The creation of crowdfunding and the mainstream acceptance of crowdfunding platforms has provided a new avenue to bring innovative ideas to the world.
Venture capitalists and business loans are no longer the only ways to acquire funding for a new product or invention. Plenty of incredible new ideas have already been funded through platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Crowdfunding is a fantastic concept with enormous benefits for independent entrepreneurs and inventors, but it also brings its own challenges. When dealing with professional funding sources such as venture capitalists, they are often familiar with things like prototyping design services, marketing, and the manufacturing process.
This is not the case with crowdfunding. When aiming to acquire funding for a new product through Kickstarter or Indiegogo, the way an idea is presented is even more critical. The appeal must be immediately apparent to people from all walks of life. What’s the best way to go about this?
Well, first of all, a prototype is an absolute necessity. Let’s dive into the process of developing a prototype for Kickstarter as well as the details that make it a necessity in this scenario.
Crowdfunding a New Product
If you aren’t familiar with how crowdfunding platforms work, the concept is pretty simple. You have an idea for a new product, and you want to acquire funding to bring it to life without going through conventional channels. The first thing you have to do is submit your idea and any related materials you have for presentation.
For example, let’s say you have an appealing write-up of the benefits of the product, a working proof of concept prototype, and a short video demonstrating how it works.
Once these materials have been uploaded to your project page on the platform, it will become visible to visitors. This could be anyone; many of the most successful crowdfunded ideas have gone viral on social media. Again, presentation is a crucial element here.
Even if someone who regularly contributes to crowdfunding campaigns as a hobby sees your idea, they need a good reason to contribute.
So, you have your product page on the crowdfunding platform and you’re doing your best to promote it on social media and perhaps some other avenues. The site will collect contributions as they come in.
Depending on the platform, it may be necessary to set and meet a funding goal in order to receive any funds. As long as your campaign is successful, now you have your funding and can move forward with making your new product available to the world.
Benefits of Making a Prototype for Crowdfunding
If you decide to browse the major crowdfunding platforms a bit, you’ll see all kinds of things. There are projects that have been thought out thoroughly and well presented. You’ll also see some that don’t quite add up in one way or another.
As mentioned just above, the importance of presenting your idea when using a crowdfunding platform is incredibly vital. When the project is for a new product, one of the most apparent factors that separate successful campaigns from the rest is a prototype. Now, why is this so significant?
For one thing, the existence of a prototype helps potential contributors to believe in your idea. Seeing is believing, and what better way is there to show people a new product than to present a prototype?
If you have a physical prototype or model, then a short demonstration video of it will answer many people’s inevitable questions. Does that part move? Can it perform this function too? Can I use it with one hand or do I need to use both? Questions like this will be answered without intervention on your part by a working prototype and a quick demonstration.
In addition to answering the questions of potential contributors without you having to personally respond to them individually, an existing prototype shows a higher level of commitment on your part. Are you really invested in and dedicated to your idea, or is this just something that you decided to try on a whim?
When you present a prototype, potential contributors immediately have their answer. Not only is that prototype proof that a freelance product designer’s idea has real potential, but it’s also proof that you are fully on-board with it. Potential contributors need to believe in your idea, and they need to believe in you and your commitment as well.
We’ve covered what a prototype symbolizes to potential contributors and touched on the practical aspect as well. However, a prototype also quite literally gives you more to show. If a demo video of your prototype is circulating, then you have a better chance of catching people’s attention as opposed to just having a paragraph and a link.
It’s more interesting at first glance and helps to get people engaged. Qualities like this will only help to increase the odds of having a successful campaign. Overall, if you want to get your idea crowdfunded then creating a prototype is one of the best investments you can make towards a successful campaign.
Kickstarter Prototypes 101
If you’ve never worked an idea through the prototyping process, then you definitely want to pay attention here. Similar to the crowdfunding process, the concept is simple. The difference is in the details and having a bit of background knowledge before beginning the process can make all the difference.
Overview of the Prototyping and Design Process
Once you have your idea, then it needs an initial design. Whether you’re an engineer or not, you’ll be the one to create this first drawing or design, even if it’s just a rough sketch on some notebook paper. So, the initial design has been put down on paper. Now, if you’re not a mechanical engineer or designer, this is where you’ll want to start working with one.
At this point, you find a suitable designer or engineer that can meet your needs. They will begin by looking at your initial drawing and discussing the idea with you. Be ready to tell them how it all works along with ideas you have for materials and any specific areas of the design where you already know you want to rely on their input.
The designer or engineer will then take all of this information along with the initial sketch and turn it into something refined. It will likely be a set of CAD drawings or perhaps a 3D CAD file.
Once a professional design is ready, you can move towards making a prototype that is more than a proof of concept model. There are many ways to create a prototype that are more available than ever today. If you have the necessary skills, you could build it yourself. However, sending drawings of the components to a machine shop or utilizing 3D printing services will be more suitable options in many cases.
Now that the prototype has been made, you have to make a decision. Do you want to proceed with the prototype as it is or do you want to make some design changes first? The answer will obviously vary due to specific circumstances, but creating multiple iterations of a prototype usually brings significant improvements.
Working with an Engineer or Designer
Some individuals with an idea for a new product are a little uncertain about working with a professional freelance engineer or designer. This is entirely normal if you’re not familiar with the process. There are things that can go wrong and plenty of questions that tend to be quietly wondered about. Take the issue of privacy for instance.
In the case of an idea for a totally new product, will they keep your project private for an appropriate length of time? What about your intellectual property rights? Will you be able to keep them fully if you work with this professional? If you’re working with a vetted professional engineer or designer, then you should be covered on both fronts.
When working with an engineer to bring a new idea to life, it’s important to have a bit of flexibility. You are working with a professional and it’s your idea. However, there will likely be instances where the engineer’s suggestions really should be taken over any pre-existing opinions.
They know what they’re doing, and this can happen even more with the very best engineers and designers. They aren’t attacking you or your idea; they’re just providing the best input they can based on their experience.
In our scenario of having an idea for a new product that you want to have crowdfunded, it would likely be best to work with an engineer or product engineering service who is independent. This will help to make sure you get the time you need to discuss your idea fully as the process moves along. It will also likely cost far less than working with a design firm.
Types of Prototypes and Prototype Iterations
There are generally considered to be three main types of prototypes. The first of these is a proof of concept prototype. A creation like this may not actually resemble the eventual final product in any significant capacity. The whole point of a proof of concept prototype is to prove that the idea can work, usually a specific function or a new way to complete a task.
It’s quite alright if a proof of concept prototype looks like something that you built yourself at home because that could be precisely how it was made. The appearance of a proof of concept prototype is not something to worry about, just make sure it proves your idea.
A visual prototype is likely to be the next step depending on the situation. The thing about a visual prototype is that it doesn’t have to physically exist. It could just be a 3D CAD design. In the case of Kickstarter specifically, a non-physical visual prototype is not enough to meet their standards.
There are also presentation prototypes and beta prototypes—there’s a bit of grey area here so we’ll just discuss them together. Basically, both presentation and beta prototypes serve the same general purpose.
These prototypes are very close to the final product in both function and appearance. The means used to produce them may be different from a mass-produced specimen, but otherwise, they are meant to be extremely close to the final product.
As far as prototype iterations, these are like generations of an idea. Prototype iterations are the result of repeating the steps of the prototyping process to pick out flaws and improve the design before proceeding to the manufacturing process.
Let’s say that you’re working with a civil engineering service on your idea. Together, you come up with an excellent design. Then you take those CAD files and have a presentation prototype made. Once you have your presentation prototype, you notice a few things that you would like to change. Instead of pushing the design through as is, you go back to the design and make the changes you want. Then you create a new prototype, that new prototype is a new iteration of the design.
1. Which crowdfunding platform is the best for my idea?
Whether Kickstarter or Indiegogo is a better fit for your project will depend on several factors. The type of funding you’re seeking, the development level of the project, and your personal preferences are all part of the picture. Even for two people with very similar projects, one may choose Kickstarter and the other may choose Indiegogo. This is up to you.
2. Do I have to reach my funding goal?
This depends on which platform you choose. Indiegogo has a flexible option while Kickstarter does not. In other words, Kickstarter is all or nothing and Indiegogo has multiple ways to set up this aspect of the project.
3. I have a great idea, but not the skills or time to build the first prototype myself. What do I do?
You’re not the first to be in this position and you certainly won’t be the last. It’s not a big deal. You’ll just need to either have the money or the network to have someone build that first model for you.
4. Do these funds need to be paid back?
Refunds to contributors are a possibility. However, these are usually handled by the crowdfunding platform. Funds raised this way are not a loan.
Choosing a Funding Goal
There is so much to think about when it comes to how you set up your new product on Kickstarter and the best ways to do it that sometimes it’s easy to overlook some of the basics. The whole point of using a crowdfunding platform is to get enough money to launch your idea correctly.
The real question then is how much money do you need? Do you think you could have your new product manufactured with a budget of $25,000 or $50,000 total? Do you think it might take $100,000 or more to bring your idea to life?
Creating a new product and manufacturing it can quickly become a very costly venture. That’s one of the main reasons Kickstarter and Indiegogo exist.
As far as figuring out a specific funding goal that will be sufficient to cover the process, that’s all circumstantial. Coming up with a reasonably accurate figure to cover all the necessary costs is worth taking some time to do, otherwise, your project campaign could be a success and still not be enough.
Fortunately, even if you’ve never been through the process before you can get a rough idea of how much your project will require. If you’re still at the concept stage and you have not spoken with a designer or engineer, then you may find yourself in the dark on this subject.
However, if you at least have professional CAD drawings of your prototype and a well-formed idea of the final product, you should be able to come up with a rough idea for a funding goal. You can even send your drawings out for bids and quotes at this point.
In the case of manufacturing a new product, you’re usually going to be in at least the low portion of the six-figure range. If you try to take on a manufacturing venture with less than $100,000 then the odds are already against you. It’s not impossible, but it’s unlikely.
Again, each situation is different. In some scenarios, inventors and entrepreneurs who underestimate are left stranded partway into the manufacturing process without any additional funds to complete the project.
The simple solution to this is to over-estimate your funding goal. Let’s say you have your idea and you hired an independent engineer to help you with the design. At this point, you should have a reasonably good idea of what materials, components, and parts will be in the product.
The estimated unit cost at this stage is a good number to have. Will this product require custom tooling or molds? This can easily add a five-figure sum to the cost of the project.
You’ll also want to consider any additional labor for assembly or handling, aesthetic work like paint or powder coating, storage costs, and a bit that’s dedicated to future engineering work or consulting. You’ll also want to leave some room for error, things aren’t always right the first time.
For many new products that are going to be manufactured, it’s not a stretch to have a funding goal of $200,000 or more. If in doubt, increase the figure before committing to it. Manufacturing services are efficient and profitable, but they have numerous upfront costs.
The fees that Kickstarter and Indiegogo charge vary by country. For simplicity, we’ll just cover the fees that apply to United States residents.
Fees for both platforms are actually quite similar. Both Kickstarter and Indiegogo charge a 5% fee for using the platform. In addition to the platform fees, there are also processing fees for the contributions.
The payment processor used by Indiegogo charges 2.9% plus $.30 on each contribution. For Kickstarter, the processing fee is 3% plus $.20. It’s important to be aware of these fees so that you can consider them when deciding on a funding goal for your project.
Kickstarter Prototype Rules and Guidelines
As you may have guessed, Kickstarter has its own rules pertaining to how prototypes and designs are presented on the site. These rules are in place to keep things grounded and to make sure that projects are represented as accurately as possible.
There are rules for presenting your prototype on Kickstarter, but they absolutely encourage you to have one and show it. Some of the materials that they specifically allow are technical drawings, unrendered CAD models, wireframes, and sketches.
Kickstarter also allows real photos and videos of the prototype. Editing should be kept to a minimum, but basic cleanup work is allowed. All of the rules that Kickstarter has regarding prototype and project presentation are meant to keep things realistic and transparent.
In addition to allowing the presentation materials just mentioned, there are some things that are specifically banned. Banned presentation materials include rendered CAD drawings, depictions of future functions, color variations, software integration, images that exaggerate the number of complete prototypes, product packaging that doesn’t exist yet, and images or video that you don’t own unless you have permission.
In other words, your prototype simply needs to be presented as it is instead of how it may be in the future. This is part of the transparency that Kickstarter expects from creators.
There are also rules for the verbal and written presentation of your prototype on Kickstarter. First of all, the concept of presenting your idea as it is still applies here. However, they do permit you to talk about what you hope to achieve with your idea.
While you are allowed to make claims about your product or prototype, they need to be backed up with some kind of unbiased information. This could be something like a study or testing that has been completed by an independent third party.
Kickstarter also wants you to touch on how you came up with your funding goal. They want you to communicate why that figure is necessary to bring your new product to the world. Having a realistic funding goal is very important to the overall success of the project and trying to be too modest with the goal can really throw a wrench in the process.
In addition to going into the how and why of the funding goal, Kickstarter wants you to acknowledge any challenges that you anticipate with the project. This includes going into a bit of detail about the timeline for the project as well as being transparent about your status with any other projects that haven’t been completed yet.
Explaining your fulfillment plan and any outside partnerships or dependencies is also strongly encouraged. These parts of a project can go wrong quickly, so it’s just best to let potential contributors know upfront.
On the other hand, there are a few simple things to avoid with verbal and written materials. One thing Kickstarter absolutely does not want is present tense talk about rewards if they don’t exist yet.
Kickstarter doesn’t want to hear about theoretical sales information either. It’s fine to have your hopes and goals, but you aren’t allowed to talk about future retail prices and such as if they are facts.
This is also the time to check yourself on any guarantees or promises that you’re making to contributors. Don’t make any promises or guarantees that you may not be able to keep.
Indiegogo Prototype and Presentation Rules
Compared to Kickstarter, the way things work at Indiegogo is a little different when it comes to prototypes and how projects are presented. Regardless of which platform you use for crowdfunding, you’re much better off having some kind of physical prototype even if it’s just a proof of concept.
Indiegogo accepts quite a range of project types, so their rules for presenting a prototype are a little different. If your project falls into some specific categories, then you will need to select a development stage. The development stage tells potential contributors where your idea is in terms of progress.
These stages range from having an initial concept all the way to shipping finished products. There are four stages of production in this scenario. The stages are concept, prototype, production, and shipping. The concept stage is for projects that do not have a prototype yet.
Kickstarter vs Indiegogo Prototype Rules
The rules for presenting a new prototype on Kickstarter are more defined as opposed to Indiegogo. This doesn’t mean one is inherently better or worse than the other, but Indiegogo leaves more room for interpretation with their guidelines. Depending on the situation, this could be good or bad.
Perhaps the most significant difference is that if you want to use Kickstarter for a new product, you must have a prototype to show potential backers. Kickstarter only allows device and new product projects that already have an existing prototype. Indiegogo will permit you to start a project without a prototype using their concept stage, but you will still want to develop the first prototype as soon as possible.
Both major crowdfunding platforms encourage you to be transparent about the project. They want potential contributors to have the most accurate representation of the project and its current stage as possible.
Simple Steps to Design Effective Prototypes for Kickstarter
Here we will go over the basic steps of creating a high-quality prototype for Kickstarter. This is just a short checklist, so don’t be afraid to go back to another section of the post if you need to go over a specific topic again.
1. Form Your Idea
This is the concept. Does your idea make life better or easier for people? Why would someone want your product? Jot down some initial thoughts about these questions as well as what the final product will look like.
2. Create a Rough Sketch
This will be helpful when you seek out a professional designer or engineer. The rough sketch serves as a starting point for them. The way it works should already be clear.
3. Start Working with a Professional
When you start working with an independent designer or engineer, you should be listening to them as much as they’re listening to you. You both will have valuable ideas to contribute, so make the most of them.
4. Develop Professional Drawings
This could be a set of CAD drawings, a single 3D CAD model, or both. Getting the best result possible will require input from you and the engineer.
5. Build the Prototype
Even if you didn’t build a proof of concept prototype earlier, this is the time to build a visual or presentation prototype. This could be done by you if you have the necessary skills or it can be outsourced to professionals.
6. Evaluate the Prototype
Does the prototype live up to your expectations? If you want to make any changes, it’s best to do them now before proceeding any further.
7. Create Your Presentation Media
Once you have a prototype that you’re satisfied with, you’ll want to make a video demonstrating what it does. This is also the time to work on the written materials about your idea.
8. Choose a Goal and Start Your Project
Now that you can present your prototype in the best light possible, you should choose a funding goal. Remember to estimate high if you’re uncertain. At this point, you should be ready to set up your project on Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
9. Promote Your Project
Promoting your project on social media and through other means is one of the best things you can do for your campaign. The focus is on individuals, but if you think a news or media outlet would have an interest in your project then, by all means, reach out and see if they’d like to cover it.
10. Collect Your Funds and Produce
You’ve reached your goal, congratulations! Take a moment to enjoy the success, but remember that there is still plenty of work ahead as you take your product through the manufacturing process.
Taking a new idea to a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter is a serious task when executed properly. If you’re looking for more information about Kickstarter specifically, there are numerous resources on their site. The same can be said for Indiegogo.
This is especially important when it comes to the exact rules for projects. However, if you want some input from others as opposed to merely interpreting the information on Kickstarter yourself, this topic has been widely discussed around the internet.
If you’re looking for more information about the prototyping and design process, that’s an intriguing subject all on its own. There are resources available here at Cad Crowd that will give you a more thorough understanding of the subject. There are also numerous other resources around the internet as well as books, seminars, and classes.
Whether you’re just starting to consider taking a new idea to Kickstarter or you’re almost ready to post your project, make sure you’ve done your research.
Be aware of the rules for presenting your project, the way the crowdfunding process works, and how new products are brought to the market when manufacturing is involved. The more you know going in, the smoother the whole process will be.
Cad Crowd Designer Successes
Numerous engineers and designers who offer their expertise at Cad Crowd have already been involved in successful projects for Kickstarter and Indiegogo. There are plenty of examples, but let’s start with the one that really got some mainstream attention.
You may have heard of Urban Owl sunglasses. These sunglasses are handcrafted in Greece and feature high-definition lenses that filter out blue light. The project was even covered by Reuters and Bloomberg Business. Cad Crowd talent was involved with the project.
Quite recently, another Cad Crowd designer published images of their design for a knife sharpening tool. This project was funded in a matter of days after it was put on Kickstarter. The Cad Crowd professional involved in this project provided the design and engineering services for the tool.
You can also find several Wowflute varieties and the EBE Whistle around the site. These projects were the work of yet another Cad Crowd professional. When the projects were posted on Kickstarter they were funded successfully.
There are plenty of other entrepreneurs that have brought their ideas to Cad Crowd while preparing for a crowdfunding campaign. Designs and prototypes are critical for these scenarios, so why not enlist professional help?
Ready to Build a Prototype for Kickstarter?
If you have an idea that you plan to take to a crowdfunding platform, then Cad Crowd can help make the process a little easier. The vetted professionals in the Cad Crowd talent pool are ready to help with your project. Whether you just need someone to make the CAD drawings or you’re looking for someone who can offer their input too, they’re ready to help.
When you work with a Cad Crowd designer or engineer, you don’t have to worry about privacy or intellectual property rights. That’s all taken care of for you. It’s standard practice to use non-disclosure agreements here and all of the intellectual property rights stay with you unless you say otherwise.
There’s never been a better time to take the next step with your project. If you could use the help of a vetted professional engineer or designer, then get a quote today!