Selling Invention Ideas on Kickstarter

Kickstarter is a great way to launch a new product idea, but it's not the best way to raise money.

Kickstarter Basics:

You have a great new product idea and have heard that crowdfunding on a platform like Kickstarter is the way to go. In our experience it can be fantastic. But most of the time it fails to meet expectations. The reason is that launching on Kickstarter is pretty much the same as starting a new business and needs to be approached in the same manner. There is no shortcut to success. And to have a big success on Kickstarter you need money to make money.

Here are the basics you need to know:

1. Kickstarter is a platform that a creator builds on. It is as successful as you make it, it doesn't make you successful on its own. Like an empty ball room at a hotel, you need to fill it up with guests and activities. If the party gets loud enough, others will come and check it out and want to join in.

  • The single most important ingredient for a successful party is guests. You need to have a list of guests to invite to your party.
  • Social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are where you can create guest lists.
  • Getting followers and "friends" to your social media pages takes time and effort. You need to work at it. As a very rough guide you should have one follower/friend per $1 you seek to raise for the first $10,000 - $20,000. After that you can often leverage that early success and build to much higher numbers. But you need a powerful launch to get you on a good trajectory.

2. It is like starting and running a business in stages.

  • Design and source your product (costs) - get everything set up to manufacture if you make your goal.

  • Have a working prototype that looks like the final product.

  • Create your own audience - You must have a plan for publicity, social media and leveraging relationships to get eyeballs onto your project page. The plan needs to be in place before you launch.

  • Have a website and Facebook page to back up the KS project and to carry the project forward after the KS ends.

  • Have a plan for order fulfillment (costs).

  • Create a product/brand identity

  • Create KS project page where you tell the story of the product in a way that engages people in words and video.

    • Create product offers (pricing)

    • Good photos and video needed

  • When your KS project launches you need to be on top of it every day, responding to comments and adding updates.

3. Have a plan for success. If KS works, know what next steps will be.

4. What about patents? If you don't have an issued patent and patent protection is an important part of your commercialization strategy, you need to do some hard thinking and probably ought to get professional advice. Here a few things to consider:

  • Kickstarter is "public disclosure" which means that you ought to file for patent protection in advance of your Kickstarter.

  • You can only enforce an issued patent. "Patent pending" alerts people that you've applied for a patent, but you can't stop anyone from copying you until a patent actually issues.

  • Patents are complicated. You can learn more basics here.

An easy project where everything comes together quickly and crucially, a base of fans is already in place (like thousands of friends on FB or a blog or website with traffic in the thousands per month), can be launched and fulfilled, with profits in your pocket in as few as 3-4 months. However, a big project where you are seeking big money takes a lot of planning and credibility - that could take a year or two with a lot of time on social media building your audience and story.

One way to run a Kickstarter if you don't have either an audience or credibility might be to partner with someone else who does. Go through the pages of Kickstarter (or Indiegogo) and search for people who have done something similar (ideally complimentary) to your project. Some may be open to collaboration.

Good luck!

- Mike Marks

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