Lighting the Jibo Fire
In March 2014 I was asked to help build the crowdfunding campaign for Jibo. I was an advisor to Jibo and Cynthia Breazeal, the visionary social robot creator. My background as CEO/co founder of Ugobe, maker of Pleo was an ideal match for Jibo. I raised over $25MM for Pleo from international investors including the owner of Foxconn.
For Jibo the challenge was how to tell the story without tripping over ourselves. Jibo is an amazing robot with a lot of features. Jibo listens, observes and responds to different social experiences in your home. Think robot assistant with personality.
The other challenge was raising money. Venture investors needed proof that Jibo was going to be a success so we created a crowdfunding campaign to build momentum and community for Jibo. Of course the goal was to validate demand for Jibo in order to raise a Series A investment. It didn’t matter how cool Jibo was, it mattered how relevant Jibo was to consumers.
After careful review we decided to go with Indiegogo. Indiegogo offered us unprecedented access to their platform--- we could customize the front end tools to live on our web site with real time tracking of campaign stats. It was a big first, we helped pioneer Indiegogo’s new campaign platform and it worked!
To build a successful campaign you need a great team. So I assembled some of the best to help us. Here’s the team…
Video. We needed a great video to tell the Jibo story so I hired Brad Leong who did the Tile campaign video. Brad creates videos that connect with people emotionally, he shows how a product makes your life a lot better.
Product Design. Jibo needed to inspire people with great product design so we hired HUGE Design. HUGE helped design the Nike Fuel band and has the subtle savviness of an artist who knows how to inspire people with great product design.
Retail. Greg Appelhof from The Retail Group (now Spring2Market) is one of the best. He helped launch a number of successful brands in Apple retail, BestBuy and Target stores. Greg works with the senior management teams of retailers, he knows what they want--- and how to position products to them.
Engineering. To build a working prototype with an achievable BOM we worked with Ologic and Function Engineering. Ologic is an electrical engineering firm with great robot and sensor experience. Function Engineering makes innovative mechanical designs come to life like the PR2.
PR. Next we hired a great PR firm to tell our story to the world and build momentum with the media and ultimately our community. The choice was easy, I selected InnerCircle Labs who helped me launch Anybots and Pleo. They are so good at what they do that many companies copy their strategy, style… and hire their people.
Marketing. And lastly we needed a great marketing firm to help build our campaign and growth hack our way to the top. So we chose Rain Factory, a technical marketing firm with crowd funding experience and gritty determination to succeed.
So how did our crowd funding campaign do? We became the number #1 Indiegogo campaign and raised over $3.7MM from 5,552 people in 60 days. The campaign eventually led to a $26MM Series A investment from leading venture capital firms.
What was our approach? Simple, we lit a match that sparked a crowdfunding fire. More specifically we used an elegant and effective way to build our audience and grow our campaign.
Have a Budget. You’ll need between $250,000 to $1MM to launch a successful crowd funding campaign. It costs money to develop a quality video, growth hack, build a PR campaign and develop prototypes of your product.
Your Vision is your PR Story. Your vision is your narrative, your novel that people want to read. Keep it consistent, alluring and evolving. The media, customers and retailers want to believe in your roadmap, don’t disappoint them.
Build an Email Database--- Use social media and PR to drive people to a sign up (RSVP) page prior to your campaign. You need to collect emails to build your growth hacking strategy on Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.
Target Presales---Convert your email database to early sign ups, target 30% presales before launching. This is where your PR story kicks in. You need people to believe in the promise of your product before you ship it to them.
Set an Achievable Campaign Goal--- Set achievable campaign goals that you can reach in the first week (ideally the first 72 hours). For example campaign goals under $100,000 are often achieved while $1MM campaign goals are out of reach for most contributors. Reward subsequent signs ups with gifts at every milestone, i.e. “the next 500 sign ups receive a limited black version of our….”
Build a Video with Heart--- Your message should tell a story featuring your product, not explaining it. Connect with people’s emotions, tell a story how your product makes people’s life better, more fulfilling. People connect to stories not features.
Growth Hack to the Top---Use your email database to launch a “look alike” campaign on Facebook and retargeting with AdRoll. Develop frequency caps, burn pixels, demographic targeting, rotating creative + A/B testing and optimize your creative pieces—make them stand out.
Create a Campaign Dashboard--- connect your growth hacking, crowd funding campaign and media buys into one window that allows you to view and control the important levers of your campaign. This will allow you to adjust your campaign spend and strategy daily for optimal results. 33 Sticks and Cojoin are good resources.
Test Your Price--- In each successful campaign the price point that resonated with consumers was repeated or slightly modified in combination with increased quantities. This is the process of A/B testing. Oculus Rift’s $300 price point was successful while $500 was not. Pebble pricing remained relatively close to $115 in subsequent campaigns. Pricing requires staging or “laddering” to work effectively. Price = campaign donation. It does not reflect MSRP or final consumer pricing. It’s an invitation to own your product by contributing money towards our campaign. As such price is a “promotional” opportunity to sign up customers for a yet-to-be-launched product.
Limit Campaign to 45 days--- Afterwards extend 7 days at a time. Keeping your campaign goal to 45 days or less helps drive awareness and scarcity. Once you reach your campaign goal be ready to launch your next goal, i.e. ladder up your price, offer special features or product bundles. You need to continually “juice” your campaign with new campaign goals. And consider rewarding your contributors with a special prize for reaching your goal—i.e. t-shirt or a discount coupon.
Know your Sales Velocity--- Sales velocity is the core driver of campaign success. You either have it or you don’t. Sales velocity is driven by scarcity, the “promise” of the product experience, great press coverage and growth hacking. The goal is to “sell out” of a limited number of your product to drive demand. This creates awareness similar to SEO positioning in search. The more you sell out the more awareness you build for the campaign. Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns that sell out are positioned on the front page of their community which in turn brings awareness and demand.
Drive Scarcity--- Once a campaign locks into a successful price point then use scarcity to drive demand--- scarcity is set by a campaign goal (i.e. limit crowd funding to $100,000 for a campaign) and/or by limited quantity. Most successful campaigns use both. Pebble limited their campaign to $100,000 and available quantities to hundreds of units. Scarcity requires limited supply and growth hacking. Consider offering a “limited edition” of your product or by invitation only to targeted guests in your email database.
Jump Aheads--- Allow people to “jump ahead” of others by offering premium pledge packages. This is your VIP ticket for late contributors.
Connect your campaign to Angel List--- Create a profile on Angel list and connect it to your campaign. This will drive awareness of your campaign in the angel and VC community that will eventually lead to investment opportunities and endorsements.
Connect with Developers--- Developers are the engine that help extend and enhance your product through new apps, services and products. Offer a developer package with key features and API support. Allow developers to post hacks and ideas for your product on a developer portal. Reward developers through special access to your product and your team—they may be your next engineering hire or key partner.
Communicate with your Community--- Be transparent, share your developments, struggles, successes and stories. You are building a relationship with consumers, treat them as if they are part of your company--- because they are. The more you are open with them the more you will gain their empathy and understanding. You’ll need their support when things go wrong like schedules slips or product challenges.
Share your Prototype and Engineering Photos---This is a great way to develop community and curiosity with your contributors. Everyone wants to be part of your journey, it’s important to share details and updates. People connect with people so make sure you include pictures of your team and late night hacking sessions.
Set up referral program— Allow contributors to earn discounts or product swag through a referral program. This worked especially well for Tile.
Remember to Thank People--- This is where some campaigns fall short. Once you reach your campaign goal (and hopefully exceed it) it’s important to thank people and encourage them to keep the faith in your development process. After all, you’re not selling your product on Apple retail shelves so there is no immediate gratification for contributors. They will be patient if you show appreciation and communicate regularly.
As the above list demonstrates there are many tools to manage for a successful campaign. However if you find the right partners and learn to adapt quickly you will improve your chances of success by a large margin. At Jibo we learned to adapt quickly and worked closely with Indiegogo. Looking back it was a fun but hectic experience that eventually paid off.
If you’re thinking about launching your own campaign then Ihope these insights make a difference. Remember, a successful campaign is achievable. You just need to plan for it.