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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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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Guaranteed Order Deadline for Maker Faire


Hey there makers. If you’ve got something big planned for this year’s Maker Faire Bay Area, these are the dates you’ll need to get your goodies in time for the big event:

Laser Cutting Order Deadlines:
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Thursday April 30th 2015.
Upgraded Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Wednesday, May 13th, 2015.

Metal Machining (PCM) Order Deadline:
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Wednesday April 22nd 2015.

3D Printing Order Deadline:
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Friday, April 17th 2015.

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Guaranteed Order Deadlines for Father’s Day

Ensure delivery in time for Father’s Day day by ordering before these deadlines.

To ensure you’re stocked up in time to sell and ship your products into your customer’s hands, here are your order dates for you to run an organized ship – keep in mind, the earlier you order, the more you’ll save.

Laser Cutting Order Deadlines:
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Wednesday June 3rd, 2015.
Upgraded Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Wednesday, June 17th, 2015.

Metal Machining (PCM) Order Deadline:
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Wednesday May 27th 2015.

3D Printing Order Deadline:
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Friday, May 22nd 2015.

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New Homepage Launched

Announcing version one of our new homepage.

We’ve given the front page of our site a facelift, with the goal of providing newcomers an easier way of learning about who we are and what we do.

This is version one: Next we’ll be unveiling a new & improved materials catalog and an updated Ponoko showroom.

If you haven’t already, take a moment to check out our new home page. We would love it if you took a moment to share your thoughts. What works? What needs improvement? What are you hoping to see in version two? Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks!

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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.

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Guaranteed Order Deadline for Easter

Ensure delivery in time for Easter by ordering before these deadlines.

Easter is an egg-selent time for adorable, spring time projects.

To ensure you receive your product in time for yourself or to gift to someone else, here are your order dates. Keep in mind you’ll save on costs the earlier you order:

Laser Cutting Order Deadlines
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Wednesday, March 18th 2015
Upgraded Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Metal Machining (PCM) Order Deadline
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Monday, March 9th 2015.

3D Printing Order Deadline
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Friday, March 6th 2015

Happy Easter-Springtime making!

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Guaranteed Order Deadline for Mother’s Day

Ensure delivery in time for Mother’s Day day by ordering before these deadlines.

To ensure you’re stocked up in time to sell and ship your products into your customer’s hands, here are your order dates for you to run an organized ship – keep in mind, the earlier you order, the more you’ll save.

Laser Cutting Order Deadlines:
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Tuesday April 21st 2015.
Upgraded Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Wednesday, May 6, 2015.

Metal Machining (PCM) Order Deadline:
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Wednesday April 15th 2015.

3D Printing Order Deadline:
Standard Making & Shipping Speeds: Last Orders by Friday, April 10th 2015.

Need some inspiration? Check out these Mother’s Day gift ideas from you Personal Factory.

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Software Upgrade for Ponoko Prime

Prime just got even better.

We’ve just finished some major upgrades to the software that powers Ponoko Prime. For those of you not familiar, Prime is a monthly subscription with tons of benefits like:

• Lower cost making on laser-cutting and 3D printing.
• Free making speed upgrades on every order.
• Volume discounts up to 55% off.
• Loyalty pricing with lower per-minute rates for every month you are a Prime customer.

The bulk of the changes we’ve made are behind-the-scenes upgrades to improve stability and make for a better experience. In addition, we’ve added the following features:

• Easily check the status of your account, next billing date, and your Prime Loyalty rate all in one place.
• Quickly change or update credit card information.
• Get email updates when there is a change to your account.
• Better tools for help desk agents to assist with Prime questions.
• General UX improvements.

As always, you can upgrade to Prime at any time.

Not ready to upgrade? Still curious about the kind of savings you’ll get? Just upload any of your designs to your Personal Factory. You’ll be presented with a Prime price along with your regular cost breakdown.

Got questions about these upgrades, or questions about Prime in general? We would love to hear from you!

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Guaranteed Order Deadline for St. Patrick’s Day

Ensure delivery in time for St. Patrick’s day by ordering before these deadlines.

Planning to have something special made for St. Patrick’s Day? Be sure to have your order in before the following dates to ensure a timely delivery:

Laser Cutting – Standard Speed Deadline: Sunday, March 1st 2015
Laser Cutting – Upgrade Speed Deadline: Monday March 16, 2015

Photochemical Machining (PCM): Friday, February 20th 2015

3D Printing: Monday, February 16th 2015

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