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Lessons Learned From a Massive Kickstarter Failure

Studio Neat are a duo of product makers out of Austin, Texas. They make simple, well designed products for everyday life… mostly for geeks.

They had several big successes on Kickstarter like the original Glif, the Cosmonaut Stylus, and the Neat Ice Kit, garnering press like this article in Wired which calls them the “Kickstarter Kings.”

And then they failed… hard.

An ambitious product called Obi, an automated laser toy for cats, fell miserably short of its goal. The failure dented the company’s projected earnings significantly. One of the founders, Dan Provost, says he wasn’t sure if the company would be able to keep going on.

But yesterday Studio Neat launched their first Kickstarter campaign since Obi, an update to their popular Glif Smartphone Tripod Mount. I sat down with Dan Provost to ask what they learned from the failure of Obi and in what ways they approach Kickstarter projects differently now.

Watch the interview:

3 lessons learned from a Kickstarter failure:

1. Think more deeply about who your audience is and who you’re serving. After the success of the first Kickstarter projects StudioNeat ranged further outside their core audience (from Apple accessories to home cocktail accessories). Results were fine… until they roamed a little too far. After a big Kickstarter failure StudioNeat are coming back with a product focused much more on their core audience.

“I still want to feel the freedom to enter these different markets (like cocktails, etc), but it was kind of, like, ‘OK, let’s tap the brakes and think about our existing audience and serving them instead of jumping all over the place.’”

2. Don’t bet the whole farm on a single project. StudioNeat put a lot of hope in the Obi project — I mean, they had 5 huge successes previous to it, seemed safe to assume. But when that project failed it meant their whole plan for revenue was shot down. If you can, do smaller projects more often instead of big projects you have to bet the year on.

“We’re just trying to do more products and release them quicker in hopes that not a single one of them has to be a blockbuster, but, hopefully the cumulative effect works out.”

3. Don’t do too much work behind closed doors before bringing the project out to Kickstarter to validate the idea. With Obi they did a TON of work to create a prototype before testing if the public wanted a product like this on Kickstarter. Looking back, it feels like too much time probably. On Kickstarter you’ve got to bring enough preparation — you can’t just show up with a sketch on a napkin. But it’s easy to do too much work and effectively waste that time on a project that doesn’t get funded.

“Don’t be ridiculous and show up with just a sketch and then put it on Kickstarter, BUT also, maybe don’t be super precious about putting every last detail in place, because in the end that could all just be wasted effort if the campaign doesn’t succeed.”

Acknowledge and move on

A tremendous amount of FUD — fear, uncertainty and doubt — clouds your mind when, after a string of successes, you hit a serious setback. Your future seems impossible. You vacillate between anxiety and depression as all the voices come swimming up in your mind to insult you.

I’m glad to know Dan and Tom, and proud to watch them push through the muck to find more success. At the time of writing this their latest Kickstarter campaign is 83% funded… on it’s first day.

My thanks to Dan Provost for taking the time to talk with us at Fizzle today. Find out more about Studio Neat.

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