Crowdfunding Crash Course: Jeffrey Martin - Sphericam
Jeffrey Martin is a photographer of 360, Gigapixel, and Panoramic photos. He used Kickstarter to successfully fund the his product the Sphericam, a 360º video camera.
Can you briefly describe Sphericam?
Sphericam is the world’s only fully spherical, 360º video camera. It records in 4K, has no blind spots, and can be played back on VR headsets like the Oculus and GearVR, as well as your PC or on your iPad.or VR headset. Jeffrey Martin is a photographer of 360, Gigapixel, and Panoramic photos. He used Kickstarter to successfully fund the his product the Sphericam, a 360º video camera.
Why did you feel that the crowdfunding model was the best way to promote the product
Crowdfunding is a great way to market products that are new to the market, or are still in prototype stages. It’s a great way to raise awareness of your product before it goes to market.
Why and how did you choose Kickstarter over other crowdfunding options available?
Kickstarter has the biggest footprint in the world of crowdfunding, and has a huge community of active members who are always searching the site for new products and ideas to back. Plus the site itself does a great job of marketing and promoting the campaigns.
How big was your budget before you launched your crowdfunding campaign?
Somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000 I’d say. This amount went towards the important stuff that makes a good campaign stand out; namely the video, marketing material and ad purchases, the copywriting for the Kickstarter and website pages, and the creation of the website itself.
How far along was your project before you felt ready to launch a crowdfunding campaign? In hindsight, would you have preferred to be farther along, or to have crowdfunded earlier?
I knew that I needed to have the camera pretty much ready before I launched the campaign, more or less at the complete prototype stage. It needed to be able to take pictures at a high enough quality that I could show people what it was going to look like.
This made my campaign different from other types of campaigns: a lot of campaigns can launch without a prototype-ready product that can be developed after the campaign is completed. A camera is different, though, you need to be able to show people exactly what they’re getting, which you can only do by providing images from the actual camera.
Can you explain how you prepared for and managed your campaign?
I had a lot of media contacts from my days as a photographer, so I made a point to reach out to them and make them aware that I was launching my campaign. I also hired a PR company to handle tasks like pitching journalists and news organizations.
I handled all of the email questions and inquiries, though, which was a huge task. While I guess I could have had someone answer them for me, I think that when you’re a small company just starting out people need to be in direct contact with the founders throughout the campaign. Once you’re a company of 10-15 people, then it’s okay to assign a task like that to someone else, but in the beginning your backers and other people with inquiries need to be hearing from you, the founder.
What tools did you use to market your campaign? Do you feel like you did so successfully, and if not, what could you have done differently?
We ran some Facebook ads which were successful, but we didn’t really scale them up because there wasn’t a lot of margin left over. Kickstarter took theirs and we needed to pay the PR company, so we weren’t able to scale up throughout the length of the campaign.
Overall I feel like we did a good job of promoting our campaign, though I wish we’d had a little more top-level press from sites like the New York Times, but… I guess everyone wishes that sort of thing, so that’s okay.
In retrospect what were your best assets for running this successful campaign? On the other hand, what would you do differently?
I feel that the best asset for our campaign was the production value. It’s the most important part of any campaign, in my opinion, because people are going to judge the quality of your product and your idea based on what they see and hear. By hiring a great copywriter and making a great video we were able to instill confidence in our potential backers.
If I could do anything differently I would have tried to generate a bit more buzz about the campaign before it started, though that’s a slippery slope because you don’t want to exhaust all of your promotional options before the campaign even starts or you won’t be able to keep up momentum and interest for very long. So, I guess it’s better to err on the side of secrecy a little bit, at least before you’re fully ready to go.
What was your biggest challenge during your campaign?
Staying sane! Running our Kickstarter was the most relentless 32 days I’ve ever had. It’s totally non stop, and if you do take a day off -which you can, if you plan- you’ll have so much catching up to do the next day that it might not even seem worth it.
What’s the most valuable advice you could share with aspiring crowdfunders?
Be honest with yourself about what you’re not good at and find people who can help you accomplish those tasks. If you’re no good at understanding analytics for ads, copywriting, budgeting, whatever, it’s better to admit that to yourself and to ask for help, rather than struggle through it and potentially waste your own time.
For example, I could have written some copy for the Kickstarter page and the website but I would have really struggled with it, so I decided to pay someone to do it for me, and they did it the right way. You need to learn to delegate tasks, and to be part of a growing team as things progress.
This post is part of a series! For more interviews and summary posts, check out the Crowdfunding Crash Course page.