Emerging Technology

SmartCompany blogger closes off one of Australia’s most successful Kickstarter campaigns – and reveals his secrets

Patrick Stafford /

An SEO and digital marketing expert along with his business partner has just completed one of Australia’s most successful Kickstarter programs to date – a “super soft” earmuff for sleeping.

The project needed $10,000. It raised $110,000, placing it among the most successful Kickstarter projects in Australia.

The campaign is a lesson in not only using Google in creative ways to find business opportunities, but also for crowdfunding in general – and what to do when you find yourself with extra money.

Chris Thomas, who is a blogger for SmartCompany on digital marketing and sales, along with business partner Dillon Bailey, came up with the idea after using Google’s suggested search functionality.

“I used Google search and the suggestion always came back for people searching for sleeping ear muffs. All the results just came back for ear plugs and similar products,” he says.

“It didn’t take long for me to realise there was the opportunity here, and that no one was creating a product around this concept.”

Thomas completed a patent search to figure out if he would breach any laws, but found once he was in the clear, he was able to go ahead with the project.

“Within minutes [of posting], we were getting our first pledges.”

The concept of crowdfunding has taken the business world by storm over the last couple of years. Kickstarter has been the most successful site, funding tens of millions of dollars to various projects including manufacturing gadgets, such as the Pebble Watch, documentaries or even videogames.

Local sites such as Pozible have even taken up the challenge, although Kickstarter has the bigger audience.

However, crowdfunding campaigns carry their own levels of risk, as Thomas and Bailey attest. The concept of being funded by consumers rather than private equity means companies are more beholden to the will of their backers.

At one point there was some miscommunication and angst over the way rewards were structured. The pair had to develop a strategy about communicating and dealing with backers who wanted things done a certain way.

“It’s interesting because from Kickstarter’s perspective, they have high visibility of projects before they launch, but once they launch they rely on the community to report anything outside the guidelines.

“But of course, users will encourage behaviour outside the guidelines!”

Kickstarter is becoming more stringent about its guidelines, however. It recently changed standards for manufacturing companies and even cancelled a project that drew criticism for being sexist.

But the pair’s problems came from unexpected sources – like making sure the page was ready once the campaign was finished. Once the funding deadline expires, no changes can be made to a page.

A Kickstarter page is an incredible SEO resource – Thomas says the pair was scrambling yesterday to make sure it was updated.

“We made links that point back to the website, and we did something fancy with the redirect where we can direct traffic in different directions.

“The page is the gift that keeps on giving, really. It’ll be there forever. Kickstarter, from an SEO perspective, is really authoritative.”

While most Kickstarters tend to worry about raising enough money, the pair say they had the opposite problem – being ready to figure out what the extra cash would mean for their budget.

“You need to prepare for the best scenario with Kickstarter,” says Bailey. “You’re talking to an enthusiastic group of cashed-up individuals who are going to be your backers.

“I actually think we should have let our project go longer, we could have gotten more money.”

There is one regret, however: Thomas says the pair could have spent more money on the project’s video.

“There is a correlation on the quality of the video and the bids, and what you end up raising,” he says.

“I don’t think our video was particularly inspiring like some of the big productions. It was a solid first crack at it.”

Now, the pair hope to own the “sleeping ear muff” space for now and the foreseeable future. It’s something they might not have been able to do with a normal business model, Thomas says.

“You can go to private equity, but this is the most effective way of having to raise money without giving away anything. It’s a low risk model.”

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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