There’s no ambition quite like that of an entrepreneur with an idea. These days, raising money on an idea is easier than ever with the help of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, but there is no single formula that guarantees success. In fact, less than half of all Kickstarters ultimately meet their fundraising goals. So what happens when you’re among the majority who see their ideas falter in the hands of the masses?
Just ask Nick Rhea, who took his idea of a pressurized water bottle to Kickstarter last year. Despite the support of more than 400 backers and raising $20,000 in funds, his project, The Aquabot, didn’t meet the $35,000 goal he and his team set.
“Leaving $20,000 on the table didn’t hurt. Not hitting $80,000 hurt,” Nick told me. “Everyone thinks they have a great product and then you get a dose of reality. It was a big hit to my confidence and team moral.”
Nick was sure his product was going to be a runaway success, but now it was just an idea among 86,000 others in the Kickstarter graveyard.
So why did Aquabot fail?
“Either we did it wrong, or we had a bad product,” Nick admitted. Despite the setback though he remained confident in his idea. Nick instead turned to possible faults in the execution of his fundraising campaign.
“I went to China in April  to find a factory…I rushed to get a Kickstarter launched. We weren’t ready and I found out later that the factory was also struggling financially.”
Nick however decided not to change much about his product’s design. What he did change though was how he marketed it to his audience:
“We positioned the original campaign towards families. That was a mistake. You should always target your audience. I read later that the demographics of Kickstarter backers are mostly single men under 35. So we tried to make the product more about having fun than cleaning your kids’ hands.”
Nick also lowered the price of his product, cutting closer to his margins to make it more appealing to potential backers: “We came up with the lowest price we could offer and then went even lower for the early bird. We made our content more shareable. We featured the product more in our video. We wanted to build momentum.”
Nick also lowered his fundraising goal by more than half from $35,000 to just $15,000. This time it was about getting bare minimum funding to continue developing the Aquabot, rather than be poised for a runaway success.
It worked. The new Aquabot campaign went live on Kickstarter and in less than three days not only reached its goal of $15,000, but beat the $20,000 Nick and his team raised last year. The project has more than a month left to fundraise and has already raised $24,000 from more than 700 backers.
It’s a bittersweet moment for Nick though, “I’m still going to be disappointed if we don’t clear $80,000 and we probably won’t because that’s a lot of $18 Aquabots to sell. Still it is great to see we’ve validated consumer demand and secured funding for inventory.”
Aquabot has a long way to go before it’s the home run product Nick and his team imagined it would be. Some Kickstarters do get second chances though, and Aquabot ended up being one of them. Nick admits he was blindsided by the failure of the first campaign, but continues to be motivated for success.
“I ride a couple of horses called overconfidence and naivety. They keep me from worrying about failure. When you do fail though, learn from it.”