Emanuele Cesena

Security Engineer at Pinterest, Co-founder at SoloKeys

Launching a Technical Kickstarter — Solo: Open Source Security Key

Update: Solo is available at solokeys.com. In the US, you can also buy it from Amazon.

In this post I’m going to share 3 tips for a successful technical crowdfunding campaign, based on our experience with Solo Kickstarter.

Solo is a security key that protects your online accounts such as Google and Facebook against phishing. It’s the first key to be open source and to support the newest FIDO2 standard, that offers the strongest protection.

We’ve got 100% funded in 20 minutes, just passed 2,000 backers, and got featured by Kickstarter themselves as a “Project We Love”. We’re not one of the stellar multi-million dollar campaigns, but we can proudly say that we’ve done a good job. I think it’s also worth noting that secure login is an objectively hard space to be in, as if you search “login” on Kickstarter all 22 campaigns from 2011 to 2018 have failed.

There’s no shortage of articles and how-tos for creating successful crowdfunding campaigns, so I’ll just focus on the 3 things we found most useful in launching a successful technical project on Kickstarter.

Show how it works, use less technical jargon.

Our product and campaign are still incredibly technical, but we invested a lot of energy in simplifying our messaging. Our first two pictures are a GIF of how it works, and a rainbow of colors. Most of our copy is about benefits to the users -mostly in bold- versus technical details or features. While there’s definitely space for improvement in our campaign story, the work we put into simplifying and streamlining the messaging helped us tremendously, not only in sounding accessible to backers, but also in answering questions, talking to friends, etc.

Go for the lowest goal you can.

Here’s my theory on goal-setting: there are 10 types of people in this world, nerds and non-nerds. Both may randomly and unpredictably arrive at your campaign. Nerds will read all the details, will ask weird questions, and will pledge. Non-nerds won’t understand anything about your technical campaign, so they’ll either believe you and pledge, or will go away. Having a funded campaign helps increase your trust, so the sooner your campaign can reach its funding goal, the sooner normal people will start participating.

Follow the best.

Get inspiration from successful campaigns of similar products. In our case, we drew great inspiration from Digispark: similar device, similar price point, though we wanted to give a less technical feeling. We also carefully studied Pebble 2 + Time 2 since similar to our Solo and Solo Tap, they were selling 2 products in a single campaign. Pebble is also a great example of speaking to benefits to the buyer rather than just product features.

I’m planning another post with a deeper dive into the main components of our campaign, and if you’re interested in any particular aspect please let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter @0x0ece. Stay safe online with Solo!

Update: Our Kickstarter has been a success! We reached our goal in less than 20min, and raised over $120K from almost 3K backers. Solo is now available at solokeys.com. In the US, you can also buy it from Amazon.

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