Ideas can come easily, but the hard part is finding the money to actually turn them into products. Getting an investor pre-revenue is like winning the lottery. You could ask family and friends to pool money, but then your investors become too personal. The best way to fund your startup is crowdfunding.
This past summer I designed an innovative watch buckle and didn’t know how to fund the first production run. As a sophomore in college, funding a production run seemed impossible -- I didn’t have money and time was scarce. Classes took up my days and homework flooded my nights. Scheduling my days was key. I turned to crowdfunding because it is extremely cost-effective. Here are three way I kept costs down when launching my campaign:
Getting to your prototype. Most crowdfunding platforms require the creators to have a working prototype in order to launch. Depending on your business, this can include working with a supplier in China to customize existing products, or a thorough long-hauled development process.
Either way, to keep your costs down, be on the lookout for people that value the startup experience. When launching my website, I kept an eye out for designers building their portfolio -- I ended up connecting with a web designer through a mutual friend who developed my website for free. This whole process of turning an idea into a product should be documented, as most crowdfunding platforms focus on creativity. Kickstarter, for example, screens projects based on if the creator showcased their stages in development.
Creating your campaign page. There are no costs associated with launching a crowdfunding campaign (fees are taken out later). You can write all the content yourself and have your friends edit it. If you have a product to show, rally your network to find someone capable of taking professional-quality photos.
For your video, anything will do (I’ve seen videos shot with iPhones), but if you want something more professional, reach out to your friends into videography. In my case as a college student, I contacted the director of my university’s news station and had him send an email blast to its members. Within a week, I partnered with a skilled videographer looking to gain experience.
Pushing for free exposure. The most important part of launching a successful crowdfunding campaign is getting the word out. Blogs, magazines and newspapers are all constantly looking to post interesting content. You can easily be your own publicist. The hard part is finding the right media outlets to connect with.
Utilize Google’s image search to find relevant blogs -- simply choose three wildly successful crowdfunding campaigns in your category, copy their main image, and paste it in Google’s image search bar. You now have at least five pages of media outlets to contact. Keep your message short and sweet when reaching out -- the outlets get pitched by hundreds of people a day. All you need to say is who you are, what you’re doing and how it is different.
If you’re really pressed for time, bring on an intern from a local college in your area. When launching, I had two interns from my university working for free to gain experience. Combined, we sent around 150 emails a day, enabling us to be covered by major outlets including the Washington Post, Huffington Post and Bro Bible. Don’t be scared to follow up too -- emails do get trashed.
I utilized these cost-effective approaches in my current crowdfunding campaign for my startup, Yes Man Watches. We didn’t spend any money to launch our campaign and met our $15,000 goal in three days.