John Dimatos is the senior director of design and technology communities at the crowdfunding service Kickstarter. He works with project creators — aka Makers — in the product design and tech categories, providing feedback and answering questions. Before he arrived at Kickstarter in 2013, he was head of applications at MakerBot Industries. John offers the following advice to Maker Pros.
Before you launch a Kickstarter campaign…
Prepare. Be really clear about why you are doing it and what you expect to get out of it. When launching a project, creators often focus on getting money to buy parts to get things done. But it’s good to remember that the money represents people. Will you have 10 backers, 100, 1,000? Each number requires a different kind of communication. Emailing and talking to 1,000 people is very different from talking with 10 people.
Have a plan for after the campaign
This matters a lot. For instance, if there’s manufacturing involved that requires third parties, know who that will be, have a lot of conversations with them, understand their capabilities, what expectations they have from you, and how they treat their employees. Not knowing these things before you launch the campaign puts you in a tough position afterward, when you’re making decisions on the spot.
Why Kickstarter is “not a store”
When we say “we’re not a store,” we mean that you don’t come here just to make a monetary transaction. You believe in an idea, in the person who’s making it, the larger ecosystem that supports it. Kickstarter is a reminder that what we do with our time, our money, our lives — that should mean more than just buying a microwave oven in a big-box store. People are backing projects to support an idea. There’s no guarantee that projects are going to work out. Supporting something that doesn’t exist yet is part of the mantra here.
Helpful data for Maker Pros
We have a great data team that looks at the numbers and helps us advise our creators. For instance, a typical campaign has 5 to 7 tiers for backers — we know that’s an easily digestible number. The most typical pledge level is $20–$25. Within the tiers, the $100 tier tends to provide the most funds to a campaign. If a campaign hits 20%
of its goal, it has an 80% chance of success.
Ask yourself: Do you want to complete a personal project or start a business?
If you’re aiming to one day make your Kickstarter project the main thing you do, you have to plan for that. If you’re assembling 1,000 units at your house, it will get done, but you’re giving up your ability to focus on how to build the business you’re trying to make.
On the other hand, maybe you don’t want to build your project into a bigger business. Maybe you just want to sit around making things with your friends.
We encourage people to think about which Maker they want to be. We love both, and both are necessary for a healthy ecosystem.
Do you ever think about launching a Kickstarter campaign?
I think about that every day! It would definitely involve LEDs. I love lighting projects.