Anatomy of a successful crowdfunding campaign

Last night IGDA Seattle put on an event at Bungie Studios in Bellevue featuring Bob Berry and Jon Mavor, the founders of the game company Uber Entertainment (a client).

Uber's titles include Monday Night Combat and Super Monday Night Combat, but the reason for the appearance of the Uber founders last night was to dissect the successful Kickstarter campaign Uber completed in September 2012 to fund development of Planetary Annihilation.

Jon and Bob at Bungie

The audience wanted to know everything, and little wonder: Uber's Kickstarter campaign was unusually successful, raising $2.2 million.

Bob summarized crowdfunding campaign management this way during an initial presentation before the Q&A: "it's not enough to just launch it, sit back and watch the money come in." 

Which presents a puzzle. For, as it turns out, the Kickstarter site just isn't optimized to manage campaigns that well.

One example: with a single login for the company, and a linear comment thread that doesn't fork or differentiate by topic or poster, the Kickstarter site is a poor way to manage communications with backers.

Uber found constant engagement to be critical, and ending up managing it on multiple sites and through multiple means. One such means was old fashioned e-mail! I think I heard that they received 50,000 emails during the course of the campaign. Jon personally responded to every single one that posed a question.

In the Q&A, Jon got into the very sticky problems of fulfillment, and how Uber has had to create a custom solution to manage that process. (Tip from Jon: don't promise physical goods below a certain pledge level, as shipping non-virtual items is painful and expensive.)

I think the world of the business acumen of Bob, Jon and their team at Uber, so it doesn't surprise me in the least that they found ways to optimize the campaign, nor that they built tools to bridge gaps in the Kickstarter platform. But listening to the presentation last night, and hearing the answers to the really perceptive, nitty-gritty questions from the audience, I was struck anew at how off-track are the Title III provisions of the JOBS Act. The legislation was shaped in the image of blue sky securities regulation, and seems downright hostile to facilitation of communication between and among company and crowd. (Title III of the JOBS Act would prohibit off-portal communication about an offering; interesting, don't you think, that there is no such prohibition in Title II crowdfunding for accredited investors?)

By the way, Bob and Jon both were very complimentary about Kickstarter, saying that the platform was responsible for 30% of traffic to the campaign, and leaving no question that the campaign could not have happened, let alone been successful, without Kickstarter. In this post I am privileging the shortcomings because, as regular readers here know, I have an agenda of trying to assess what it may take for crowdfunding to be adopted successfully in the investment arena.

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