Gadget Flow Podcast Episode 12 – Rob Wilson of Crowdfunding Champions

On this podcast, we sat down with Rob Wilson of Crowdfunding Champions to talk about entrepreneurship and how to make your campaign a success.

  • Crowdfunding Champions provides insightful and comprehensive research on the current state of the industry.
  • You can find more information as well as contact Rob Wilson through his Twitter profile.

Can you give a snapshot of who you are and what you do?

Rob: Of course! I got involved in crowdfunding back in 2014, when I cofounded CrowdReach, which is an online advertising agency specialized in Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns. More recently I set up Crowdfunding Champions, which is an online resource for entrepreneurs to learn from successful crowdfunding campaigns.

How old are you?

Rob: Twenty-three.

What was your journey like getting into crowdfunding?

Rob: I got involved in crowdfunding whilst I was still studying university. I was studying entrepreneurship and that´s where I met my two cofounders; as part of the course we were required to run certain business projects throughout the year. One of those business projects that we got involved with was helping a startup to launch their product on Kickstarter. We did a lot of research to understand, we had nothing; we had no clue about Kickstarter, so it was really understanding what Kickstarter was, how it works, and what you needed to do to launch a successful campaign. A lot of time and effort went into that, it paid off; we had a really successful campaign. And, once we finished that campaign we saw an opportunity to help other entrepreneurs to launch their products on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. That’s when we launched CrowdReach.

After you launched CrowdReach, you came out of school and then built Crowdfunding Champions, or how did that come to be?

Rob: We´ve been running CrowdReach now for a few years. It’s just been recently that I´ve been involved with a lot of workshops and a lot of talks; I´m really keen on educating entrepreneurs and helping them to launch campaigns, and there was one thing I always felt was missing, and that was the research in the space. So I’d often tried and find answers to certain questions, and when I found that there wasn’t anything out there, all I could find was industry reports and academic papers, but there was nothing really that was providing creators with practical research that they could apply. I then decided that it would be a good idea for us to launch a survey of the top campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. What we did was, we conducted this survey, we put it together in a report, and it was really to provide our clients with a resource and they found it really useful. Since then I´ve decided to set up independently and we´ve just recently published our 2018 report, which looks at the most successful campaigns from last year.

Rob Wilson of Crowdfunding Champions

Rob Wilson of Crowdfunding Champions

What does the report cover?

Rob: What we really wanted to do initially with the first report was to uncover the secrets behind the success of top campaigns. You quite often see the headlines the “six-figure plus campaigns,” but you don’t often hear the story behind the success of the campaign, and to understand exactly what that creator did months before the campaign, what it did during, what worked, what didn’t work. What this report does is, it brings together all of that, the preparation of what creators did before they launched. It´s looking a lot at the marketing, what type of channel did creators use, how effective they were, how much did creators spend on marketing. All of these things together to provide a snapshot for launching a six-figure plus campaign.

All the information on the report is hard to get, how did you get all that information?

Rob: Firstly what we did was we first looked at all of the campaigns that successfully raised 100k or more on Kickstarter and Indiegogo; in the design and technology category. Once we had that sort of database, we then went through and contacted each and every one of them, inviting them to fill out our survey. The way that we pitched this was that this is going to be a free resource for creators, and really we want to help the whole industry to launch more successful campaigns, so it´s really in everyone’s interest that they fill out the survey, to be as honest as possible, so that we can collect all of that data, put it together and provide a really valuable resource for other creators.

Who are some entrepreneurs or business owners that you follow or are inspired by?

Rob: There’s a lot really, I wouldn’t really put it down to one. There´s a lot of successful entrepreneurs that I follow, listen into their podcast. I´m a big fan of Tim Ferriss and his work, especially looking at the podcast where he’s interviewing and a whole host of successful people, so you get a real sort of rounded experience of all these different entrepreneurs.

Tim Ferriss is an interesting guy on his own, but one of the greatest parts about him is his ability to ask the right questions, to the right person, at the right time. Those interviews are just so interesting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a single guest that he’s had on but I’ve just listened to that episode over and over and over because it’s just so full of good stuff.
I think it´s so interesting as well if you look at his journey if look back at the first few podcasts, there´s such a difference between the way he is now and the confidence he has, he has really evolved in his interviewing over time.

What is the worst piece of advice you hear about crowdfunding?

Rob: Good question – I don’t think I really have a straight answer to that. I think just to give a different answer really, would be preparation. I guess there is still some naivety around what is involved in a successful campaign. And, as I mentioned before, quite often you will see a campaign, like right at its peak – I don’t know if you´ve seen before, there´s a great picture that sort of explains this is the iceberg of success, and you know most of the time you only see the top of that iceberg but you don’t see the years of preparation, and the hard work, and the grit and determination that is beneath that. I think it´s exactly the same with crowdfunding campaigns and one of the questions that we ask in our survey this year was to give one piece of advice to other creators looking to launch a real successful campaign. One of the key themes here was preparation, it´s understanding who your target market is, it´s doing the research into other campaigns to understand how they did it. The big thing is building up that community before launch. In both of our reports, a key finding is that these creators build up subscriber list before launch, they´re able to then launch a campaign and already have people waiting to back. One interesting thing as well that we asked this year in our survey is the conversion rates of these e-mail subscribers. Why this is interesting is, because what you can do is you can reverse engineer it, and you can then understand exactly the value of a subscribe list and how much is likely to be raised just through that list. You can then have a good understanding of how much you´re likely to raise in the first 24 hours. That’s really useful for creators to understand what the average conversion rate is.

What would you say to someone that´s starting out, are some ways you can prepare in order to have a successful campaign?

Rob: The big one as I mentioned, building out that community but I guess before that is the research, and looking at the product that you´re looking to bring to Kickstarter, Indiegogo. This was another big theme that we found that came out of our advice question, and one particular creator summed this up really well, and I completely agree with him, they said “not every product is eligible to raise six figures,” and I think that is completely true. What we find at CrowdReach, we get a lot of inquiries and there´s a lot of creators that come to us and say “I want to raise x amount,” and you look at the product, you do some research, you look at similar products that have launched before that and quite honestly you then question whether or not that target is actually realistic. It´s doing the research, looking at similar products that have launched in the past and really trying to understand who is backing these campaigns and what´s worked for them.

Where do you see crowdfunding five years from now?

Rob: I think one thing that has been interesting looking at since I got involved in crowdfunding back in 2014, is really the shift from a campaign being seen as a fundraiser to a campaign being seen as a pre-commerce, a launch of the product. And I guess evidence of this is the marketing budget. Of the creators that we´ve looked at in both years quite consistently, the average marketing spending is around fifty thousand dollars. There’s serious money going into these campaigns and it’s interesting as well when you look at the average target, which is actually less than the marketing spend. It does just show that it´s not about a creator coming to the platform and asking for a certain amount of money in order to create a product, it´s so much more than that. I guess that´s one thing, another thing that we´re seeing is, creators returning to the platform which is really interesting. We find most of our clients know if they have a successful campaign and they´re able to deliver on their promises, and the backers are happy with the product they´ve received, then the chances are they´re going to come back a few months’ time with a newer product or a newer version. What’s interesting there is that they´re able to utilize their existing community. You do see that creators, I wouldn’t say it´s easy, it´s definitely easier, I´m not saying it´s easy, but at least they´re able to leverage their existing community and get that early momentum. Once you have a few campaigns done and dusted then you know the process and it should all go from there.

I´ve seen that happen before, I really like these guys, their company is called Studio Neat and they make a lot of really cool products which are 100% crowdfunded. They´ve had a lot of success early on, doing that, and it just seems that every time they put out a new product that’s on Kickstarter, it just seems that so much of their preexisting community buys it without even thinking about it, because they make good stuff and they follow through on their promises.

Exactly, and people are invested in them because they feel part of that company. Just to throw in a quick sort of step there, one thing that we found was really interesting, was that we had nineteen creators that were able to raise, were able to launch more than one six-figure plus campaign last year, and we actually had two creators that launched 3 six-figure plus campaigns in a single year, so it does just show some of these creators are really nailing it and they know exactly what they´re doing.

What is something that your research tells you or your experience tells you, to keep the momentum up throughout the entirety of your campaign? What do you do in the middle to make it interesting to more people to get into your campaign?

Rob: Great question! As you’ve alluded to this here, what normally happens is you get the sort of classic U-shaped funding graph. There is normally a spike at the start of the launch that’s mainly down to the existing or the community that the creators built up before launch and then it´s also sort of the last week because it´s that urgency, because it´s your last chance to get the special price or the product or whatever it is. I think one thing that is really effective is online advertising, and again it´s something that we found in the research and interestingly this time around, what we actually found was that Facebook Ads were said to be the main source of pledges for most of the creators that we interviewed. Facebook Ads can be a really effective way of driving traffic and creating new backers. It´s definitely, I´d say the most effective way of keeping that momentum, I think one piece of advice that I would give is to make sure that your product has the margins in order for you to be able to run paid ads, because it can be costly and if you don’t have the margins or you have a particularly cheap product, then you may find it difficult to get conversions in at profits for rate.

Where can people stay up to date with you and what you’re up to?

Rob: I guess the best place to direct people to is Crowdfunding Champions, so it´s crowdfundingchampions.com and if you head over to that website you´ll be able to find our two reports, which look at the most successful tech and design campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. There’s a whole load of research and stats there for creators to learn from.

For more such interesting podcasts on crowdfunding, marketing, product placement, and everything in between, subscribe to the Gadget Flow podcast now.

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Meet Alex Sugg

Alex is a content creator living in New York City.

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