Chris Prendergast was a full-time teacher before he took the leap and launched his company Jamstack into a full-time venture. He had been working on the concept for the company’s main product (a portable audio amplifier that attaches to any electric guitar/bass and helps musicians play and record with the use of their smartphones) in his spare time, but an outpouring of support from crowdfunding supporters inspired him to leave teaching behind and become CEO of his own company.
Last year, Prendergast raised over $400,000 from backers through crowdfunding websites Indiegogo and Kickstarter to make Jamstack a reality. During that time, he assembled a team to help launch Jamstack from concept, to prototype, to delivering its first orders next month.
Prendergast shared his insights on achieving crowdfunding success, as well as his thoughts on building the best team possible from the ground up.
Finding the right formula for crowdfunding success
Communication is huge. Now, you can have a really great product, but especially with something in the audio space, it’s hard to convey that in a way that’s simultaneously very clear and also evokes that emotional response [in potential investors] of, “I can see myself enjoying this product, and it would make my life better, and I want to be a part of something.”
And that’s not that easy to pull off. For anyone interested in crowdfunding, you can just look at a bunch of great campaigns that A., did well, and B., seemed to evoke an emotion in you, and then break it down, try and demystify it and ask, “What were they saying, when, and why?” and then how you can adopt that to your own project?
“if you get it all right on top of having a great product, then you have a chance at big success.”
But as far as crowdfunding success in general, there’s a very well-established, almost procedural algorithm that you go through to ensure your success. The biggest misconception is that you make a great page, and then the audience of Kickstarter or Indiegogo is just going to see it. And that’s not at all what happens. You have to have a large audience and a plan long before you ever hit the launch button. So, it’s long-term. First, you need to have a teaser video, and you start collecting the emails of people who are going to be your super-early groups—if they buy-in day one or two with an extra discount on top of what’s there for crowdfunding.
We had thousands of people waiting in the wings. And then you have a great day one, and the site says, “Huh, there’s potential here.” They want to make money, right? So they start to feature you. They might put you on the homepage, on their email blasts, which we were, and if you start adding it all together, we were at the top of the category for a little while. And Indiegogo’s email blasts helped immensely.
You take that and then you start pitching other publications and say, “Look what we did in just a few days.” And then suddenly that’s a story, and then that can keep the engine going. And then you keep driving traffic and scarcity through Facebook Ads. It’s a very well-documented procedure, but there are a hundred zillion little steps to make all that work. And if you get it all right on top of having a great product, then you have a chance at big success.
On developing a winning team from the ground up
I look at it a lot like a recipe of perspectives and skills that I think that we really need. Things that supplement my knowledge, as well, and people that have had a track record of success in some way. So there was the marketing side, and the entrepreneurial, online business and crowdfunding side.
We found Khierstyn Ross, our crowdfunding manager, and then other contacts that she introduced us to. We needed a Facebook Ad specialist, and the industrial design firm that we partnered with was huge. They had brought products to market before, they understood the manufacturing process, the design process, the testing and all of those things. And they were tied to the project.
So there’s the recipe of all of the things that I knew would be very important to pushing the bar hard, and then you have the attributes of those people. And, do you trust them? Again, the whole track record—you will fail together, and are they willing to tie your success to their success? That always tends to work better.