Got a million-dollar business idea? Want to actually raise a million dollars for it? Years ago we used angel investors to raise our first million at ClearFit, but now it's become possible to do it with crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Possible, yes, but easy, no, if you take Kickstarter's published stats as a guide. Of the more than 200,000 projects launched on its platform to date, only 95 or 0.05 percent have hit the seven-figure mark. So when our friends at DreamQii crushed the odds and surpassed the $2-million mark on Indiegogo, we rang them up to find out how they did it.
In the fall of 2014, Klever Freire, founder of DreamQii, began a crowdfunding campaign for PlexiDrone, which is specifically designed as a portable aerial photography platform that snaps together in under a minute. In choosing the crowdfunding route, Klever knew it wasn't going to be simply a matter of posting a few photos online and hoping for the best. In shaping his team for the tricky business of crowdfunding, Klever stuck to three key principles.
Principle One: Silence Is the Enemy
If your wealthy aunt or a VC has backed your product idea, you would be free to take the money and disappear into a hole for a while to devote all your resources to development. But Klever had seen other crowdfunding initiatives fail by taking that approach and not communicating regularly with their funders. When crowdfunding campaigners go dark for a few days, their backers begin to worry something's up. In the crowdfunding space, silence is a kiss-of-death. So DreamQii has made a point to communicate daily with its backers in some form--through the fundraising platform or one of its social media networks.
If they didn't constantly keep the crowd posted on what's happening with the company and the product, they might be able to move quicker in other areas, but they'd lose the trust of their backers, whose support they need to keep demand snowballing.
But there's more to the communication than just the trust factor. The dialogue with backers has helped DreamQii learn more about who their backers are and what they want--knowledge DreamQii has poured back into the business to enhance everything from the product design features they choose, to the content they use to promote PlexiDrone. If you want to run a winning crowdfunding campaign, you have to factor in this learning time.
Principle Two: Company Before Product
If you have a great product idea--particularly if it's a cool drone that flies around with a camera--it's hard not to think the product will sell itself. But that thinking has doomed thousands of companies opting for crowdfunding. DreamQii knew backers don't connect with a product--unless they connect with the company first, and the people behind it. That's why DreamQii has made a conscious effort to share its belief that technology should improve and simplify lives, and why it goes out of its way to allow backers to get to know more about the team members. This has helped DreamQii make an emotional connection with its backers.
Principle Three: Hire People Who Can Wear Multiple Hats...at the Start
The constant communication with backers, business requests, meetings, engineering deliverables, contract manufacturers, design revisions...all of this creates intense pressure at DreamQii to respond quickly. In an environment like this, an employee with a "not my job" mentality would be a weak link. In the early stages, to make sure their small team could handle whatever arose, the founding members ended up being mostly people with the ability to wear multiple hats, rather than specialists. Everyone had to be able to jump in and take on new tasks or responsibilities. As Klever put it, they looked for people "Who want to develop and learn new things, who aren't afraid of the unknown or hard work."
So, if think you have a million-dollar idea and you want to tap into the crowd for funding, try applying DreamQii's principles to improve your odds of joining the top .05 percent. But of course, it will probably help if your product is as hot as a camera-carrying drone.