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Mar
20
Advice From an Autistic Entrepreneur on How I Successfully Crowdfunded My Start-Up Coding Autism

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On March 31st 2017, my co-founder Austen Weinhart and I launched the crowdfunding campaign for our start-up Coding Autism with the goal of raising $50,000 by April 30th 2017.

After 30 days of tireless campaigning, we were fortunate enough to successfully fundraise 105% of our $50,000 goal by generating $52,855 in contributions to our crowdfunding campaign.

For those who have previous crowdfunding experience, crowdfunding $50,000 is no easy feat. Knowing that the average contributor ends up contributing roughly $25 to a rewards based crowdfunding campaign, we knew that we had to fill Oracle area in individual views several times in order to obtain our crowdfunding goal.

In my opinion, I believe that these 10 points, which I call my Ten Commandments for Launching a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign, were critical to Coding Autism's successful crowdfunding campaign.

1.) Aim To Raise At Least 30% of Your Crowdfunding Goal Prior to Campaign Launch

Through my research on successful tips for crowdfunding campaigns, I came across several articles that discussed the importance of raising 30% of your crowdfunding campaign goal within the first week of campaign launch. In fact, based off a research study on over 100,000 successful crowdfunding campaigns, crowdfunding campaigns that raised between 25-30% of their crowdfunding goal within the first 7 days of their campaign launch ended up having a 95% chance of being successful (FoundrMag).

Knowing this statistic, I knew that it was very important that I had to line up contributors to make at least $10,000 in financial contributions to the crowdfunding campaign prior to our campaigns launch as this would put our campaign in the 25% threshold. Prior to our campaigns launch, I put together an excel sheet of friends and family that vowed to make a contribution on the first day of our campaigns launch with their contact information and contribution so that I could keep this organized. Through my personal funds, my co-founder Austen's funds, and some friends and family funds, we were able to reserve roughly $13,000 in financial contributions prior to the launch of our campaign which put us above the 25% mark on Day 1.

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2.) Read As Many Crowdfunding Campaign Blogs and Articles as Possible Prior to Campaign Launch

As many successful crowdfunding campaigners state, do your homework!

Prior to our campaign's launch, I probably read over 75 different articles and case studies on what caused crowdfunding campaigns to either fail or succeed. Through all of this research, I was able to learn many of the tactics that I had implemented into our marketing strategies for our campaign that resulted in us generating more contributions. This allowed me to put together a structured game plan and to have the knowledge to address issues that arose during our campaign's duration and react appropriately upon them.

3.) Consult With Crowdfunding Experts / People Who Have Successfully Crowdfunded Their Own Companies

Prior to the launch of our crowdfunding campaign, I reached out to several crowdfunding experts and individuals who ran successful crowdfunding campaigns in my network. Their insight was instrumental to the success of our campaign as they were able to provide us some incredible tips and must-do's for a successful crowdfunding campaign.

For the most part, many of these crowdfunding experts and successful crowdfunder's were in my personal network but I also utilized other resources to set up these conversations. For some of the contacts that I did not have a personal relationship with, I reached out to them on LinkedIn with a brief message on Coding Autism and my interest in learning some crowdfunding campaign advice from them. Additionally, I attended Alon Goren's and Joseph Holm's Crowd Invest Summit in Los Angeles where I learned a myriad of information about crowdfunding and was able to meet many crowdfunding experts that I later consulted with prior to our campaign's launch.

4.) Start Promoting Your Campaign at Least 1 Month Prior to Campaign Launch

As many crowdfunding experts say, successful crowdfunding results don't happen overnight!

Prior to the launch of our crowdfunding campaign, we started to generate buzz on our campaign to our friends, family, email newsletter, social media channels, and in our community. We developed specific marketing campaigns for each communication channel that we actively used such as MailChimp, personal texts, phone calls and emails, and social media channels (Hootsuite with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram integrated).

By promoting our campaign prior to our campaign launch, we were able to have a very explosive few days of our crowdfunding campaign launch. Combined with the previous scheduled contributions through our friends and family, we were able to raise roughly $18,645 in contributions through 69 supporters by day 7.

5.) Set Up a Crowdfunding Campaign Schedule for the Entire Duration of Your Crowdfunding Campaign Prior to Campaign Launch

Prior to the launch of our crowdfunding campaign, my co-founder and I put together a crowdfunding campaign schedule for the entire 30 day duration of our campaign. The schedule included autism related philanthropy events, meet-ups, the Autism Speaks Pasadena walk, SAP's Autism at Work conference in Palo Alto, and entrepreneurship events in the Los Angeles area. By setting up our schedule in advance, we were able to focus all of our attention on generating contributions for our campaign rather than scheduling events to participate in.

6.) Put Together Lists of Potential Supporters, Campaign Ambassadors, Campaign Leaders, etc. Prior to Campaign Launch

As I had previously mentioned my first commandment, putting together lists of potential supporters was essential to our campaign's success. This allowed us to put together a CRM system to check in with our interested supporters so that we could generate contributions for our campaign.

In addition to putting together lists of potential supporters, we also put together lists of potential campaign ambassadors/leaders as well as autism influencers in our community. As we needed to get our campaign in front of as many eyes as possible, we elected campaign ambassadors in geographic areas outside of Los Angeles such as San Francisco, San Diego, Austin, and New York to help push our campaign to different demographics. This ended up generating almost 20% of all of our crowdfunding contribution proceeds and may have very well been the reason as to why we were able to surpass our $50,000 goal.

7.) Invest Into Making a Emotionally Compelling and Professionally Shot Crowdfunding Campaign Video

I cannot stress enough that having a very emotionally compelling crowdfunding campaign video is integral to a crowdfunding campaign's success. As we live in a social media type world, people are more inclined to watch videos rather than read extensive text on a crowdfunding campaign page In fact, according to Forbes, containing a video on your rewards based crowdfunding campaign doubles the success of your overall crowdfunding campaign (Forbes).

To film our crowdfunding campaign video, we hired Jessica Gallegos from Substance Creative to film our video. We ended up filming a 4 minute video as we didn't want our video to be too long to where we would have viewers pass on watching the video to its entirety. The video in itself costed us approximately $6000 to create but the video was worth every penny as it captured the attention of over 150,000 people throughout the duration of our campaign.

For your reference, we attached our crowdfunding campaign video below.

8.) Invest Into a PR Agency to Help Push Your Crowdfunding Campaign

As generating a lot of buzz for our crowdfunding campaign was imperative to us, we decided to hire a PR Agency to maximize our viewership of the campaign.

We decided to hire The LaunchPad Agency to handle our PR efforts for the campaign. By working with LaunchPad, we were able to get our crowdfunding campaign and company story featured in major publications such as Mashable, Yahoo, The Mighty, and the Software Development Times as well as several radio shows. Through these publications and radio talk shows, we were able to get our crowdfunding campaign in front of roughly 100,000 different viewers, some of which contributed handsomely to our crowdfunding campaign. Their contributions offset the cost of hiring the PR Agency while generating a decent surplus of contributions to our campaign.

If we were to have relaunched our crowdfunding campaign, I would have decided to hire the PR Agency prior to the launch of our campaign. We hired the LaunchPad on Day 7 of our campaign on a 3 week contract where as if he had hired them a few weeks prior to our launch we may have been able to generate additional buzz to our campaign.

9.) Choose Your Crowdfunding Campaign Platform Wisely

I cannot stress enough the importance of choosing the right crowdfunding campaign platform for your campaign.

When Austen and I were debating on the crowdfunding campaign platform that we wanted to use, we researched over 20 different crowdfunding platforms. Depending on the type of campaign you are trying to run, there are specific crowdfunding platforms that are more advantageous for your campaign concept than others. In the crowdfunding campaign world, most people either think of Indiegogo or Kickstarter, but there are more niche platforms such as StartSomeGood, which focuses exclusively on social enterprise and non-profit campaigns.

After researching several platforms, we narrowed down our selection to either Indiegogo or StartSomeGood where we ended up selecting StartSomeGood. Austen and I were both convinced that we could 1.) Be a big fish in a small pond, and 2.) utilize the social enterprise niche aspect of StartSomeGood to generate more publicity and contributions to our campaign. Additionally, we liked that StartSomeGood only charged 5% of all contribution fees where Indiegogo charged 6% for all-or-nothing campaigns and 9% for collecting all fees regardless of hitting your goal. Lastly, we were also convinced on the higher probability of successful campaigns that StartSomeGood contained over Indiegogo as the statistic for each was 54% and 11% respectively.

In short, depending on your campaign, product/service, and business model, there are specific campaigns that may be better suited than others for your campaign. It takes some research to discover which one works best for you but the research will pay its dividends in the long run.

10.) Diversity Your Reward Offerings by Items, Price Points, and Promotional Options.

When it comes to a rewards based crowdfunding campaign, it is very important that you add variety and different price points to your rewards.

With our crowdfunding campaign, we had rewards as low as $10 and as high as $7500. We also had 12 different reward options, which consisted of a variety of tangible products such as custom Coding Autism gear such as shoes, backpack, hats, shirts, etc. as well as intangible rewards. Our tangible and intangible rewards were as follows

Tangible

• Custom Coding Autism Shirt: $40
• Custom Coding Autism Snapback Hat: $75
• Custom Coding Autism Backpack: $175
• Custom Coding Autism Shoes: $450
• Framed Picture of First Cohort: $800

Intangible

• Personal Thank You Email: $10
• Social Media Shout Out: $20
• Name on Website: $100
• Skype with the Founders: $250
• Meet the Founders: $2500
• Voucher for Student Enrollment in First Program: $7500
• Sponsorship for Coding Autism Student Enrollment: $7500

In addition to the rewards and price points mentioned above, we also incorporated promotional offerings such as early bird rewards as well as included the Coding Autism backpack later in the campaign on Day 15. We used the early bird promotion within the first 7 days of our crowdfunding campaign to entice our supporters and viewers to make contributions to our campaign right when the campaign launched. We also added new rewards mid way through the campaign so that we could convince previous contributors to purchase the newly added rewards.

Out of all the rewards above, our most frequent selection was the Name on Website for $100.

Conclusion

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my article. If you have any questions related to Coding Autism and our upcoming program launch or launching your crowdfunding campaign, don't hesitate to reach out to me at my contact information at the bottom of this blog post.

Additionally, if you would like to take a glance at our successful crowdfunding campaign page, I attached the link to our campaign below.

Coding Autism Crowdfunding Campaign

Lastly, for all the readers who are either on the autism spectrum or have friends and family on the autism spectrum, I hope that you continue to pursue your dreams and passions as I am. Never view your autism diagnosis as a disability but rather as a unique advantage to make a major imprint in our society. I have learned that having a different perception on our society can be very advantageous and when utilized in the right way the sky is the limit for you to live a fulfilling live and become successful. By keeping a positive mindset and chasing your dreams, you will reach success. If you would like to learn how Coding Autism can better position you to get back on track, feel free to reach out to me personally.

Thanks!

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