Kickstarter lessons — the less technical stuff
We were very well prepared for the technical part of the Kickstarter campaign, but there were some subjective and personal aspects that I hadn’t thought of before, and that surprised me. So I thought it would be interesting to share them in case someone finds them useful.
I wanted to write about them as they were happening, but I really didn’t have time — and I’ve skipped two blogs in the last two weeks. So I am writing about them now, which is a bit of a shame, as I’m looking at them differently than as they were happening, because this whole Kickstarter experience has been really intense, and I’m learning and growing as it happens. But on the other hand, I’ll be able to include some things that I’ve learned in the days that followed that initial overwhelming period, and include info on how some of that things have evolved and resolved. So I guess it’s not a bad compromise.
Here it goes.
1. The launch is chaotic
The launch itself is chaotic and overwhelming. We had a to-do list, but we had to abandon it to tend to more urgent matters as they were appearing. We probably could have been better organised — we should have delegated the tasks, so we would have people on technical tasks such as adding custom tags to the links (so we could track where the traffic is coming from), FAQ section and stuff like that which you can’t do before launch, and other people responding to comments and emails. We also should have automated more — the email announcing the launch should have been automated, but it was done by hand, and we also had some problems with it that could probably have been avoided.
2. Prepare for sleep deprivation
Don’t expect to get much sleep in the first few days. Once you go live, you are interacting with people from all over the world. And I think it’s very important to be responsive and agile, probably through the whole project, but especially at the beginning, when it is still new and doesn’t have the momentum and direction, and it’s wobbly and could easily be blown off course.
On the first day, I stayed up until 5 am, and then passed the torch to someone else, so the project was monitored the whole time. The second day, I went to bed at 4 am, and it was unattended for 2 hours before my fiancé took over. And then for more than a week, I would go to bed at 2 am, leaving it for 4 hours. This would probably work better with a larger team, but we are effectively a team of 3, and I’m the only one on the project full-time, so it was logical it would be me who would stay up late because I was the only one who didn’t have to go to work in the morning.
So for the first few days, and probably for the first two weeks, I really didn’t get much sleep at all, and it was really hard on me. But then after two weeks, things were starting to stabilize, and we reached that mid-campaign plateau, where everything slows down. The project also had some momentum and direction at that point, so it probably became less susceptible to small perturbations, and we were starting to get the feel for its rhythm, so the sleep situation improved immensely.
3. Don’t plan any big chores or events right after launch
We were also planning to attend a national board game convention on the weekend after launch. It got postponed due to covid, and looking back, that was probably a good thing. I didn’t know how we would be able to prepare for it, and how we would manage both the convention and the campaign with such a small team.
4. Take care of yourself
I mentioned above that the start of the campaign was really hard on me. The responsibility, learning on the fly, pressure and sleep deprivation really showed. So I made sure I took the time to care for my well-being. The first few days, it was mostly triage, I was mindful of what I ate and drank, and managed the headache with some pills. I also took a combination of vitamins and minerals that I discovered that help me re-generate after hard climbing tours. And then, as soon as the situation allowed, I added yoga and some other exercise, and I was pretty rigorous in doing it every day.
Now, at the mid-campaign plateau, I am also very happy to say that I’m finally getting enough sleep every night and that we even managed to squeeze in some ice climbing over the weekend, which was a really nice time off. So I think if you manage to get through the first few days okay, you’re good.
Just before the campaign, I planted some tomato seeds on a paper towel. And they need to be in a moist environment, which means you have to water them every day. I’ve failed that once before, and I thought there was a pretty high chance of failure this time too, but I decided to make those seeds a symbol for self-care. Every day, when I watered the tomatoes, I took a moment to think about my well-being and allocated the time for my yoga practice. And I am happy to report that the seeds have been planted into the soil, and they are alive and thriving. (Or they were when I wrote this blog a few days ago— now, the leaves are starting to get a yellowish hue… Maybe they’re getting too much sun. I need to look into it.) And I that am pretty okay too, though I haven’t been able to stick to the yoga plan 100 %. The curious thing is that I’ve started to skip sessions in the middle of the campaign when I actually have more time than in the first days… So I guess I am more efficient when there’s time pressure.
5. Be mindful of how the campaign is affecting people
A few days into the campaign, my fiancé and I got into what could have become a fight. It started with: “But you said that you’d do it yesterday!” “But I didn’t have time!” “Well then tell us, and someone else will take care of it!” “But I forgot, I have so many things I need to take care of!” And things could probably escalate quickly.
But we looked at each other and said: “We’re exhausted, we really shouldn’t be fighting.”
And we hugged and that was the end of it. Because we are both very rational people and because we know each other very well, and we have experience with working together in intense situations from alpinism. But this could have taken a very different turn if we left our emotions unchecked and spoke everything we wanted to tell each other at that moment.
We have a bit of a unique situation when I left my job to run the Kickstarter campaign, and my fiancé has a job, so we have a stable income. And consequently, a lot of the project falls on my shoulders, and it’s pretty easy to start feeling like I have to do everything myself. It’s also easy for my fiancé to feel left out. So we’re talking about this and we’re taking a short walk every day when he comes from work during which I brief him on the progress.
I also know that I’m not good at delegating, especially as this campaign is doing much better than expected, and the plans change on daily basis. So I am actively working on improving it, and I try to pay attention to how I and my actions are affecting other people. I am very lucky to be working with people who are really honest about it and give me feedback, and it encouraged me to squeeze in a workshop on relationships in start-ups, that really gave me some stuff to think about, and probably saved us quite a few mistakes in the future.
6. You are in a bubble that has its own time
During the campaign, we seem to be running on higher rpms, and we started perceiving days as impossible long units, especially in regard to response time from people outside of the project, such as (potential) business partners and media. Realistically, we should probably let them respond in their own time, but it would be super helpful if they understood that time really is crucial during the Kickstarter campaign. I can politely tell them so, but I don’t think all of them really get it.