When I started eelo.io, 2 months ago, it catched some attention and curiosity from my close circle of friends and professionnal connexions, but not much more.
At this time I entered into a double consideration:
1- though I was certain I would do this project at least for me, in a “hacker mode” and as a side project, I was unsure that it would be interesting for a significant number of people. In short: I didn’t know yet about the “market” it would be addressing.
2- I started to finance the project on my personal money, and, fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t have deep pockets like Elon Musk or Richard Branson. So I needed to find some more money to be more confortable on that project and support at least one developer for the next 6 to 12 months.
Starting with AdWords
A friend suggested me to evaluate the that “market” eelo was addressing, by trying some AdWords (yes, some Adwords). I did. I tried various keywords and observed carefully the suggestions that were driving people to my two different landing pages: one was focusing on the privacy-oriented mobile OS, and the other on privacy-oriented web-services.
Surprisingly, transformations rates were excellent for certain keywords, and several dozen people started to register about the project.
Of course, AdWords are expensive and are certainly not the most efficient way to get some real exposure. And it’s Google 🙁
Deciding for a crowdfunding campaign
Over the past few years, I met a few startups who did some crowdfunding campaign, with mixed results. One of the biggest error I heard from these experiences was to start a crowdfunding campaign in a “religious mode”, e.g, think that you will put everything online and then a miracle will happen. The truth indeed is that many crowdfunding campaigns don’t work at all.
I started to discuss the opportunity to do a crowdfunding campaign with an entrepreneur friend who already organized some campaigns. We agreed that eelo would probably be a good candidate to do a (small) campaign.
This is a lot of work
Probably that doing a crowdfunding campaign is easy if you get accompanied by crowdfunding experts who can bring the good package for you (and will cost you an arm). But in my case, we have been only two people to work on it, with very limited means. Even off-voices have been home-made.
The most difficult part at the begining, is to ask yourself the good questions:
- what is your project: the pain point, how you want to address it, …
- how you would tell the story in a few words
- what your audience is
- how you are going to communicate about the project
- define a financial target
Then you set some milestones and a reverse-agenda. And then it’s not going better: time is passing whatever you do or don’t do.
You have to define everything in the details, and worse: you have to do a project video! My partner on the campaign have excellent skills for this, but eventually, I got to talk to the camera, and this was really outside my confort zone 🙂
And it starts…
Kickstarter needs a few days to approve the campaign. In my case, it took only one day. And then, you have to push the “launch” button.
Pushing the launch button has absolutely no real effect: the campaign is public, but you can probably wait some days before someone finds your project and decide to back it.
At this point, you have to get some attention
So it’s time to get in touch with news sites, with journalists, to tell about your story (actually, I started to contact some of them before the campaign started). You have to post the news to forums, accept aggressive comments, answer questions. And eventually, you see some first contributions!
The key point here is that you really have to bring invididuals to your crowdfunding campaign. Do not expect the plateform to do it in your place!
In my case, it accelerated quite fast at the begining. But then I was unsure I would reach the intitial target, and it’s been quite stressful.
A crowdfunding campaign is much more than “raising” money
What I learned with the eelo crowdfunding campaign, is that the biggest benefit of the crowdfunding campaign is not the money.
Of course, the money is mandatory to fuel eelo’s early developments. But the biggest benefits are:
- I had to define better the eelo project at the begining
- I know that eelo is addressing a real and growing concern / pain point (user data privacy)
- I know that eelo is potentially addressing a global market (the incoming traffic is from most countries in the world)
- I know better than earlier who are eelo supporters, and what they expect
- eelo have more than 3000 supporters if I count people who registered on the website so far, who will help a lot to get more exposure
- I have a growing list of press contacts that I use later when I have significant news about eelo
- I’m becoming a crowdfunding expert 😉 More seriously: my skills have improved a lot on this!
Entrepreneurs, go for crowdfunding!
So I can only recommend to any entrepreneur to start a crowdfunding campaign, if this can fit with a potential market or particular context. You should do this even before incorporating, before entering entrepreneurship ecosystems and entrepreneur contests, before raising money in exchange of equity.
Probably it’s more difficult for B2B than for B2C. But it will force you to do what every entrepreneur should do first: find and know your market, this will define your product better.