Check Out Any Crowdfunding Site… And You’ll
Likely See Fizzling Campaigns
Yes, there are celebrated success stories like Oculus VR, the Kickstarter-funded virtual reality startup recently acquired by Facebook, but in all-too-many cases, fundraisers discover too late that they have neglected some crucial detail of their campaigns and end up raising nothing or very little.
Not everyone has an idea that will attract million of dollars on a rewards-based site, but with the right strategies, many entrepreneurs can be more successful at raising the money they need through crowdfunding sites.
To gather some advice on how to pull that off, I spoke with Allison Huynh, managing partner of the Palo Alto gaming company behind MyDream: 3D Creation and Exploration Sandbox. Her online gaming startup hit nearly 65% of its fundraising goal in less than a week and ultimately exceeded its $100,000 goal–reaching $117,263 in April 2014.
Huynh intends to use the money to create “the world’s biggest adventure game that players create and contribute to themselves.” What’s really different about the game, she says, is it isn’t violent.
Huynh, an engineer, has a deeper background in the tech world than many entrepreneurs who fundraise on sites like Kickstarter. She is founder of Screenleap, which offers a screen-sharing technology, and has worked at other tech firms.
Collaborators on her 3D game include gaming veterans Mark Davis and Matt Laverty, and among her team of investors and advisors are Karoly Nikolich, co-Founder of Stanford Neuroscience Institute, and Mark Jung, who founded IGN Entertainment, and now is executive chairman of OnLive, a cloud-based solutions provider for gaming.
Undoubtedly, knowing her way around the tech world helped her campaign attract the support of backers like prominent game developer Richard Garriott. Yet her very grassroots crowdfunding approach didn’t rely only on tapping her professional connections and seems like it could useful to less-connected entrepreneurs.
Here’s What She Did To Raise The Funding
The conventional wisdom is to raise your social media profile long before you embark on a crowdfunding campaign. Eager to get moving on her game, Huynh didn’t have much time to do that before she began raising funds. She says she had a moderate sized Facebook following and only started using Twitter regularly a few months before her crowdfunding campaign.
However, she did have a big circle of friendships among other parents in her community who were concerned about the violent gaming options available to their children. “Some of the kids at my children’s school were having nightmares,” she says.
She focused on winning the support of “thoughtful, mindful parents” she knew because they seemed like a receptive audience.
Take your fundraising offline. Huynh rallied support for the campaign with a Kickstarter party in her family’s back yard. “I invited all the neighborhood kids,” says Huynh. “We had more than 250 families who attended.
It cost me maybe $500 to throw the party. It wasn’t anything fancy. I showcased my video game there.” That whipped up some excitement for the campaign. (Don’t have a big backyard? Perhaps a supportive friend will contribute one to the cause).
Huynh knew her product wasn’t going to appeal to all gamers and didn’t let detractors erode her enthusiasm–even after getting booed off the stage at a game developer’s conference she says was attended almost exclusively by men.
“They said, `This is not something people want,’” recalls Huynh, who found they didn’t welcome her critique about the skimpy attire of typical female characters in many available games, either.
She recognized that the attendees who didn’t like her concept represented the mainstream voice, but concluded that their lack of support didn’t mean there was no market for her product.
Her advice to others facing a similar reaction? “I really encourage entrepreneurs, especially women who are representing a more niche market, to start locally,” she says. That’s a good idea for anyone, both men and women, to consider.
People who know and believe in you may offer all the support you need to bring your concept to market.