Why? Making a campaign video and a product prototype is significantly easier than taking a product to market. And the very nature of Kickstarter means reasonably inexperienced people will be out of their depth.
In the case of our first product, Plan V. We spent around 10k AUD producing a prototype, put together a campaign video, and set it live. We had no manufacturing partner engaged. We had no idea of global distribution. We had no customer support processes in place. And to top it off, we both had full time jobs.
We took a risk on an idea half expecting to end up on the scrappy floor of broken Kickstarter dreams. Instead, Plan V became a success. We had created a product with a demand. High fives ensued.
Not so fast! That's not where the story ends. It's not that simple. Taking a prototype design to manufacturing is a challenging prospect for companies both small and large. There are many (very time consuming) challenges that must be overcome.
Before the launch, no one wanted to know about us or our idea. The manufacturers that did reply to our requests were keen to know how many tens of thousands our first run would be. It was a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Without the demand, we couldn't find out the essentials to do business. And without the manufacturing insight we couldn't estimate product cost. Enter risk #1, the product-cost gut decision.
To drop ship from China or to freight to Amazon? It's a tough decision to make before knowing distribution numbers or packaging weight and dimensions. In the end we partnered with sendfromchina.com, despite some negative online reviews. Their service was fast, varied, and reasonably priced. China's mail system is government subsidized to keep the flow of goods rolling globally. Not knowing exact product size and weight, we needed to take risk #2. The gut price of global shipping $5AUD
I still remember the conversation I had with Evan after our Kickstarter campaign ended. I said, "The campaigns done. The CAD files have been delivered. The hard work is over." I cringe as I think back to that moment. The road between prototype and mass production is long and winding and ever dotted with Chinese public holidays. Don't underestimate this process. Just because you can make it easily in small batches does not mean you can mass produce your design.
Does your manufacturer care about customer satisfaction? Yes and no. Mostly no, Certainly not as much as you do. They care about the business and they care about further business. However, you cannot rely on them to ensure 100% of your products will be fully functional. You need a strong QC process from an external party. Test, test, and test. We learned this the hard way.
Having said all of that, Kickstarter allowed Evan and I to do what we love most. The learnings were immense, and interacting with our backers was like nothing I've ever experienced. You guys really are an inspiring bunch. We couldn't have made it through our first Kickstarter campaign without you.
Needless to say, this time around we'll be doing things differently, By the time we take Failsafe to Kickstarter, it will be mass production ready, thoroughly tested by our Beta Team, and it will be distributed by Amazon (so no shipping delays or disappearing orders)!