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.

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Beginners Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide: Part 3

Keep your laser cutting costs down with the Ponoko Product Recipe

Product Recipe #1 – Part 3

Jill is a graphic designer from Oakland, CA. While riding her bike to work, she was inspired to create a set of custom-made bike gear-themed coasters to sell at local bike shops and in her Etsy Store.

Here Jill takes you step-by-step through the process she used to turn her idea into a profitable product with Ponoko. Making her coasters at the lowest price possible means she pockets a healthy margin selling to stores and direct to customers.

You can apply these steps to your own project, or you can download all the files here.

Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide Part 3: Prototype It

My goal was to find a happy compromise between design aesthetics (look/feel) and efficient engineering (cost).

Zero Cost Prototyping!

Before I paid to make anything, I used my Personal Factory to price lots of design iterations instantly. I learned a whole lot and it didn’t cost me a bean …

Summary:

Target Production Cost = $1.88 per coaster (75% off retail).
First Quote – #1 = $5.40 per coaster (28% off retail).
Final Quote – #9 = $1.64 per coaster (78% off retail) !!

Here’s what I did to reduce my production cost, without actually making anything:   (more…)

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Beginners Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide: Part 2

Keep your laser cutting costs down with the Ponoko Product Recipe

Product Recipe #1 – Part 2

Jill is a graphic designer from Oakland, CA. While riding her bike to work, she was inspired to create a set of custom-made bike gear-themed coasters to sell at local bike shops and in her Etsy Store.

Here Jill takes you step-by-step through the process she used to turn her idea into a profitable product with Ponoko. Making her coasters at the lowest price possible means she pockets a healthy margin selling to stores and direct to customers.

You can apply these steps to your own project, or you can download all the files here.

Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide Part 2: Design It

Now that I had an idea of where I wanted to go, it was time to prepare my first design for laser cutting. Here are my top tips.

Download a Laser Design Template

Open a Personal Factory laser design template in Adobe Illustrator. Using the template makes it so much easier to get a good result.

Use Existing Images

I did an image search to find a few gears with crisp images on a clean white background to make outlining easier:

Next – I imported the images into Adobe Illustrator, and converted the gears into black outlines:

Get the Essentials Right – Line Colors & Widths

I needed to use these settings to cut along the lines of the gear drawings:

* Stroke Color – Blue (R0, G0, B255).

* Stroke Width – 0.01mm.

To engrave along the lines of the gear drawings I needed to use these settings:

* Stroke Color – Red (R255, G0, B0).

* Stroke Width – 0.01mm.

To summarise Part 2 of the Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide; Jill downloaded a design template from Ponoko, selected an image and refined the linework in Illustrator, and then ensured that the line colors and widths were compatible with the laser cutting guidelines provided in the template.

With the design sorted, our next step is to look at making a prototype. Continue reading Part 3 of this Ponoko Product Recipe for handy tips that will keep your laser cutting costs as low as possible.

How do you prepare your designs so that they are ready for laser cutting? Tell us about your process in the comments below.

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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 …

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Beginners Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide: Part 1

Keep your laser cutting costs down with the Ponoko Product Recipe

Product Recipe #1

Jill is a graphic designer from Oakland, CA. While riding her bike to work, she was inspired to create a set of custom-made bike gear-themed coasters to sell at local bike shops and in her Etsy Store.

Here Jill takes you step-by-step through the process she used to turn her idea into a profitable product with Ponoko. Making her coasters at the lowest price possible means she pockets a healthy margin selling to stores and direct to customers.

You can apply these steps to your own project, or you can download all the files here.

Laser Cutting Cost Saving Guide Part 1: Imagine It

First up, I needed a plan. A clear idea of my product, who it would appeal to and how much I needed to make and sell it for in order to turn a profit.

Your Product User

Take a moment to consider who will be using your product, and why. I had bicycle enthusiasts and their thirsty friends in mind.

Your Product Design

Rough out your design. I mostly tried to get a few ideas I had floating around in my head onto paper.

Your Product Materials

My coasters needed to look good, but also stand up to repeated use. I was thinking materials like black acrylic or natural cork. So I bought a few $2.50 material samples. I kinda liked the cork:

Your Target Price, Cost & Profit

Some basic research showed a set of 4 custom-made coasters retails for between $15 and $50 – with many sitting around $30. Working backwards, I calculated my ideal price points.

Your Design Challenge

Now you have your design challenge. Mine was to design a set of 4 bicycle themed coasters at less than $7.50 for making, materials and shipping from my Personal Factory. That’s a target production cost of $1.88 per coaster (75% less than a retail price of $7.50 each).

To summarise Part 1; Jill has identified her market, roughed out a design, investigated material options and worked out her design challenge based on a realistic retail price point.

In the next instalment for this Ponoko Product Recipe, we take a look at the digital design process for making a laser cut bike gear coaster. Jill talks us through preparing a file that is ready to send to the laser cutter.

Have you used Ponoko material samples to help in the early stages of your own design process? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs

Understanding how to get the most out of your Personal Factory

Have you ever wondered how to reduce your laser cutting costs? Whether you are making for profit or just for fun, it always helps to know you are getting the most bang for your buck. Ponoko’s series of Top Ten Ways To Reduce Laser Cutting Costs aims to do just that, by breaking down the key contributors of Making, Materials, and Shipping.

In this overview, we take a look at what was covered in the Top Ten list.

It all begins with understanding how laser pricing works. With Ponoko, thousands of designers are successfully making products at low cost – with many able to achieve comparative savings of up to 90% less than retail.

They’re able to do this because they know how to best use their Personal Factory to design for laser cutting.

The critical things they understand are:

  • Design – EVERY design feature results in more cost. Hence: Start very simple.
  • Materials – EVERY inch is highly valuable area. Hence: Use every inch.
  • Shipping – EVERY order over $100 is free to ship. Hence: Prototype small, finalize bigger.
  • Account – EVERY Prime order cost 32.5% less to make than Free account orders. Hence: Time your upgrade.
  • Volume – EVERY Prime order over $1,000 cost up to 55% less to make than Free account orders. Hence: Time your upgrade.

Avoiding high costs that can give you quite a fright, Ponoko designers understand they need to price test, test, test, test and test again their “brilliant” and “visionary” product designs. A product is rarely brilliant if it never comes to life because the design failed to appreciate the highs and lows of the making process and materials.

Remember that you pay for every minute the laser is cutting, engraving and travelling between cutting and engraving – this means you want a great design that takes as little laser time as possible.

The following design features cost more because they take more time for the laser:

    • Cutting longer lines takes longer than cutting shorter lines.
    • Cutting lots of short lines takes longer than cutting a less detailed design.
    • Cutting two lines on top of one another takes longer than cutting a single line.
    • Cutting circles takes longer than cutting straight lines.
    • Cutting or engraving designs placed far apart takes longer than cutting or engraving designs placed next to each other.
    • Cutting thicker materials takes longer than cutting thinner materials.
    • Cutting harder materials takes longer than cutting softer materials.
    • Engraving lots of lines takes longer than engraving a few lines.
    • Engraving solid fill areas just takes a long time.
    • Shipping larger sheets further cost more than shipping smaller sheets closer.
    • Larger material sheets cost more in total than smaller sheets.
    • Larger material sheets cost less per item on the sheet than smaller sheets.

When these considerations become a part of your workflow it will make a huge difference to how much your laser cutting costs.

In the Ponoko series of  Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs, the key considerations of making, materials and shipping have been optimised to give you the best possible outcome. So keep this list handy and follow the advice; ask us questions in the comments below if you get stuck on anything… and we look forward to seeing what you make next!

Ponoko’s Top 10 Ways To Reduce Laser Cutting Costs:

1. Digital Prototyping

2. Paper Prototypes from your home printer

3. Make a cardboard version first

4. Start small

5. Keep Details Simple

6. Avoid Double Lines

7. Group Parts Together

8. Line vs Area Engraving

9. Material Thickness

10. High making costs? Try Ponoko Prime

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Industrial Designer Iterates From Idea To Market in Just 15 Days.

Industrial designer Delna Balsara teams up with Ponoko to quickly bring her product idea to life.

Delna Balsara is the industrial designer behind BUKUL – a clever bamboo organizer that keeps your pens, notebooks, phone and tablet organized while you’re on the go.

Made from laser cut bamboo from Ponoko – the BUKUL comes with 2 elastic belts, one for securing your pens and phone to a notebook, and a larger belt for connecting the BUKUL to your laptop.

Delna got the idea while at work, going from meeting room to meeting room juggling her belongings in her hands. “Sometimes it was embarrassing” she says “It wasn’t enough to warrant carrying my backpack everywhere, but I kept dropping things.” A friend recommend she try out Ponoko, so she signed up and set to work on creating a solution for herself.

Delna was impressed with how quickly she was able to go from idea to prototype. “I drew it out in Illustrator and uploaded it to Ponoko – super easy.” she ways “I had it within a week”. Delna then set to work on hand-sewing the first set of elastic straps, and checking the measurements of her new invention.

The quick turnaround time meant she was able to quickly revise and update her product in days, rather than weeks. “The measurements were still a bit off for my phone and pen to properly fit” Delna says “so I revised my file and uploaded it to Ponoko. Once again, it was sent in no time and my first BUKUL was made.”

With a working final product in her hard, the BUKUL soon caught the eye of her co-workers. “Every meeting I went to, colleagues wanted to know where I bought it.” she says. It was clear that folks were looking for a way to keep organized when they walk into a meeting, studio or class. “Everyone was urging me to sell them on ETSY” she says “so I finally bit-the-bullet and set up a store.”

Delna points out Ponoko’s speedy customer service made it easy to iterate from idea to final product:

“I love the ease of uploading my files, the production statuses that I get, but most of all it’s the customer service. Anytime I’ve had an issue or question about a file, someone gets back to me right away and is really helpful. I think there’s just an overall ease to the process, from beginning to end.”

Delna’s story is another great example of how you can go from idea to final product faster than ever before with Ponoko.

The BUKL is available on Delna’s ETSY store.

Inspired to design your own product line? Make it with Ponoko!

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Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs – Tip #10

High making costs? Try Ponoko Prime

Laser cutting with Ponoko is a great way to have small items like coasters or jewellery cut and shipped to you for little more than the price of a hearty meal. But what happens if your appetite for laser cutting means designs that are bigger than bite-sized? Ponoko has a solution for this, and we call it Ponoko Prime.

Existing as a monthly subscription, Ponoko Prime members enjoy a range of benefits including lower making costs, volume discounts and free shipping for orders over $100. There are other perks to being a Prime subscriber, just check out the FAQs to see if you can save money by using Ponoko Prime.

  • With a Prime account: EVERY Prime order costs 32.5% less to make than Free account orders.
  • Making in Large Volumes: EVERY Prime order over $1,000 cost up to 51% less to make than Free account orders.

Consider your requirements and time your upgrade to Ponoko Prime. There are some serious savings to be made.

With these Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs, the key considerations of making, materials and shipping have been optimised to give you the best possible outcome. So keep this list handy and follow the advice; ask us questions if you get stuck on anything… and we look forward to seeing what you will make next.

Do you think we covered all of the important tips when it comes to reducing laser cutting costs? Let us know in the comments below if you think there is anything we missed…

Top 10 Ways To Reduce Laser Cutting Costs:

1. Digital Prototyping

2. Paper Prototypes from your home printer

3. Make a cardboard version first

4. Start small

5. Keep Details Simple

6. Avoid Double Lines

7. Group Parts Together

8. Line vs Area Engraving

9. Material Thickness

10. High making costs? Try Ponoko Prime

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Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs – Tip #9

Material Thickness

How flexible are you on material choice for your design? To cut out a shape, the laser is burning through the material. Different materials burn at different rates, and also the thinner a material is, the faster it will cut. For example, 4mm cardboard cuts very quickly, and 9mm acrylic cuts very slowly.

Choosing the right material can reduce laser cutting costs considerably. If your design allows for it, create prototypes in paper (Tip #2) or cardboard (Tip #3) before moving on to thicker or harder materials. You can then have greater confidence in a successful outcome once you move up to the premium materials for your final design.

Have you had experience where changing the material thickness helped reduce laser cutting costs? Let us know in the comments below.

For more complex designs or projects that have a larger vision behind them, it’s time for Tip #10: Ponoko Prime.

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Top Ten Ways to Reduce Laser Cutting Costs – Tip #8

Line vs Area Engraving

For creating surface details on your design, consider using Line Engraving. This method involves the laser following a defined shape, whereas Area Engraving (which can be much more time consuming) is similar to how an inkjet printer works, with the laser head passing across the sheet many times horizontally until the area has been completely filled. Both Area and Line Engraving have their merits, but it is almost always cheaper to use Line Engraving simply because less machine time is required.

There may be times where your design demands the use of Area Engraving. If this is the case, keeping the engraved parts as close together on the template as possible will help to reduce costs.

How have you saved on laser cutting costs by changing your approach to laser engraving? Let us know in the comments below.

Next up we discover whether size matters with Tip #9: Material thickness.

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