How To Raise Money Online… Well, How To Do It Well At Least

Let’s face it, asking for money is never easy, nor is it fun. To this day, even as a 21-year-old woman, I still HATE asking my parents for money…. come to think about it, I hate asking anyone in general for money. So to imagine being a business/ start-up and asking for money is something entirely different. When they need to raise money in a quick(er) amount of time, some organizations set up Kickstarters and, while the premise is the same across the field, some organizations do this process better than others.

The first Kickstarter campaign that I want to touch on is one by the name of MudTails. This product, which describes itself as “a line of apparel for all ages that specializes in barnyard animals with a positive voice and sign language designs” features a variety of pigs on one set of clothing options (see below… or don’t, you’ll see why I say that in a second) while another set of clothes feature common sign language words/phrases commonly taught to small children.

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See what I mean about it being creepy? Also, side note, you’re designing characters around pigs, yet you have a shirt with a live piece of bacon on it….

This product started their campaign with a goal of $2,750 and, after the whole thing was over… they only raised $40. So the question is, why was this campaign unsuccessful? One of the biggest problems I can see with this campaign is that it isn’t something that can be marketed to everyone. It doesn’t capture the attention of everyone who could possibly want to buy clothes. From what I can see, it applies to one, maybe two groups: children who like pigs or parents who want people to know their kid knows basic sign language. Also, the video (which I can’t link to in this post but feel free to look at it with the above link) wasn’t the best made in my opinion, so that may have persuaded people to not give money. Either way, this is not an example of a good campaign.

If you want to see a good campaign, look no further than the Coolest Cooler! This cooler includes a USB charging station, blender, two inside compartments, and a TON of other cool options to it!

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This project hoped to raise $50,000 and they raised SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT! How much you ask? Oh, just a measly $13,285,226! …That’s more than my entire college tuition! That’s my college tuition times like three.

The reason this was so successful, at least in my opinion, was because of two key reasons. One: it appeals to a wide variety of people. People who like to go camping, go to the beach, have a BBQ, and so MANY more can enjoy this product because of what it is and what it does. It isn’t marketed to a specific group of people, it’s basically marketed to anyone who can afford it.

The second reason: The prizes! What I mean by prizes is this: when people pledged money to the campaign, they got stuff (see below). These prizes are actually things that people would actually use and want to have.124dd185824b69cc586a30dfbc549ec2_original.jpg

Overall, the two campaigns I talked about display two very different ends of the spectrum for Kickstarter campaigns, the very good and the not so good (not even the worst of the worst though because some campaigns start out and they make absolutely no money, which sometimes I find kind of sad). The Coolest Cooler did a lot of things right, and the MudTails did a lot of things wrong, but having a good Kickstarter campaign isn’t always easy. You need to find a way to make people want to give you money to back your product and that isn’t always easy, but when you do get people to back you, it makes you feel good that people believe in what you are producing.

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College Start-Ups, Then and Now?

For most college students, they change their majors so many times they come in Pre-Med and leave Journalism (cough cough me). However, there are some students who somehow find the time to not only get good grades and have a social life but also start a successful start up. Well… some were successful.

The start ups I’m talking about are listed in the Business Insider article “16 Great Startups College Students Are Working On Right Now”, and some are much better ideas than others.

I’ll start with the ones I thought were good. The first one I’ll talk about is CentriCycle. This company creates and provides centrifuges to third-world countries that might not have access to the machine or electricity.

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The reason I think this start up is one of the better ones can be broken down into a few reasons. First of all, it fulfills a purpose, and a good purpose at that. Providing medical equipment to countries who otherwise could not afford it; if that isn’t a good purpose, I don’t know what is. The market for this isn’t overrun with other companies trying to do the same thing, which also makes it valuable, as well as incredibly original.

The other start up that I thought was cool was Star Toilet Paper, though this one is sort of in a gray area now. I initially thought it was a good idea, only to later figure out that they had closed down their organization in 2014, only a year after Business Insider published their article.

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As you can see in the above picture, the toilet paper sold ads to companies in order to add to their revenue, which I thought was a great idea. Honestly, I saw this product as being almost like a gag-gift of sorts, and trust me, there is a market for this. I had never heard of anything like this before, so I assumed it would be successful. I mean, one of the founders won College Entrepreneur of 2012, how could it not be successful? Apparently, very easily.

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Even though this product isn’t in production anymore, and the business is… well… out of business, I still think it was a good idea. If they had not made ‘numerous mistakes’ as they said in their Facebook post, maybe they would still be in business today.

Now onto the start ups that I didn’t think were such a success.

The first one that I didn’t enjoy quite as much is trueRSVP. I’m not quite sure why, but this organization just hit me the wrong way. I understood the premise of it, however, I don’t think it is 100% necessary.

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The idea is original, I won’t deny that. I’m not sure I have heard of any other organizations who do this. However, just because it is original doesn’t mean that it is a good idea. I legit don’t understand why people would use this service. I mean, I get that it allows you to ‘plan’ for how many people might actually show up, but what if it’s wrong? Wouldn’t it be better to be over prepared for something rather than go with the service and not have enough, let’s say food, for the people who are coming?

The other startup that I cannot understand how it is a thing is FamilyLeaf. I mean, come on… it’s Facebook!

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FamilyLeaf is described as a social media site that allows people to share posts, photos, and messages with their families… read that and tell me that doesn’t sound EXACTLY LIKE FACEBOOK!!! I cannot be the only person who knows about this organization that thinks this. I mean, am I crazy? How is this a thing?!?

Overall, I could get behind most of the startups Business Insider listed in their article, in fact, I only didn’t like the two I talked about in that section of the post. Some college students create great businesses while they are still in school and, honestly, I am kinda jealous of them for that. Not even going to lie, I wish I had that kind of creativity, business insight, and multitasking ability to get all of the things it takes to create a startup, while at the same time not flunking out of school. That in and of itself is a win in my book.

Once Again, Everything Changes

I swear, in terms of start-ups and journalism in general, you can’t go more than a year without hearing about how something has come along and changed things forever. First it was the internet, then it was Twitter, now it’s… still Twitter but you get my point.

Because I hear it all the time, I tend to despise the phrase “Next Big Thing” and “Change the way we see things forever”, or any variation of the two. Then, I read “Why the Lean Startup Changes Everything” by Steve Blank, and suddenly I didn’t mind it very much… well at least for the span of this article.

I’m going to be honest, I didn’t have high hopes going into this article. I expected it to be super boring just not an interesting read. HOWEVER, I was surprised to find that I was wrong and that I actually enjoyed reading this article.

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The section I liked the best, or at least found the most interesting to read, is the section that lists the five factors that constrained growth in start-ups (besides the initial failure rate of 75%). For those of you who didn’t read the article (seriously, go read it), those factors are:

1. The high cost of getting the first customer and the even higher cost of getting the product wrong.

2. Long technology development cycles.

3. The limited number of people with an appetite for the risks inherent in founding or working at a start-up.

4. The structure of the venture capital industry, in which a small number of firms each needed to invest big sums in a handful of start-ups to have a chance at significant returns.

5. The concentration of real expertise in how to build start-ups, which in the United States was mostly found in pockets on the East and West coasts.

I’m not entirely sure why this section was the most interesting for me to read, but I’m going to assume it is because I had never actually thought about these things as being factors that affect start-ups. I mean, looking at them now, they make sense.

The lean approach also makes the most sense to me to reduce the first two constraints listed. I think that the way it is set up differently helps set up products and services that people actually need and want, so I see why it helps the process along.

Overall, I really enjoyed this read. The topic matter wasn’t something I had ever heard of before, and once I read about it I actually wanted to learn more (and no I’m not joking). I recommend this article to people to read who want to learn more about the topic, and even those who don’t and just need something to read to pass the time.