Electric scooter startup Raine has smashed through its crowdfunding goals, raising its minimum target of $73,000 in just 43 minutes, and doubling that within two hours.
The startup is led by a team of serial entrepreneurs: Marc Alexander, who previously co-founded smart lightbulb startup LIFX; James Murphy, who also founded BajaBoard, an off-road electric skateboard business; and Michelle Manning, who has previously been named Dell’s young hero entrepreneur of the year.
Raine is promising safer e-scooters, equipped with ABS, traction control and personalisable headlights.
At the time of writing, it has raised just shy of $250,000, almost 350% of its original crowdfunding goal. It has also secured $500,000 in seed funding from Blackbird Ventures.
Co-founder Mark Alexander tells StartupSmart the plan was to tap into the community, and get people talking about Raine.
Having raised funding through Kickstarter in 2012 with LIFX, he also assisted with headphone startup Nura’s raise, which is still the most successful Kickstarter campaign in Australian history.
“You get to actually show people what you’re making for them,” Alexander says.
Equally, it means the founders were able to get feedback from people who are actually interested in being customers.
“It helps you refine what you’re actually delivering to them.”
Changing fashion funding
By selling personal e-scooters, Raine is bucking the scooter- and bike-sharing startup trend. But it’s also arguably reigniting interest in Kickstarter as a valuable resource for businesses.
Once the equity crowdfunding legislation was passed in March 2017, and extended to include eligible private companies in September 2018, a swathe of startups began going down that route for a capital boost. Now, the trusty Kickstarter campaign seems to be coming back into fashion.
Just last month, eco-friendly cleaning product startup ZeroCo raised $200,000 in less than a week.
Co-founder Mike Smith, a serial entrepreneur, told StartupSmart at the time the idea behind raising funds via Kickstarter, rather than through equity crowdfunding or other more traditional startup funding methods, was partly to see how much support they could drum up from the public.
That mission was also at least in part linked to the startup’s stance of tackling plastic waste.
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“To solve this plastic problem it’s going to take a groundswell of support from Aussies from all walks of life,” Smith explained.
“It needs to be people from all over the country coming together and deciding to change the way that we as a society deal with plastic.”
The ZeroCo crowdfunding campaign is intended to “empower people to join us on this mission and to contribute to making this thing real”, he added.
“We can’t do it without people coming on board.”
In May this year, entrepreneur Nathan Darma told SmartCompany how his high-end playing card business Implicit built a strong network of followers in the Australian magic community.
“The card world is quite niche, with strong followers who love to collect premium playing cards,” he said.
For Alexander, equity crowdfunding and Kickstarter-style crowdfunding are different animals. Kickstarter is also partly about ensuring product-market fit.
“For me, Kickstarter is crowd and people engagement,” he says.
“You’ve got that blessing of them giving you a preorder and financial support upfront.”
While there was a period when Kickstarter had some trouble with delivery, and some projects were perhaps a tad scrappy and underdeveloped, “I think that temporary season is fairly long gone”, Alexander says.
“Real teams and real companies and real small businesses are actually back on Kickstarter, and I think delivery has got a lot better.”
Communication is key
So, if other startups are thinking of following in Raine’s footsteps and drumming up some funding through a platform like Kickstarter, Alexander’s advice is to “avoid launching silently”.
“The bigger and better community you have before launching, the better it is,” he says.
It’s also important to communicate with that community. If people reach out via email or on social media, talk back to them.
“Give them real, direct and honest updates,” he advises.
It may seem obvious, but it’s also crucial to take nice pictures of the products, he says.
“Even having recent-model smartphones help you take great pictures now.”
And finally, perhaps most importantly, make sure you can deliver, he says.
“If it’s your first campaign it shows in what you’re presenting and how you’re talking about it, if it’s something you’ve got a good chance of delivering,” he adds.