Pitching, Pitching, Pitching (from someone who is not a pitcher)

Last year I made the transition between being a writer, freelancer, and then really just in general wanting to make a startup without really knowing what to do (except for an idea and the coding/design mojo). And as all programmers/product people do, I then went on to prototype something (as in wanting to make a big system that works), spend a whole lot of time with it, and only mumble something incoherently when someone asked me, “What is your startup about?”

My answer (mostly): “Well, umm… yeah… it’s about recommendation system for beauty product. Umm, something for beauty enthusiasts…” (by this time I’m all sweated out on my armpits, trying to notice if this other person is interested in my idea or not, or if this person already deemed me as the most stupid person in the whole world because I gave out that idea). I then would still try to go on convincing this other person, sometimes just to be told in the end that I wasn’t assertive enough. Or the idea wasn’t clear enough. Or they are just not interested and think it’s a silly idea (double pain!).

But really, all of those don’t matter when from time to time I get lucky and someone told me, “Oh I love it! I love beauty things. Could you tell me more about it?”

I see their eyes light up, and I know they are genuinely interested in what I do. Genuinely curious and excited to see what I’ve done.

At those moments, I know, this is why I am doing what I do!

But the most important lesson is, I should keep talking about my idea. And whenever you find someone who lights up about your idea, engage them, find out what excites them. It is the beauty of the early startup.

I know by now some of you would nod with me, but then some other would’ve thought something like my old response. “Sure, I’ve heard and read a lot about ask your customers, test your products early, fail, yada, yada. I start later when I have my prototype.”

I know it’s not easy if what you’re asking is your baby. It’s really like asking a stranger if your kids are good looking. You might always think they are the most adorable little beings in the world (and you should!), but this other person might think they are awfully ugly and horrible (please, you know this is possible!).

There are already a lot of tips and blog posts from other experts about this already. But what I found really helpful is this:

  1. It might be painful to have rejections now, but it will be even more painful to have rejections next year after you poured in the hard work. So do it now.
  2. It’s actually a very nice feeling (trust me!) when you found your early adopters. This is when you want to spend time with them, find out what they need, what’s their burning problem and whether you can solve it. If you can’t find any early adopters, maybe it’s better to look for another idea (just saying!).

Is it going to get better? Well, the nervousness will go away with practice, but as the stakes get higher too, it might not. Part of being an entrepreneur is that you’d have to also be ready to get constantly pushed out of your comfort zone!

 

Lessons from the Crowdfunding Talk with Slava Rubin, CEO of Indiegogo

Indiegogo Crowdfunding Talk at Betahaus

Indiegogo Crowdfunding Talk at Betahaus

This is a late blogpost, because the event actually took place on 29 October 2013. I think it’s relevant again, because my friends from the Open Tech School Berlin wanted to raise funding through an Indiegogo campaign for their Hackership program. If you’re a hacker/programmer, check it out, participate and donate. If you’re a tech business person, check it out and donate, it’ll be good for your “looking for a CTO” karma.

The panel featured Slava Rubin, CEO and Co-Founder of Indiegogo, and Thomas Herzog, Innovestment – crowd investment platform. (I am so sorry I forgot the names of the other two present in this panel). It is hosted by Christoph Raethke, founder of Berlin Startup Academy.

Here are my notes from that day, a little scatterbrained but I hope it would create some helpful points for someone who wanted to start a crowdfunding.

Why do people actually give money

There are four basic reasons people want to give money through crowdfunding:

  1. They care about the person or the cause.
  2. They want one of the perks mentioned in the campaign.
  3. They just want to participate.
  4. They want profit (which only applies if it’s a crowd invesment).

Are your funding request satisfy one of the four?

There’s no specific limit to what your causes are because it’s currently very diverse. It’s ranging from things like charity, building furniture, games, companies, and artistic things.

But it’s not all about money

If you’re a company, doing a crowdfunding campaign is actually not all about money, it’s more to do with:

  1. Market validation, because you could see how many people who will actually buy your product, or give you money for your service.
  2. Extra promotion, because you could get more awareness for your campaign through indiegogo newsletter, or people talking about it, buzz is a buzz.
  3. Test marketing.

It’s not just transaction, but also building customer relation (because you know who actually cared about your product).

What you need to do to raise money

These are the common aspects of successful campaign. You don’t have to follow them, but these tips will definitely give you better chance :

  1. Have a good pitch, make a great video (most successful ones have this)
  2. Proactive, keep updating your campaign. 93% of successful campaign has perks, averaging around 3-8 perks.
  3. Have an audience that cares.
  4. Team of more than 4 people has 70% more success chance.
  5. If the campaign raise 25% in 5 days in less, it has a more successful rate of raising the fund.

Promoting your campaign

What’s a good campaign when nobody knows about it? Surprisingly (if you’re more into social media like me), the most effective way for spreading your campaign to people who would fund your campaign are:

  1. e-mail
  2. facebook
  3. twitter

Yes. In that order.

Source of funding

The source of funding usually comes from 1/3 your network, 1/3 network of network, 1/3 indiegogo network.

Democratization

Indiegogo is democratizing the process, anyone could make a campaign. In this sense, it’s also an automated system, indiegogo is not there to promote your campaign.

Mistakes

There’s only two types of mistake people do in campaigning

  1. Not educated: then it’s indiegogo’s fault
  2. Educated but just not put it to work.

Strategy

If you follow the strategy, you’ll have 100% chance of winning your funding.

Strategy you’d need to have

  1. Video strategy, how to approach people. It usually followed this pattern. The optimal length is 2-3 minutes. The first 30 sec and last 15 sec should especially made for indiegogo. First 30 sec: “Hi this is campaign… for indiegogo….” 2 mins 15 sec what it is exactly you’re working on, last 15 sec, “thank you and share”.
  2. Perk strategy, what kind of perks you offer and how it is influencing the campaign.
  3. Update strategy, should you putting in new perks or some secret strategy.
  4. Press strategy, organic natured, influencer strategy.
  5. Host community, people who would bring in more money.

If you don’t know who’s funding you on day one, don’t launch – Slava Rubin, CEO of Indiegogo

It’s is better to do your research and get a list of backers first before you launch your project and hoping it will magically get funded by some rich leprechauns. Also be sure to focus on authenticity and engagement, no sale and beg.

 

Lesson Learned from Speaking at Ignite Berlin

Last night was the night! Thanks to the organizers, Yasmina, Claudia, and Peter, thanks to all of you who attended the event! I had a really great time!

I will share the video and slides soon, but right now I just wanted to share my experience and impressions from doing it. I hope this would be useful for people who are thinking about speaking at Ignite!

Talk about YOUR passion

There’s only a few events where you get to do this. It’s a stage where you get to share what you’re passionate about, package it into a compelling 5 minute talk where the open audience will ‘have to’ listen to you 😉 ! It’s your chance to introduce them to your passion. It’s truly a rare opportunity. Use it!

Ignite Format is Brutal… But FUN

When you heard about it, it seemed simple. 5 minutes, 20 slides. Sounds easy. The speakers also made it looked easy. But it’s not that simple. You have to tell a story in 5 minutes. And the 15 seconds auto advance is brutal. You don’t really have time to breathe on stage. You have to get up there and got instantly ON. No time to think anymore. On the other hand, it’s only 5 minutes. Even if you screwed up, you still would learn something. The audience is usually very supportive, and nobody going to throw a rotten tomato at you ;).

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