Second Time’s a Charm: The Sleep Sensei Kickstarter Comeback

5 Lessons from an unsuccessful Kickstarter

Jeremy Wilson is the mechanical engineer behind the Sleep Sensei – A sleep coaching device that sits on your nightstand and gently guides you towards a deep, restful sleep.

Last November, Jeremy set out to secure funding for the Sleep Sensei on Kickstarter. While the first campaign raised over $2,500, the project still fell short of it’s goal.

Now Jeremy is back with a new video, a revamped campaign and an updated Sleep Sensei.

So what did he do differently? What lessons did he learn? Here are five key take-aways from his Kickstarter to yours:

#1 Set the Right Goal
Being flexible with the amount of units he planned to sell was important to Jeremy, especially given how the first campaign hit only 10% of his original goal. Thanks to scalable manufacturing from Ponoko, Jeremy’s second Kickstarter goal could be more conservative: “I have plans for how I can produce 100 units, and how I can produce 1000+ units” Jeremy says, “while still keeping my costs low enough to recoup my development costs.”

One thing to keep in mind: setting a smaller goal won’t keep you from having a huge success. In fact, people are more likely to pile on once they see you’ve met your goal.

#2 Get a Hand With Your Video
According to Kickstarter, projects with videos succeed at a rate of 50% while those without tend to only get funded 30% of the time. So how do you make sure your video is a success? For starters, don’t do it all yourself. Get someone else behind the camera so you can focus on sharing your passion with your audience. This time around, Jeremy got help from his girlfriend to shoot & direct the video. In addition, he reached out to lots of friends and family to get feedback before posting. “I found it was very useful to get outsider’s opinions on these things” says Jeremy, “they could catch details that I left out, or things that were unclear to those unfamiliar with the product.”

#3 Get to a Final Design, Quick
Soon after the prototyping phase is over, most hardware founders start making plans on how to launch a pre-order campaign on Kickstarter. This has several advantages: you can get feedback from your backers before you’ve set your design in stone, and you can beat any potential competition by being first to market.

But this approach does have it’s drawbacks: “In my last Kickstarter the design of the Sleep Sensei was not finalized, so backers didn’t necessarily know what to expect would arrive at their doorstep when the campaign ended.” Jeremy says “Between the end of the last campaign and this one, I finalized the design, added a few features to the functionality of the device, and made a handful of test units to get confidence in the manufacturability and usability of the product.”

#4 Don’t Forget About Your Offline Audience
By finalizing his design early, Jeremy was able to test out and get first hand reactions to the Sleep Sensei. He brought the finalized prototype to the Bay Area Maker Faire and listened to the kinds of questions potential backers had. Any questions that came up repeatedly were added to his project’s F.A.Q.

In addition to spreading the word, getting offline input like this provided Jeremy with customer feedback and insights that he couldn’t have gotten online.

#5 Get The Word Out
Kickstarter is a chance to put your project into the world, but it won’t happen if you don’t tell people about it. “You can have the best product in the world,” Jeremy says, “but nobody will find out about it without a bit of networking and marketing. Find a local maker space, find a meetup, share your ideas with your friends, attend a convention, or find a forum online that would be interested. Get the word out any and every way you can!”.

In addition, try to get your product into the hands of as many people as you can while you’re still developing it. In Jeremy’s case, this meant running an informal sleep study with users he found on an insomnia form, and using their feedback to craft his final product.

The Takeaway:
Even if your first Kickstarter doesn’t succeed, the lessons you’ll learn will be indispensable. Sometimes, a failed campaign is the perfect way to learn how to succeed next time around.

If you are one of those folks who just can’t stop their mind racing at the end of the day (maybe obsessing over the details of your next crowdfunding campaign?) then head over to Kickstarter to get your hands on a Sleep Sensei of your own.

Was this post helpful to you? Got any comeback tips of your own? Let us know in the comments.

Hiring a Content & Email Marketing Manager

ARE YOU A COMMUNICATOR WHO WANTS TO JOIN A DIGITAL MAKING PIONEER?

We have a part time Content & Email Marketing Manager role (developing into a full time role if you wish) for a B2B communicator who’s in the digital product design, making and commercialisation space.

You’ll be leading, planning, creating & promoting remarkable content and email newsletters for our online community of 145,000 makers, designers, Kickstarter entrepreneurs, ETSY sellers, brands/businesses and creative agencies. And to help us change the world.

ABOUT YOU

* You believe what we believe … That mass production is going local.

* You value what we value … That striving for greatness is exciting.

* You have a deep desire to help makers, designers, Kickstarter entrepreneurs, ETSY sellers, brands/businesses and creative agencies be successful at making beautiful custom products, and commercialising them. This will make it easy for you to smile, persevere and shine through the ups and downs our customers experience on their personal creative journeys, and the ups and downs we experience on ours.

* You are:

- In love with writing and storytelling. Especially B2B content for makers.
- Experienced with digital making (laser cutters and/or 3D printers).
- Someone who loves to focus on writing shareable content.
- A crack interviewer and an excellent editor.
- Skilled at content SEO (keyword research, placement, links). Know basic HTML.
- Practised at audience segmentation for email marketing.
- A natural at content promotion across various channels.
- Excited by metrics and measurement, because we can’t improve without.
- Effective at project management, especially the content schedule.
- An expert in tools like Wordpress, MailChimp & Kissmetrics.
- A happy soul. Who communicates well with our global team. And likes a laugh.
- Proactive. Detailed. Process driven. *All three.*
- Someone who loves to lead, and prefers working independently.
- Ideally, but not essential, someone with skills in graphic design, video editing, content hub creation and building, Moz, BuzzSumo, Hittail and other such tools.

ABOUT THE ROLE

You’ll be our part time Content & Email Marketing Manager (2 – 4 days per week). You’ll be the trusted public voice of our company. You’ll enable us to connect with and nurture people from being strangers to visitors to members to customers to advocates.

Your typical work includes:

* Achieving 2 Key Goals – new account/email signups (customer acquisition via promoted content) and new revenues (customer retention via email marketing). Mutually agreed, then measured and reported weekly.

* Content Hub & Email Marketing Schedule – create, manage & execute our new content hub plan (with SEO firmly in hand), plus content creation and promotion schedule (including fortnightly email newsletter). Includes managing at least 2 content contributors.

* Content Success Measurement – manage existing and implement new tracking to measure the success of our content & email marketing. Analyse & interpret metrics in light of our goals, and adjust future actions accordingly.

* Content Creation – research and create new (and repurpose / repackage existing) self generated & user generated content. Includes your stories about materials, how-to make/sell & our customers. Also includes copywriting for our product updates and general news supplied by team members.

* Content Promotion – via fortnightly newsletter creation & distribution to audience segments, via owned media (EG – our social accounts) & via earned media (EG – blogger relationships).

* Attending 2 Weekly Meetings – one full team discussion about company and individual goals & results, plus one content & email marketing discussion about plans & tasks to achieve goals.

BENEFITS

* Freedom and independence to lead and make this all yours.
* Competitive market pay.
* Minimum 4 weeks paid time off per year.
* Employee rates on laser cutting your own stuff.

ABOUT US

Dreamed up in 2006, Ponoko believes mass production is going local.

We saw a possibility of the third industrial revolution (distributed digital mass production) growing out of prior revolutions (centralized analog mass production).

Hence in 2007 Ponoko launched at the first TechCrunch conference as the world’s first to enable designers to make & sell downloadable product designs online.

Since then a community of 145,000 makers, designers, Kickstarter entrepreneurs, ETSY sellers, brands, businesses and creative agencies have made over 425,000 custom products online. And they’ve sold them via our website, their own websites, ETSY, Kickstarter, design events, to main street retailers, and gifted them to friends, customers, at conferences and promotional events.

With no minimum order size, online quoting and online making, it’s 10x faster than ever for designers to prototype, make and sell their custom product ideas online.

Recognised as a pioneering leader of the online digital making industry, we have been featured in places like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, CNN Money, Inc. Magazine (cover story), Forbes, Wired, Core77, TechCrunch, Makezine, MIT Technology Review, BBC News and The Economist.

Your appointment will enable us to use your content marketing skills to increase website traffic and signups, and your email marketing experience to increase revenues via customer activation and retention.

TO APPLY

Email derek-at-ponoko-dot-com to send your resume, your 3 favorite writing samples (including an infographic if you have one), and your answers to these questions:

1) Why do you want this role?
2) What gaps might exist between what we need and what you have?
3) Why are you the best person for this role?

We’re looking forward to meeting you …

Laser cut teeth

The Laser Cutter Roundup — a weekly dose of laser-cut love: #222

Hey, Sam here collecting the post from The Laser Cutter.

Above is Tiny Hands on a Roll’s laser cut Shark and Fish pin. We have featured the great work from humble elephant before – not they have a Kickstarter for their amazing rolling pins.

Make sure you join TLC’s Facebook page.

After the jump, pipes, crochet, cacti, and gems… (more…)

Ponoko Customer Blasts Past Kickstarter Goal in 3 hours

Another Kickstarter success using Ponoko

UPDATE: The Electric Eel Wheel has now raised over $40,928! Huge congrats to Maurice & Emily on reaching over 800% of their goal!

Maurice Ribble is the Boston based engineer behind the Electric Eel Wheel – a clever electric spinning wheel that makes it easy to spin the fiber of your choice into yarn.

Maurice’s Kickstarter campaign blew past it’s $5,000 goal in just three hours – and is on track to break $20,000 in under a week.

The Electric Eel Wheel was already a huge hit in the hobby fiber, spinning, and knitting communities, so it made sense to make the jump to Kickstarter. “I figured this would be a good project for it because nothing like it has been done before” Maurice says, ”my wife who’s been helping with this project really liked the idea of doing a Kickstarter so that’s what really decided it for me.”

Traditionally, yarn is spun with a foot powered spinning wheel – a time consuming process that tends to be hard to master. While there are electric alternatives available, quality wheels are costly- with price tags of $800 or more. This gap in the market was part of the inspiration for the Electric Eel Wheel.

Using laser cut parts from Ponoko, Maurice and his wife Emily set out to create their own electric spinning wheel that was affordable, while still being as good or better than the ones currently on the market.

Maurice says using Ponoko made it easy to reduce costs by iterating through different designs. “I was surprised at how much spending some time optimizing the part layout cut my costs.” he says  ”For me it almost cut my costs by half because I was able to share a lot of edges and use the materials more efficiently.”

While this is the fourth commercially available version of the wheel, Maurice was still able to find ways to improve the design and add new innovative features:

“Once I get my hand on the laser cut Ponoko pieces I assemble it and I almost always get ideas on how I might improve it during assembly. When those improvements are getting small I know I’m at the stage where it’s good enough.”

Maurice credits the research he did, as well as the feedback he got early on as the key to Electric Eel Wheel’s explosive success. “I read a lot about how to launch a Kickstarter campaign. Making a good video is important so I spent a lot of time on that.” Maurice says, “I shared it with a few close friends to build my confidence and get feedback on what I might tweak.”

When we asked Maurice what advice he would give to people just starting out with Kickstarter, he warned entrepreneurs-to-be not to let expansion or addition of new features hurt your project:

“Don’t let feature creep hurt your project. First you need to decide when it’s good enough to put on Kickstarter. Some of the ideas that come in are good and I do leave my options open, but you need to always consider pros and cons before adding something.”

Want to get your hands on your own Electric Eel wheel and start spinning your own yarn? The Electric Eel Wheel is available through Kickstarter at a discounted price, with packages ranging from $149-$209.

Got a great hardware idea of your own? Make and sell it with Ponoko.

Annual Letter from Ponoko Founder / CEO

Happy 2015 to you.

Full Printed from nueveojos on Vimeo.

Hi, I’m Derek Elley, a founder and the CEO of Ponoko (since Jan 2013).

Thanks big for being on our journey to lay some foundations of the 3rd industrial revolution together.

We believe in distributed digital mass production.

That is, consumers will continue to increase the number of products they download and make at home. Kinda like a ‘digital Ikea’ experience to start, followed by a ‘Star Trek Replicator’ down the track. And businesses will continue to increase their supply of digital products, simply because it’s more profitable to do so.

During 2014, we continued to obsess over delivering you the fastest way to make your custom products & build your creative businesses, using our online laser cutting & 3D printing services … made & shipped as fast as same day, no minimum order size, endless free instant quotes, on-demand production, all backed by our 100% re-make guarantee (and our new customer delight policy, whereby we reward you for giving us the opportunity to make good).

We LOVE playing our small part in your creative and business explorations. Thank you (!) for another great year in 2014 …

2014 – PEOPLE USING PONOKO

* Makers / Designers.

* ETSY Sellers.

* Kickstarter Entrepreneurs.

* Creative Agencies.

* Brands & Businesses.

2014 – YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS

* 70,000+ new product ideas submitted to Ponoko.

* 400,000+ custom products now made by Ponoko.

* $370,000+ Kickstarter campaigns using Ponoko.

* $1,720,000+ revenues earned from products you made using Ponoko and sold on marketplaces (like ETSY & Kickstarter), your websites, your stalls, your retailers, and our website.

2014 – IMPROVEMENTS WE MADE FOR YOU

We added the following major features (and many more behind the scenes or smaller features):

* Up to 55% off making costs for volume orders.

* Up to 55% off making costs for loyal customers.

* 100% off shipping costs for all orders over $100.

* Average of 20% off shipping costs with our new USPS service.

* 100% faster making time for our premium service (from 1 day to same day).

* 33% faster making time for our standard service (from 12 to 8 calendar days).

* 14% more materials, including our first $2,500 material design challenge.

* UX – Making your first product is easier with our new homepage and welcome experience.

* UX – Uploading your designs is easier with our new design trouble shooting experience.

* UX – Getting an instant online quote is easier after we cut away the noise.

* UX – Checking out is easier after we cut away lots more noise.

* New customer delight policy – in addition to our 100% re-make guarantee, we also reward you for giving us the opportunity to make good.

2014 – BIGGEST SURPRISE

* We A/B tested many many things. While most progressed to a product upgrade, there was one notable test that did not.

* Our hypothesis was: “Customers get frustrated when our automated design file checker rejects their design files, making it difficult to make things.”

* So we ran an A/B test to dis/prove this … A = no change (the file checker continued, meaning 30% of designs are rejected) … B = change (no file checker at all, meaning 100% of designs are accepted).

* The winner? Draw (hence we retained A).

* We really thought your behaviour would vote for B by a long stretch, but you did not – this really surprised us, and shows the power of A/B testing.

2015 – OUR PLAN

We believe in distributed digital mass production, a disruptor of the current centralised analog mass production model.

Hence, in 2007 we launched the world’s first website for designers to make and sell downloadable product designs (open/paid/free) to consumers.

Building upon this heritage, we have 2 major projects this year …

1) Improve Our Online Laser Cutting Service

For makers / designers, ETSY sellers, Kickstarter entrepreneurs, creative agencies plus brands & businesses, we’ll announce the following upgrades to our current service:

* AutoCAD DXF designs – get instant online quotes for laser cutting.

* Metal cutting – get instant online quotes using PDF designs.

* Rewards – for referring others.

* Pricing – new options.

* Materials & samples – more.

* Shipping – lower costs & faster.

* UX – a shopping cart so you can easily combine designs into a single shipment, and you don’t need to upload your designs repetitively to order repetitively.

* Loyalty – more for being a repeat customer.

* And lots more.

2) Launch Our New Home 3D Printing Service

For creative brands and businesses, we’ll announce a new initiative to make it simple for you to sell your products to consumers more profitably than ever before (via home 3D printers).

We believe the time is ripe for us to unveil the ‘future of making’ idea we’ve been sitting on for almost 8 years when we dreamed up Ponoko.

Please hit us up if you’d like to find out more about our new home 3D printing service.

2015 – BEST WISHES TO YOU

Finally, if you have any questions, concerns or merry-ness to share with me or our team, please feel free to email me [ derek - at - ponoko - dot - com ] or leave a comment below …

Thanks again.

Derek

Top 10 Materials of 2014

Join us as we look back at the materials that hit it big in 2014.

The Ponoko Materials Catalog offers a wide variety of high quality materials for laser cutting. From those awesome new Premium materials down to plain old (but ever-so-useful) cardboard, there is a material option for every making scenario.

Join us as we take a look at the 10 most popular materials from 2014:

#10) Corrugated Cardboard – Double Layer

We start out countdown with one of our less glamorous materials: cardboard. Cardboard is a great material for prototyping your design and making it in another material later. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use cardboard in a final product. Check out these 20 inspirational designs made from good old fashioned recyclable cardboard.

Make something with cardboard! »

#9) Acrylic – White

White acrylic is one of Ponoko’s most versatile materials. To get an idea of the two opposite sides of the spectrum check out these polar bear snowflake ornaments from PepperSprouts, or this Synthesizer Enclosure from Glitched.

Make something with white acrylic! »
(more…)

Bitsbox monthly projects for kids

How to nurture creativity for the digital makers of the future

For many of us, learning coding simply isn’t fun – but perhaps we’ve gone about it all wrong. Two former Google employees (who also happen to be Dads) saw a way to make learning coding languages fun for kids, and their solution has gathered quite a following on Kickstarter. They call their learning system Bitsbox, and as you’ll soon see, there is more to the bits than just what’s in the box.

We don’t teach our kids how to read and write so that they can be novelists. We teach them those skills so that they can be happy, so that they can be successful in whatever path they choose.

Bitsbox operates both online and as a subscription-based service that delivers boxes of coding projects in the mail to kids every month. Within minutes, kids are able to create apps that can run on a real device. The magic of the monthly deliveries is that they will keep kids hungry for more; and excited to engage with newer (and more challenging) projects as they become increasingly proficient with their coding skills.

What excites us at Ponoko is that these children will become the next generation of creative software designers and digital makers. This means that we can well and truly expect the 3D designers and laser cutting makers of the future to totally blow our minds.

Become a part of the Bitsbox community and make the most of the Kickstarter funding perks before the campaign closes.

Bitsbox via Kickstarter

Top 10 Seller Stories of 2014

Inspiring stories of independent designers & sellers creating products with Ponoko.

2014 was an amazing year for us and our amazingly creative customers. Ponoko customers are not only making super cool original products, they’re solving design problems for underserved markets and building successful small businesses.

#10: Laser Cut Robots Remind You to Water Your Plants

Some of us are blessed with a natural talent for caring for our houseplants. Others, however, struggle with merely keeping our houseplants alive.
Read Dickson Chow’s story about saving the lives of innocent plants everywhere with the help of his laser cut robot friends.

#9: Photochemical Machining Goes Bohemian

Rachel Dropp is the one-woman operation behind Raw Elements Jewelry, a brand that combines modern Photochemical Machining (PCM) with traditional jewelry-making techniques. The results are unique hand-crafted pieces that feature a raw, unique style.

Read Rachel’s story on how she launched a line of bohemian inspired jewelry designs, and the unique process behind these pieces.

#8 The Kyub MIDI keyboard

The Kyub is a compact, fully programmable MIDI interface that provides a new way to compose, record and perform music. Although the Kyub Music group fell short of their original Kickstarter goal – they were able to garner enough support for the product to put the Kyub into production. Read the Kyub’s story and get a first hand look a the Kyub in action.

(more…)

Hiring a Maker / Designer to Make Custom Products For Our Designer Customers

ARE YOU A MAKER / DESIGNER WHO WANTS TO JOIN A DIGITAL MAKING PIONEER?

We have a part time Production Manager role (developing into a full time role if you wish) for a maker / designer to make custom products for our online community of 130,000 makers / designers. And to help us change the world.

ABOUT YOU

* You believe what we believe … That mass production is going local.

* You value what we value.

* You have a deep desire to help other makers / designers make their own custom products. This will make it easy for you to smile, persevere and shine through the ups and downs our customers experience on their personal creative journeys, and the ups and downs we experience on ours.

* You are:

  • A designer / maker. With a proven eye for detail.
  • Experienced with laser cutters.
  • Experienced with vector design software, specifically Adobe Illustrator.
  • Familiar with the properties of the materials in our catalog here.
  • Someone who works harmoniously with your team members to delight customers.
  • Cool under extreme pressure, and you radiate this with your team members and suppliers.
  • A happy soul. Who communicates well (including online with our global team).
  • Proactive. Detailed. Process driven. *All three.*
  • Someone who likes to lead, and enjoys working independently.
  • Effective at multi ­tasking and prioritizing the daily rush of tasks that come in a startup.
  • Someone who understands you get out of life what you put into it. And to change the world this means stepping forward and grabbing at responsibility.
  • ABOUT THE ROLE

    You’ll be our part time Production Manager (minimum 15 hours per week). You’ll be the trusted maker of our customer’s product designs. You’ll enable us to deliver on time as our customer demand is growing.

    Your typical day includes:

    * Achieving 2 key goals – product making quality and speed of making service. Both measured and reported weekly.

    * Managing our online customer order queue, and making customer’s orders using our laser cutters.

    * Managing our materials stock so we do not run out. And communicating with our materials suppliers as needed.

    * Carefully packaging and shipping customer orders. And communicating with our shipping suppliers as needed.

    * Lending your expertise to assist our customers improve their product designs, as needed.

    * Liaising with our customer team to ensure on-time delivery of quality custom products.

    * Delighting our customers with the unexpected, and putting a smile on their faces, particularly when all seemed lost.

    * Attending 2 weekly meetings – one full team discussion about company and individual results, plus one customer/production team discussion about customer experience.

    * Identifying problems with and improving our workflows to delight customers.

    * As a bonus, creating or editing online help content for our customers to help themselves.

    BENEFITS

    * Freedom and independence to run your own shift.
    * Feeling that your work day makes a difference in other people’s lives.
    * Market hourly rate.
    * Employee rates on laser cutting your own stuff.

    ABOUT US

    Dreamed up in 2006, Ponoko believes consumers of the future will download and make products at home (kinda like a ‘digital Ikea’).

    We foresaw the third industrial revolution (distributed digital mass production) growing out of the first and second industrial revolutions (centralized analog mass production).

    Hence in 2007 Ponoko launched at the first TechCrunch conference and became the world’s first to enable designers to make & sell downloadable product designs online (open, free, paid).

    Since then a community of 130,000 makers, designers, hackers, brands and businesses have made over 400,000 custom products online. And they’ve sold them via our website, their own websites, ETSY, Kickstarter, design events, and to main street retailers.

    With free digital prototyping to get a design just right, no minimum order size to get started, and on-demand production available within 1 day to eliminate investment in stock, we’ve make it 10x faster than ever before for designers to prototype, make and sell their custom product ideas online.

    Recognised as a pioneering leader of the online digital making industry, we have been featured in places like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, CNN Money, Inc. Magazine (cover), Forbes, Wired, Core77, TechCrunch, Makezine, MIT Technology Review, BBC News and The Economist.

    Your appointment will enable us to continue to support our existing customers, and to hatch a new 3D printing initiative to transform our industry again.

    TO APPLY

    Send an email to dan.devorkin@ponoko.com to introduce yourself, send your resume, and your answers to these 3 questions:

    1) Why do you want this role?
    2) What gaps might exist between what we need and what you have?
    3) Why are you the best person for this role?

    We’re looking forward to meeting you :)

    Rope-O’Matic Kickstarter closing soon

    Last chance to get your hands on a laser cut rope braiding machine

    When we first came across an earlier version of this laser cut mechanical marvel, it had our heads in quite a spin. The 21st century makeover of an 1890’s industrial artefact is a fantastic example of how laser cutting can enable accessibility to broader technological possibilities.

    Ever true to his word, David from Mixed Media Engineering has refined the design and launched a Kickstarter campaign for what is now known as the Rope-O’Matic.

    With a diverse range of applications it is hardly surprising that this very unique laser cut product has eclipsed its modest campaign funding goal.

    Check it out before you miss your chance… don’t tie yourself in knots, there are only a few days left to secure yourself one of these novel devices.

    Rope-O’Matic via Kickstarter