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Funded! (the Welch Avenue kickstarter experience)

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Funded! (the Welch Avenue kickstarter experience)

Geoff Wood

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With our Kickstarter campaign to fund a “weekly podcast for the Iowa Startup Community” now complete (yeah!), I wanted to share a few thoughts on the experience.

Original goal (and iterative goals)

The campaign’s original goal was to validate that a market existed for our idea, specifically that the people who would ask me about bringing back a podcast were serious enough about their request to put some skin in the game. The goal was intentionally low - only $1,000 - for that reason. $1,000 would cover the minimal costs for a 10-episode run and we’d work on getting sponsors to extend it from there.

I felt like we had a good shot at reaching the goal when the first backer came in at $100 a few minutes after we went live. I never imagined that we’d tip $1,000 just a couple hours later.

At that point Chris New, my partner in the project, and I decided to brainstorm a few stretch goals and iterate on the idea of simply validating our market. The new goal was to see how many shows we can do - 20, 30, or more?

We promised that if we reached the $5,000 mark we’d not only do 30 episodes but we’d live stream them and we’d do three trips to other parts of Iowa to do live shows.

The final tally was $5,481 and we’re on it.

How we’re going to use the money

Here’s the basic plan for the funds raised:

  • Producer/Technical Director Stipend: $3,750 - (compensation to Chris & Frank Merchlewitz (our technical director) or the use of their equipment.)
  • Software: $500 - (mostly used for Vimeo and SquareSpace with a bit of a reserve.)
  • Travel: $500 - (three trips to take the show around the state)
  • Kickstarter fees: $274.05 - (5% of the total funds raised)
  • Credit Card fees: $175.99 - (users who backed using their credit card)
  • Reserve: $280.96 - (mostly used for printing related to the “backer rewards” (stickers, signage, etc.)

How we’re not going to use the money

I do want to point out that we’re not taking any money for ourselves from the campaign. I wanted to keep this campaign about the community and it made the most sense to use the funds for production-related elements.

Also, none of the campaign went to buy my sweet hosting jacket - my mother-in-law gets the credit for that one.

A note on fees

As you setup your campaign, Kickstarter is very explicit on their fees. They take 5% and any credit card transaction costs will be deducted as well. However, during the campaign the fees aren’t readily apparent. You see a tally with your total amount raised but it would be handy if it also showed the expected net amount from the campaign.

Further, this is an absolute use case for Dwolla. I’m the type of person who struggles to use Dwolla in a retail environment - it’s just so much easier to swipe my card at the counter in the coffee shop and my experience isn’t benefited by saving the merchant on fees. However, in a Kickstarter campaign you’re literally giving money to someone because you believe in them or what they’re doing. The chances are you’d rather they get to take the highest percentage of your donation possible, right?

Here’s the math:

Credit Card fees for our campaign: $175.99

Dwolla fees (same transactions using Dwolla’s model): $11.50

Not just Iowa

In addition to Iowa, donations came in from seven states (MN, IL, CO, NE, TX, SD, UT) which is pretty cool. I know that many of these people are Iowa Expats - people who were born, raised or otherwise spent significant time here - and it’s awesome to see that they are interested in keeping a connection to the state.

What’s next?

Since we decided to kick off the show early, we’re already 3 episodes in (check them out at welchavenue.com/show). We’re continuing to refine our process and procedures and incorporate the feedback that comes in from our viewers. We’ve also scheduled our first road trip for the show. Cedar Rapids folks, we’ll be recording live in your city on September 25. Finally, we’re delivering on the rewards promised to our backers, there’s signage being made, stickers being designed and of course “shout outs” being given (thanks to our friend, Professor Hans von Puppet).