NY Entrepreneur Business Network invited five winning startup founders to Columbia University on Thursday to advise a room full of entrepreneurs and students on how to be successful at raising money on Kickstarter, as well as other microfinance platforms. Every week, tens of thousands of people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, games, fashion, food, publishing, and other creative fields. Since its launch in 2009, more than one and a quarter million people have pledged $130M to projects by creators who always maintain full ownership and complete creative control of their work.
Panelist Stefan Loble, founder of Bluff Works , has a first product that is a line of wrinkle free men’s pants that that can be worn for multiple days without washing or ironing. He will be launching his own brand and e-commerce site that will be the only place his products will be sold. Loble raised $128K on Kickstarter. He said that he relied on the crowdfunding platform to let him know, “If my idea was crap before I push that launch button; you have no idea on whether it’s going to take off.”
However, he said that he would not go back to the well unless he had a second product. “It’s only appropriate to do it again when you have a second product. You’re supposed to ask for the money you need to launch the product. So, if I were to go back now people would ask, ‘why do you need more money?’ — I do plan to use it in the future for follow up products, but not yet.”
Albert Chao, a collaborator and industrial designer for a network of air quality sensors called Air Quality Egg, raised over $144K. “Right now we have this money and we’re trying to make the best product we can. We haven’t yet used it all but it will be gone pretty soon — all the money is going back into the technology, the sensors, proto type and things like that.”
The first product for Test Type LLC/Spark a division of Lifetime Brands is a phone stand that is a flexible cable that can allow your phone to orient on your desk, next to your monitor or next to your laptop. The emphasis is on turning your phone into more of a secondary display. The company raised $96K from Kickstarter. “You take a product idea that you have and you convey it both in video and image format,” said founder Bill May. “It can go viral. We have certain pledge levels, and there are different awards, but ultimately at the end of the day if enough people contribute to the campaign, the campaign is successful. All the money is dumped into an account somewhere and you can use the money to launch that product, platform or service.
TJ Lutz, co-founder of Pwnee Studios, is developing a video game called Cloudberry Kingdom. The gist of the game is much like the Super Mario Brother series, except that the founders designed, an algorithm that creates randomly generates levels. His Kickstarter campaign is completed but now all of the money is gone. “We received 23,500, which are small peanuts compared to Bill May, but still very helpful. We essentially used it to update the art in our game.”
Mariquel Waingarten, co-founder of Hickies, an elastic lacing system that replaces traditional shoelaces, moved with her husband from Argentina to NY to launch their project. They heard about crowdfunding, and ended up raising $159K through Kickstarter. “The idea of co-funding was incredible, not only because of raising money — which is really helpful — but because you begin to try things and build a community to help you try those things as well. They give more ideas, they give you support, they give you a lot of exposure. We did a good video. There are a few products that don’t have a video, and most of them are not successful. You need to explain to people what your product is, how your product is going to make a difference in the market or in other people’s lives, and what do we actually need the money for? Why do we need their support to launch this product?”