in the Kickstarter Community

It is important to learn from past mistakes and be prepared for what you don't know. The best way is to engage creators of some of your favorite campaigns on Kickstarter. One way to do this is to join the Kickstarter campus and read up!

Tip from Will: We talked to three $1m+ campaign managers and one $300k campaign manager. Everyone tells the same story, but they are great resources down the road.

The best thing they can also give you is a contact within Kickstarter. This may help lead to a Staff Pick. No guarantees!

We learned a few major things in our experiences and conversations 1. Kickstarter approves your campaign or doesn't. Submit it weeks early and ask for feedback. 2. Kickstarter locks up your campaign page at the end so make any long-term changes before it closes! 3. Collection of payments takes 2-4 weeks after your campaign closes. 4. No one knows how to get a staff pick but when you do get one, don't place a BADGE on your campaign. This is a no-no in Kickstarters' eyes.

For more information, check out this excellent piece on Hacking Kickstarter: How To Raise $100,000 in 10 Days

  • Content is key

The content you produce is the first thing potential backers will see. You have several seconds to capture their attention and generate interest. Throughout the campaign you want to generate fresh, new content. Supporters will grow tired of seeing the same visuals. Give a behind-the-scenes look. Show beta testers using the product. Explain key product features. Share different product use cases.

Tip from Will: Every Kickstarter tends to hit a slump around the 3rd week. It's a great time to launch a stretch goal, open up new reward tiers, and post updates to the campaign.

  • The video is everything

A compelling video is key to nearly every crowdfunding campaign that gets funded. Hook the viewer in the first ten seconds. If you don’t catch their interest right away, the viewer will not watch the entire video. Keep the video short. The video should be four minutes or less. Be yourself and tell your story. Explain the rewards for backing the campaign and what the money will be used for. Most importantly, ask for the sale. You need a call to action at the end of your video. If you don’t ask for their support in the video, they won’t do what you want. Most importantly, thank your viewers! The success of your campaign depends on it.

Tip from Will: Targeting three minutes is a great strategy. Be sure to introduce the product in the first 15-30 seconds. High production value shows you are serious so don't be shy. Expect to pay $5-20k if you don't have access or the ability to write, produce and edit your own video. Many successful campaigns have done it with just an iPhone + iMovie so it is fully possible to do it for free, but your message, editing, music and product better be killer.

No matter how good your video is, if your message is wrong or your product doesn't have demand, you won't succeed.

  • Write, test, re-write

Fine tuning your page is more time consuming than you thought. We redesigned, re-wrote and recrafted our message about 80 times over three months of work before launching.

  • Setting a goal

Set an internal goal and then set your Kickstarter goal at about 30% of that target. You want to reach your public Kickstarter goal within the first 72 hours in order to reach your internal company goal. The faster you reach that goal, the more press and support you will get. All of the work building your community and spreading your message leads up to rocking your campaign on day 1. Without a successful day 1, the Kickstarter and outside community won't ever see your campaign. You need that day to boost your campaign in the Kickstarter search algorithms.

  • Friends, Family & Fools

Be sure to have your entire friends and family engaged and ready to donate on day 1. Set some big rewards up before launch and sell them to a major supporter before you even launch. Then remind them a few times!

Tip from Will:  As a team we exported our Gmail contacts and our phone contacts and put everything in a shared Google doc. We reached out to everyone we knew before, during and after the campaign, to get them going. If you can't sell your family, you can't sell anyone. They help you launch on day 1.


  • Day 1 is everything

Everything is on day 1. It sets the bar, so do everything you can to blow it out of the water.

Tip from Will: Throw a Launch Party and invite everyone you know!!!!! Also, post a LIFE EVENT on Facebook. These do GREAT! Get everyone to share it. They'll be proud.


  • Endure the roller coaster ride

Nearly every crowdfunding project experiences the same ups and downs during their campaign. If you have followed the previous steps your campaign should get off to a hot start. After the first week or so the momentum typically slows down. During this time it is important to look back at what has and hasn’t worked. Gear up and prepare for a strong finish. The campaign will gain momentum again as it nears the end. Often times the last few days produces as much support from backers as the beginning of the campaign.

Tip from Will: Plan your updates, social posts, new ad campaigns, videos, and press write-ups before even going into the campaign. We had a daily roadmap for the first two weeks prepared before launching the campaign and prepped months ahead of time to execute on it. Weeks 3 and 4 had some pre-planned actions but mostly we doubled down on what worked best in 1 and 2 and found new opportunities with our early success.

  • Collect data on what has worked and what hasn’t so far

Data is everything. See what has worked for your campaign so far. Examining the data will help you to tailor your branding and marketing for the rest of the campaign. Don’t guess what is working. Figure out what has worked for your campaign. What target markets are backing you? What are backers planning to use your product for? What level of rewards are backers pledging? How can you craft a message that will reach this audience? What media outlets can you use to reach new target markets?

Tip from Will: we used Google Ads, Facebook Ads, BITLY, Google Analytics, and Kickstarter to measure all incoming traffic and conversions. The data model was built in Excel and helped us track daily successes, failures and opportunities. Learn more here

  • Find outlets that speak to your audience

Always be looking for new ways to reach your audience. Find blogs, publications, and key influencers that share the same target market. They already have a following and have established trust with them.

Tip from Will: find influencers, writers and bloggers who are relevant to your product. Research similar products and Kickstarter campaigns and see who wrote about them. Build these relationships early and be prepared to follow-up as many time as it takes to get a response. They are busy people so be patient!

Click here for great tools for finding press

  • Follow up with your supporters & backers

Once someone has pledged to back your campaign you have established a customer relationship. Now you must continue to develop the relationship. Send a personalized message thanking them for their support. Ask them to fill out a survey or questionnaire to learn more about who they are and why they are backing your campaign. This will help you better understand your audience and how to reach more like-minded individuals. Send them updates throughout the campaign.

Tip from Will: Kickstarter "Updates" go directly to your backers' inboxes. We also simultaneously launched a giveaway contest that we messaged to all of our backers individually. In this contest we incentivized them to share our campaign on facebook with their friends.

  • Keep the campaign going

Just because the campaign is over doesn’t mean you have to stop. Keep the momentum going. New consumers will appear that want to back your project before the exclusive product deal or rewards are over. Kickstarter offers a late pledge program that allows backers to continue to support the program beyond the campaign (not true). There are also services such as CrowdOx that help Kickstarter projects that have been funded to continue generating sales with a late pledge system and fulfill their promises to backers. Pick up right where you left off. If you don’t keep stoking the fire, the momentum and excitement within your community will begin to disappear.

Tip from Will: having a plan for after Kickstarter is something you should be doing before launching Kickstarter. After your first week of your campaign, really ramp up!


The GNARBOX team says thank you to all their backers and supporters.

  • Thank your supporters

The number one rule: thank your backers and supporters. They are your #1 fan. They are what makes all of this possible. Without them, your campaign goes nowhere. Be sure to thank your supporters during every step of the campaign.

About GNARBOX: Based In Santa Monica GNARBOX is the world's first mobile solution for viewing, backing-up, editing, and sharing your HD footage from any GoPro HERO® or DSLR camera all from the convenience of your phone. With a powerful team of photographers, video editors, athletes and engineers GNARBOX will be delivering in Q1 2016 following their recent Kickstarter campaign.

About Will Africano: Will is a passionate entrepreneur with a focus on early ideation, product development, brand building and market analytics. He is the Co-Founder & CMO of GNARBOX, where he managed a successful crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. In his free time he goes backcountry skiing, backpacking and rock climbing all with cameras in tow. Will also is a vocal advocate of environmental sustainability, social entrepreneurship, and the musical arts.

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