Launching a new company is never easy, especially if it requires you to front costs for manufacturing, samples and inventory. Before crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo gained such swift popularity, founders were virtually on their own when it came to marketing and raising money for a product or invention. The allure of crowdfunding sites has always been understandable: you could fund your project, receive press and gain immediate customers relatively risk free.

Then, the novelty of Kickstarter started to fade somewhere around 2013, when project success took a major downturn and fewer funders saw their products come to fruition. Media stopped covering the new "it" products, then a few really ugly situations unfolded, putting crowdfunding on the bottom of the list of "risk-free" funding options.

All of my skepticism aside, it's not impossible to find success crowdfunding, but it takes some finessing, and a little more elbow grease than it used to. You need to create something click-able, eye-catching and/or truly innovative.

With that little extra something, recent campaigns like the sweatshirt tent have gone viral.

A good recent example of Kickstarter success is The Smart Birdy. They are a "smart" carry-on suitcase company whose bags are in the shape of a circle (similar to a hat box). They host charging packs, a wireless speaker, hidden and well-placed compartments that fits everything a traditional carryon suitcase does.

Their founder, Abby Listo, was able to find success in their launch by being imaginative, scrappy and having a great product. Here are a few ways you can learn from her success:

Do non-traditional research

Abby left her job in growth & operations at Glamsquad (she worked for Uber & Soothe previously) to take a position as an in-flight team member for JetSmarter (a marketplace for shared and chartered flights) so she could learn everything about frequent travelers' needs. If you have the opportunity to immerse yourself before you take the entrepreneurial leap, always do it.

Pay attention to social media

In the age of Instagram shopping, and social advertising changing at the rate it is, visually appealing photos and solid video are extremely important. Design is one of the most overlooked part of early stage companies who want to get their MVP out there quickly, but poor design will lead you down a road of very short lifetime value for your customers.

Play to your strengths

When it comes to launching a crowdfunding campaign, you have to get a lot of eyeballs on your project quickly. If you can get 30% of your funding in the first week, you are usually set up for success. But, how do you do that? If your strengths don't include advertising or marketing, hire someone who you can help. I'm not usually one for traditional advertising, but I heard about the company from a well-placed, on-target Facebook ad. It works if you do it right.

The Smart Birdy is very much a female focused product which is why it's on-trend colorway and branding made all the difference here. My final piece of advice is, play up the things you know best and then hire the rest!

Published on: Aug 15, 2017
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