The co-founders of the computer-game studio Stoic had a feeling they were onto a good thing with the new fantasy game they were designing, but it took a Kickstarter campaign before they realized exactly how good it was.
The Austin-based company--co-founded by industry vets Alex Thomas, Arnie Jorgensen, and John Watson--turned to the crowdfunding platform in March to fund its idea for a Viking-themed online game called The Banner Saga. The response was overwhelming. Having set a goal of $100,000, the company wound up with pledges for more than $700,000 from 20,000 gaming enthusiasts in less than a month. Not only did the Kickstarter campaign give Stoic validation that it was on the right track (along with more funding than it ever expected), it also gave the co-founders tons of usable advice and information.
For example, after supporters were given access to an early version of the game, they told the developers that the time between turns in the multiplayer version of the game was too short. That was changed. Stoic was also able to review geographic information and found that a lot of interest came from Scandinavia, Russia, and Poland. The company now has plans to distribute the game through Web portals that reach those regions. "People who are excited about our project have ideas and want to talk about it," says Thomas.
Thanks to advanced analytics tools, crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have made it easier than ever to gather market insight into your company's products and services. In addition to direct feedback from funders, most crowdfunding sites now offer dashboards that track investor feedback and demographics and the ability to launch surveys on things such as potential features or design. Entrepreneurs can also track their search-engine rankings and the impact their social-media presence has on attracting crowdfunding.
Ministry of Supply, a men's clothier created by four students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has taken advantage of just about all of those features. The company, which is developing a line of business shirts made from high-performance material, had 3,000 backers chip in nearly $500,000 in the course of a month. Using Kickstarter's analytics tools, it learned that about a third of its funders came from France. "Customers in France were very excited about the product, and we had to figure out how to export," says co-founder Kit Hickey.
About 1,500 people also left comments, giving the co-founders valuable information about what sort of shirts customers wanted. They had originally planned to launch with white and blue shirts only, but they now plan to add gray, lavender, pink, and blue-and-white-striped shirts, given the feedback. Similarly, the company changed its sizing: Instead of simply offering small, medium, and large, as it had planned, Ministry of Supply will size shirts by neck size and sleeve length. "We got a lot of e-mail that said, 'I can't fit into off-the-shelf sizing,' " says Hickey. "So we changed our business plan. It was good to have people telling us exactly what they would buy when they got their chance to order." Every company should be so lucky.