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How Kickstarter campaigns find success

Having a successful Kickstarter campaign is easier said than done. Some find that hook and go viral -- others flop. But creative and prepared entrepreneurs can find success even in failure.

By Steph Solis / April 8, 2013

The Grafighters video game failed to meet its funding goal of $2,000 on Kickstarter, but the creators received an investment 10 times the amount a few months later.



Kickstarter is perhaps one of the only places where a rainbow-striped, marching band glove turned cheap, computerized instrument would get funding.

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Sure enough, Scott Peterman’s campaign for Imaginary Marching Band gloves gained attention within the Kickstarter community and raised the $10,000 he needed to expand the concept.

“People at the time of the Kickstarter were so nice,” says Mr. Peterman, an adjunct professor at The New School in New York. “Everyone was like, ‘Oh, cool! You’re crazy!’ and were really supportive of just craziness. It’s almost kind of nonsensical in a way.”

But Peterman’s success story is not so common on the crowd-funding website. Kickstarter statistics show that only 43 percent of campaigns are successfully funded. While many projects stall out after a fruitless Kickstarter campaign, some projects have found great success even after failure.

Take Grafighters, a fighting game where the player draws a creature by hand, uploads the drawing, and watches the doodled gladiator come to life for battle. Eric Cleckner and Dave Chenell, the two Syracuse University students behind the game, spent the summer before their senior year refining the concept. They had a small entrepreneurial grant from Syracuse, but they wanted enough to go into full-time development.

Mr. Cleckner and Mr. Chenell turned to Kickstarter, launching their campaign in August 2009. Grafighters got the attention of some backers and even the staff at Kickstarter, but it raised only $3,000 by its deadline, far from its goal of $20,000.

“Ultimately, we did have a failed Kickstarter,” says Mr. Cleckner. “I think a lot of it had to do with what we saw from some of the projects that had been successful, and it appeared that there had been enough people visiting the site … and it turns out that’s not the case. It takes a lot of work to do a Kickstarter campaign and keep up with the promotion.”

Cleckner and Chenell forgot about Kickstarter after the campaign ended, at least until they received an email from a man in Germany who saw their video on Kickstarter. He offered them $200,000.

“He sent us an email on Christmas Eve and it was just like, 'Father Christmas here. I'd like to invest in your company,’ " Cleckner says.

With the new funds, they hired some additional developers and released the game a year after their failed Kickstarter drive.


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