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.

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.

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

Metal etching project hits 300% of Kickstarter goal

POLIGON Sculpture Shows What’s Possible With Ponoko’s Metal Etching Service

Unfolding into the mailboxes of many backers, the latest runaway success from Kickstarter features these elegant and refined sculptures by Poligon.

At the time of writing, pledges for the faceted brass and stainless steel creatures are about to eclipse 300% beyond the modest Kickstarter funding goal. Produced using a metal cutting and engraving process called PCM (Photochemical Machining), the clean lines and precise folds of these user-assembled sculptures have a striking visual presence and it’s easy to see why everybody wants one!

“We fell in love with the process because it doesn’t require hugely expensive tooling but gives highly accurate results with beautiful metals. It really has freed our creative thinking and these sculptures are just the beginning!” – Poligon

While we talk a lot about laser cutting and 3D printing here at Ponoko, metal cutting and engraving via Photochemical Machining is perhaps the quiet achiever. Taking less of the everyday focus, but (as we can see with the sculptures from Poligon) PCM certainly makes quite an impact from time to time. The Ponoko service is often used for intricate jewellery, and you can learn more about how Photochemical Machining works in our comprehensive overview.

Rodrigo and Matthew from Poligon had their own extensive experience in modelling and production to draw on, and the success of their Kickstarter campaign is well deserved. If you are inspired by this to give PCM a go yourself, then Ponoko has all your needs covered from laser cut card prototypes through to finely etched products in brass, copper and stainless steel.

Other Kickstarter projects that have used Ponoko’s services and exceeded expectations include the wildly successful Game Frame (1,031% over goal), the LittleRP affordable resin 3D printer (475% over goal), and the musical wonder that is Motion Synth (108% over goal).

Support Poligon on Kickstarter
Make your own PCM products with Ponoko

A $154k Kickstarter Retrospective: What You Can Learn From the Game Frame’s Success

Anatomy of a successful Kickstarter

Jeremy Williams is the San Francisco based engineer / hacker / programmer / maker / video game enthusiast behind the Game Frame, a fully-programmable grid of LEDs designed to make it easy to display animated pixel art and old-school video game graphics.

Earlier this year Jeremy raised over $154,000 on Kickstarter for the Game Frame – an amazing sum considering the project’s original $15,000 goal.

7 months later – With the last of the Kickstarter rewards fulfilled, we sat down with Jeremy to get some insight into what led to his amazingly successful campaign.

Here’s a look at what has happened before and after the campaign was funded, along with some important lessons—both good and bad—that crowdfunding hopefuls can learn from Jeremy’s success story.

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Ponoko Customer Blows Past Kickstarter Goal in One Day


Brad Hill is the creator behind LittleRP – A DLP projector-based resin printer that can be put together for as little as $499.

Brad set out to create a printer that was open, flexible and affordable. Rather than using proprietary resins, the LittleRP is designed to use as many different formulations of UV curing resins as possible. By focusing on smaller, higher quality prints, the LittleRP is able to provide high accuracy while keeping costs low.

The flexibility and low cost helps explain the explosive popularity of the LittleRP’s Kickstarter, which passed it’s funding goal of $25,000 is under 24 hours. As of this writing the LittleRP has raised over $98,000, just under 400% of it’s original goal!

The LittleRP’s sleek translucent enclosure is made from Ponoko’s Acrylic Orange Tint, and the housing is made from Melamine Finished MDF seen here:

The LittleRP works using a process known as 3D stereolithography, a 3D printing process that uses light-sensitive resin and a high intensity light source to build a 3D object, layer by layer, rather than using spools of plastic filament as on a majority of 3D printers currently on the market. You can check out the LittleRP in action on it’s Kickstarter Video:

Want to get your hands on your own LittleRP? Head over to Brad’s Kickstarter page to get one while you still can.

Inspired to make your own project? Signup to make and sell for free!

The Kyub MIDI keyboard hits Kickstarter

The Kyub offers a six-sided twist on the usual 2D keyboard

Meet the Kyub, a compact, fully programmable MIDI interface that provides a new way to compose, record and perform music.

The Kyub features 11 fully programmable feather-touch keypads that connect to any computer or synthesizer via USB. Inside, an accelerometer tracks the movement of the Kyub to control the volume of the notes played.

These features make the interface really responsive, however the truly amazing thing is the way the Kyub is played. Check out the Kickstarter video below to see the Kyub in action:

The Kyub is designed as a kit that can be assembled at home by just about anyone, using laser cut parts from Ponoko.

If you’re short on soldering skills, you can back the Kyub and get a fully assembled unit as a reward. The Kyub is made to be as open and maker-friendly as possible, any computer-based synthesizer can be used to work with the Kyub.

If all this has got you excited for some cubed-out synth action, head over to the Kyub Kickstarter page to support the project and help make the Kyub a reality.

MicroSlice laser cutter now on Kickstarter

mini Arduino laser cutter & engraver kits

There was plenty of excited chatter when Greg Holloway posted his MicroSlice laser cutter on Instructables last year. Much of this involved people asking “where, when and how can I get one?” Well, the good news is that this diminutive digital manufacturing device is now the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, and the pledges are coming in fast.

The MicroSlice is a nifty little unit. Once you take a closer look, it is easy to see why it won the 2013 Instructables Radioshack Microcontroller Contest. Imagine a laser cutter that sits on your desktop. Not impressed? Consider that it sits on your desktop, and takes up less space than a bowl of cereal. Less space than a takeout container. Less space than a burger with the lot. In fact it takes up less space than the power supply from a regular sized laser cutter.

The MicroSlice is a Build-It-Yourself kit, uses Open Source Software, and can be easily assembled at home by just about anyone.

The MicroSlice can cut paper, and engrave wood & plastic. Kits include an Arduino UNO R3 as well as 97 laser-cut parts and all necessary hardware to get up and running. The laser diode is a 100mw red laser, similar to what you’d find inside a DVD-RW drive. An option is available to supercharge the MicroSlice with a 200mw laser.

With a truly miniature work area of 50mm x 50mm (2″ x 2″) users will be choosing their projects carefully.  For bigger projects, there is always Ponoko.

Learn more, watch videos of the MicroSlice in action, and make a pledge over at Kickstarter.

MicroSlice on Kickstarter

Ponoko unboxing of lasercut Kickstarter rewards

Ponoko-made project by Garland West

Ever wondered what it’s like to get a shipment from Ponoko? The video shows Garland West, an artist/crafter outside of Charlotte NC, unboxing her recent lasercut order featuring a variety of materials and sheet sizes.

You can see her peeling the protective paper and popping out her designs including bamboo business cards, acrylic jewelry, and a big red octopus.

“A lot of the items you see in the unboxing video are pledge rewards for my Kickstarter project,” she says.

“I made thank you cards from cardstock, yoga pose jewelry from bamboo, and coasters out of cork.” And the octopus? “Oh, that’s not a reward. It’s a ‘clocktopus’ project I’m working on.”

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3D Systems sues the maker of the Form 1 3D printer and Kickstarter for patent infringement

What will this mean for low cost 3D printers and crowdsourcing?

Formlabs, maker of the Form 1 3D printer that was a runaway hit on Kickstarter, is being sued for patent infringement by 3D systems. 3D systems is also suing Kickstarter for promoting the project on the grounds that Kickstarter had a financial stake since they take a 5% cut.

The Form 1 raised $2,945,885, a remarkable feat, because it offered low-cost stereolithography printing. Other low-cost printers like the MakerBot and RepRep use a plastic extrusion technique, but the Form 1 uses UV cure resin, allowing for much higher resolution prints.

This brings us to the main issue. 3D Systems has an extensive patent on the use of stereolithography for 3D printing, and they are claiming that Form Labs violated it. Specifically, 3D systems is claiming that Form Labs infringed claim 1 and 34 of U.S. Patent No. 5,597,520.

This will be a case to watch. Regardless of the outcome, it could have a large impact on the future of low cost 3D printing and crowdsourcing.

Via Tech Crunch