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Eric Migicovsky: How The Pebble Smartwatch Became the Most Funded Project on Kickstarter

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Update: On August 26th, 2014 The Coolest Cooler became the most funded project on Kickstarter

In April 2012 Eric Migicovsky released the world's first smartwatch for IOS and Android on Kickstarter. It quickly became and still remains the most funded project in Kickstarter history.

This is how it happened:

Q: What were your business goals and objectives for your Kickstarter campaign?

A: To give you some background, before launching Pebble there was InPulse, our first watch that was created for Blackberry. We had feedback from 1,500 customers on what improvements they were looking for in the product, which helped us created the Pebble.

While all the improvements for the Pebble watch from InPulse made sense, funding wasn’t happening. We went to Kickstarter to try our luck on getting funding from there. I had supported a project before on Kickstarter and realized that we could create a similar campaign to get funding for the new watch, Pebble.

Q: Why did you decide to seek funding on Kickstarter as opposed to seeking funding from investors or other more traditional sources?

A: After InPulse, I went to VCs that had previously invested and in a month had pitched Pebble to VCs with no luck. We weren’t getting any funding the traditional ways and were running out of the funding we had left over. So with six months left of cash, we created a Kickstarter campaign.

Q: Why did you choose Kickstarter over other crowdfunding platforms?

A: I had actually backed a project on Kickstarter before. It was in the fall of 2010 and, by coincidence, a watch. It felt cool to see in a box something that came from the website after pledging $50 and waiting four months, and I realized we could do something similar on Kickstarter to make Pebble happen.

Q: Many crowdfunding campaigns have difficulty gaining traction. Did you do any marketing or promotion to draw more traffic to your campaign?

A: We spent about a month and a half working on the Kickstarter campaign - building a prototype, shooting the video, writing the text, taking photos, and designing the Kickstarter page and pledge levels. We looked at all the famous Kickstarter projects, the ones that were most successful, and took cues from their videos. Making a video that had a personal pitch and talked directly to your customers and viewers was really important. We promoted our campaign through media, and involved Engadget as our exclusive launch partner.

Q: You surpassed your Kickstarter fundraising goal by over 10,266%. What do you attribute this to and were you surprised by your campaigns’ level of success?

A: Through the Kickstarter campaign, it was clear that smartwatches were something that people wanted and could see themselves using and benefiting from in their everyday lives. With our previous feedback from InPulse customers, our media push and campaign efforts were able to get the idea of the Pebble to lots of people who were excited about the product and wanted to make it a reality.

Q: Did the customer base you had for the InPulse Watch help provide leverage for the launch of your Pebble Watch? If so, how much of an impact do you think the customer base you established previously impacted the success of your Pebble Watch campaign on Kickstarter?

A: The early InPulse watch customers gave amazing feedback that helped create the Pebble today. We sold about $200,000 worth of InPulse smartwatches, talked to those customers, got their detailed feedback, and we were able to learn what was missing and what features they wished it had. The feedback was clear that they wanted the watch to focus more on sport and fitness, and have it available on iPhone and Android operating systems. We made that happen with Pebble.

Q: Pebble received a ton of media mentions before, during and after the launch of your Kickstarter campaign. What do you attribute this to?

A: We had a big effort to reach media, because the real thing that makes a Kickstarter project explode is how you drive traffic to your Kickstarter page. So we looked at every single blogger in the gadget space, and charted how often they wrote about Kickstarter projects. We had a list of 60 to 70 bloggers we approached when the project went live. We also decided to choose an exclusive launch media partner, Engadget, to announce the campaign. We worked with them for two months before we launched on Kickstarter. Their article went live at 7 a.m. on launch day, it drove the traffic and it blew up from there.

Q: What do you feel are some of the most common misconceptions with the crowdfunding process?

A: Setting goals needs to be done carefully to make a Kickstarter project successful. Figure out how much your project will cost to design, build and deliver and set your goal there. Our goal was set at $100,000, but if we had set it at $1 million we might not have had the success we saw - people like to back a winner. I think it’s better to be conservative than overly-optimistic. The length of the campaign is also important. Kickstarter campaigns can be up to 60 days but closer to 30 days is best. You get a lot of media attention at the launch and then as you reach the end. Keep it short to keep it fresh.

Q: If Kickstarter or a similar crowdfunding platform like it didn’t exist, how would this have impacted your ability to bring the Pebble smartwatch to the market?

A: Kickstarter and crowdfunding was truly what made Pebble come to life, since traditional funding routes weren’t working at the time. Not having Kickstarter would’ve made a huge impact on our ability to create the Pebble smartwatch.

Q: What advice would you give to other individuals or businesses who are considering setting up a crowdfunding campaign?

A: One, make something people really want; before we ever launched on Kickstarter, we had feedback from 1,500 real customers. So when we designed the Pebble Watch we made exactly what the public wanted. Two, pick three simple “use cases” for your product and demonstrate those in an easy and straightforward way. Communication is hard when talking about a new product, so figuring out a simple way to show why everyone would want a Pebble is key. Three, pre-test your Kickstarter materials with friends and family. We gave ours a demo page and a survey to get their feedback before we launched on Kickstarter. Four, get your project and story on as many sites as possible; we found only 25% of our traffic was coming from Kickstarter and the other 75% was from referring websites. Five, plan your goals and campaign wisely.

1 comment

  • Nathar Leichoz: March 31, 2017

    Thanks for the pointers, Eric!

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