Anatomy of a Viral Kickstarter: Strong Starts

October 02, 2015 by Jennifer A. Diffley

The first in a series of one successful Kickstarter campaign--learn how to fund your project by learning the ins and outs of the whole process.

Want to launch your own successful Kickstarter campaign? Here's a look behind the scenes at one campaign's journey.

It's no wonder most makers turn to Kickstarter to fuel their creations: after all, it's the the easiest and most popular crowdfunding platform in the world. But the thrill of launching a Kickstarter campaign should be tempered with sobering statistics--only about 20% of technology campaigns are successfully funded. So how can you make sure your campaign has a better chance of being funded? By taking a look at what others did right.

Travis Peterson is, based on background alone, an unlikely champion of diabolical greeting cards. After getting his undergraduate degree in finance from BYU, Peterson landed a job at a small investment bank in NYC and spent six years in the financial industry before deciding he'd had enough of a field not known for its creativity or ingenuity. Peterson decided to quit finance and devote his time to his startup: StoryShelf, a social media platform for families to safely and privately collaborate on shared memories. StoryShelf sparked a love of entrepreneurialship and catalyzed Peterson's move to California in pursuit of an MBA from UCI. 

During his time at UCI, Peterson began keeping a log of ideas--for projects, stories, or inventions that occurred to him throughout his days. One of those was for a musical card that he and his brother had been joking about. "It turned into a question," says Travis, "What if this just never stopped?"

He figured the idea for a neverending musical greeting card was good for three reasons: It was relatively simple, it was cheap, and he was excited about it. 

The Joker Greeting Card.


Those three reasons provided the motivation behind the project, but there's still one component that inventors seem to underestimate: time. And launching a Kickstarter requires a lot of it. 

Travis began Googling "greeting card manufacturers," but his card was also electronic, and so required not only paper components, but help from electrical engineers. "I started emailing everyone I could," says Travis. "I kept hitting wall after wall and there was no one willing or able to jump into the project. People told me the market doesn't exist, it's slowing down, and nobody wanted to do it. I didn't know where to look." 

Those frustrations should resonate with designers: naysayers are par for the course, as are initial frustrations like pinning down someone willing to collaborate on a project. Peterson didn't give up-- even though Google kept pointing him back to the same major sources, he persisted. Finally--after weeks of searching and sending out fruitless inquiries--Travis caught his break in an unexpected place: a LinkedIn chatroom (which hardly anyone knows exist) dedicated to greeting card professionals. Even there he met resistance until a manufacturer based in London agreed to help Travis with his project. Peterson had the manufacturer sign an NDA and worked with some lawyer friends to compile other paperwork, but when it came down to it, Peterson said he had to exercise an amount of trust with the manufacturer to get the project started. 

Travis Peterson, king of annoying greeting cards.

Even after finding the manufacturer, the process still wasn't easy. Manufacturers and their representatives are notoriously slow to respond, even when the final product benefits everyone involved. When Travis got frustrated with the speed of communication with his manufacturing representative, he contacted that person's superior and communication improved. Still, the initial prototype was delayed due to the manufacturer asking for a downpayment.

After three more months, Travis got his initial prototypes. It was then that he had to analyze the pull tab, the layout, the feel, and even the fact that the card gets louder each time the recipient hits the button in an attempt to turn the sound off. But Travis left the details of the electronics to the engineer: "As a non-engineer, I don't think I should be the one controlling what kind of hardware an engineer should choose."  That kind of hands-off approach is difficult for many builders, but is a helpful reminder to let engineers do their job: critique afterwards, not before. Peterson's London manufacturing broker located engineers who drew schematics and were responsible for bringing the design to life. At one point, to test the chip, Travis recorded the entire 5 hours of playback and put it on YouTube; even that mundane clip served to promote his invention, as it proved how loud the sound remained even after hours of repetition. 

And so Peterson had his final prototype, which meant his Kickstarter could officially launch. Now read how Travis turned an annoying greeting card into a viral sensation. 

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