Editor's note: After this article ran, Hiral Sanghavi successfully raised $9.2 million (from 44,949 backers), making the campaign one of the most successful crowdfunding projects in Kickstarter history.
Funny story: When I first thought about writing this article, I was going to call it something like: “Husband and Wife Raise $1 Million on Kickstarter, Here’s How.”
By the time I talked with Hiral Sanghavi however, that headline was outdated. With 40-something days to go in their Kickstarter campaign, Sanghavi and his wife, Yoganshi, have raised $1.6 million. (Scratch that. Now, about 12 hours after I first wrote this paragraph, they’re almost up to $2 million.)
When Sanghavi was a student at Kellogg School of Management, he and his wife traveled back and forth between the Bay Area and Chicago every two weeks. They longed for clothing to make the flying-in-coach experience a little more comfortable, and the result was their collaboration: the descriptively named “World’s Best TRAVEL JACKET With 15 Features,” which includes multiple pockets, an inflatable neck pillow, and a zipper that turns into a pen-slash-stylus.
They launched on Kickstarter on July 7 with a $20,000 goal.
“We exceeded that within five hours,” Sanghavi told me. “Then we hit $300,000 in four days, and $1 million was reached in two weeks. Now, Thursday, in the last 48 hours we have done another $600,000. One very big milestone was that we became the most-funded clothing project in the history of crowdfunding … beating the 10-year hoodie.”
Sanghavi isn’t sure if he’s going to back to business school in the fall, but he’s got a lot of great advice for anyone who wants to raise money on Kickstarter or other crowdfunding sites. He was busy, so we kept it brief-here are his top 10 tips.
1. Choose partners carefully.
Hiral, who marketed the jackets, and Yoganshi, who designed them, met in in 2007 and got married in 2013. “We knew we were lovebirds,” he told me.
2. Don’t fake the design.
“The first credit goes to the product, the design which my wife created,” he told me. “It’s a good product. It’s not just a good campaign or media coverage. We are solving some real world troubles out there, that all travelers are facing day to day.”
3. Identify the key features.
“The neck pillow that inflates in two seconds-that’s the primary feature,” Sanghavi said. “I knew in my mind this would be the highlight feature; this is why we have highlighted that feature for the last minute of the [Kickstarter] video.”
4. Find great mentors.
About a year ago, an entrepreneur named Ryan Gepper raised more than $13 million on Kickstarter for the Coolest Cooler. That’s a performance Sangavi admired and wanted to copy.
“He kind of mentored me actually,” Sanghavi told me. “I reached out to him saying I’m launching a product in a few months.”
5. Choose your goals carefully
Part of the reason we’re even talking about Sanghavi is that his target goal was $20,000, and he’s way, way past it now.
“There are two reasons for that. First, I decided let’s do the bare minimum we can do this for, and even if we get an order for just 200 jackets, it’s still okay. [Also], I advise, you should understand that human perception on Kickstarter is so valuable,” Sanghavi said, adding that beating his low goal got him featured on Kickstarter’s homepage itself. “That gives you a lot of organic traffic.”
6. Lean on your experience.
Sanghavi is 29 years old, but he was no neophyte. He said he’d launched three startups since he turned 18, and raised $5 million before he launched this project.
“I have failed a lot and learned a lot,” he said. “The year of business school at Kellogg has helped me learn a lot about marketing. I would give a lot of credit to my professors at Kellogg.”
7. Spend marketing dollars wisely.
For the first four days after the Kickstarter launch, Sanghavi said, he didn’t spend any money on marketing. As press hits and word-of-mouth slowed however, he began to pour money into Facebook ads. He budgeted $250 per day for the first couple of days, targeting them very precisely, and then scaled up his buy to $5,000 per day. This week, as he has vastly exceeded the original goal, he plans to spend $10,000 per day. Overall, he said he’s been getting between five and 10 times as much in contributions as he’s spent on Facebook marketing.
8. Leverage the media
“The other huge source of traffic is press and media,” Sanghavi told me. For the record, I reached out to him after seeing his story on a site the tracks Kickstarter projects. “I have two PR firms working for me, and the reason I wanted two was because i didn’t want to bet all my money on one.”
The strategy seems to have paid off, as Sanghavi was interviewed on CNN Money during the day the project launched, and has been featured on many other digital media and television shows since then.
9. Spend other money wisely.
Sanghavi said his initial budget was $30,000, which included all of the money he spent prototyping the jackets, shooting the video that he featured on Kickstarter, renting the studios, and paying for marketing. They’ve spent a lot more than that since then, but he said he had to see that his project was going to vastly exceed its target before being willing to spend more.
10. Just do it.
Ultimately, you’re taking a risk simply by launching a crowdfunding project, and there is no perfect time to do so. In fact, you can easily overthink the time of year when you launch.
“Honestly, I wanted to launch earlier in June,” Sanghavi told me, “but I was busy with school commitments, and got delayed by month. However, I know product cycles, and it just happened that [by launching now], we are in time for Thanksgiving and the Christmas season when you need this jacket the most.”
(Here’s a link to the Kickstarter project in case you’re interested in the jacket--or just want to see how much money they wind up raising.)