Even Unsexy Products Can Strike Kickstarter Gold
Few things sound less exciting than watching a video about a night light. But after viewing the clip for the SnapRays Guidelight, which drew $101,000 within the first 29 hours of its Kickstarter campaign, you'll be convinced of its life-changing powers.
The campaign launched Tuesday, drawing $12,000 within its first two hours. But unlike most startups hungry for funding, Snap Power took four months to plot its crowdfunding page.
"We felt if people watched [the video] and understood the product, they would want it," Sean Watkins, a co-founder of Snap Power, the night light maker, and former car insurance salesman, tells Inc. "But we knew it could be tough to make a night light cool and not boring."
Naturally, Watkins credits his success with his stellar product. Designed to resemble and replace traditional electrical outlets, he claims it's energy efficient, safe around kids, and will turn on automatically in the dark. But the real selling point is his video, which shows the Guidelight lighting up when a woman returns home late, tucks in her daughter, or enters a dark bathroom.
The original video "just showed applications, like a mom tucking in her daughter," says Watkins. But that wasn't enough to get the point across. "We decided to say, 'Let's get all the night lights and review them, look over the competition. Then we said, 'Let's show why ours is better, why we think it's better, and convey that to the customer.'"
The Snap Power team--that is, Watkins, lawyer Cam Robinson, and inventor Jeremy Smith--also researched other successful Kickstarter campaigns before crafting theirs. "Our goal with the page was to explain to people what the features and benefits of the product were, and to do it in as visual a way as possible," Watkins says.
After filming the video, the trio tapped Robinson's 15-year-old son, Kayden, to extract stills and use them to illustrate every facet of the product, from features to installation to applications. "None of us know what we're doing on the Web, but he's the smartest," says Watkins of his young IT guy. "A lot of the edits on the video, he did."
The FAQs on the page were derived from actual questions asked while presenting the product to prospective investors and partners. "One of the big ones was, 'Does it stay on?'" recalls Watkins. "We went through the questions and decided that we heard the most should be [included in the campaign]."
Plenty of thought was given to marketing as well. "We knew the first 48 hours is really, really important. So we sat down and created a timeline from Hour 1 to Hour 48 and said what has to happen, what has to go out, and how it's going to be shared on Facebook and Twitter," Watkins says. "We had a game plan when we launched: share on Facebook, tweet, email the press, and make phone calls."
The founders, who've bootstrapped the company for the past two years in Provo, Utah, also listed every blog and media outlet they hoped to appear in (Inc. was among them).
Though he describes the pledge levels as a "shot in the dark," Watkins also did his homework before settling on any. "Our product is very similar to hardwired guide lights," he says, "so we looked at the price of those and thought they ran anywhere between $12 and $50."
But since the Guidelight resembles a plug-in night light, they also examined those prices, which can cost anywhere between $1.50 and $12. "We tried to say, 'We're a much better option, but we want to be affordable and get our product to everybody."
With the campaign in first position on Kickstarter's "Popular" page--out of 134,679 campaigns--it seems they're off to a great start.
JILL KRASNY | Staff Writer
Jill Krasny is a staff writer for Inc. magazine, where she covers the intersection of entertainment and startups. Prior to Inc., she was a writer for MTV and Esquire and an editor at TheStreet. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in communication. She lives in New York City.