When it comes to crowdfunding, Keezel knows a thing or two (pronounced, “KEY-sul”, from, “kiezel” or “Kiesel” ” the word for “pebble” in Dutch and German respectively). In a manner that in many ways mimics the success of the original Pebble on Kickstarter, Keezel have crushed their Indiegogo campaign, blowing through their first target – $60,000 – in a mere four days, with now over $1 Million USD total funds raised so far.
Keezel takes VPN technology (Virtual Private Network) and makes it easy and accessible to the average consumer. VPNs have been available for many years and are used by most large companies to shield data from unauthorized access. However, because of the common complexities with setup, VPNs have largely been out of reach for many non-technical folk. While Other VPN solutions do exist, Keezel’s unique position is that it works with all WiFi devices, and it can secure multiple devices at the same time – protecting privacy, providing security online and also unblocking content worldwide. In a (very secure) nutshell, Keesel works by encrypting iffy WiFi – like the free kind so many of us use in hotels, cafés and airports.
I had an opportunity to interview Aike Müller, co-founder and CEO of Keezel. Based on his experience with Indiegogo, I asked him for some tips on how to completely crush a crowdfunding campaign. Here’s what Aike had to say:
1. Pick A Product That Resonates Widely
Remember, there is no crushing a crowdfunding campaign without a big enough crowd.
“At the risk of being perceived to be cocky,” Aike said, “Having a good product is definitely something that is really important. Having a product that resonates with people is the starting point.”
2. Use Benchmarks & Explore Examples
Keezel benchmarked with other crowdfunded products such as Pebble, looking at their key success factors, from design, to campaign qualities, and certain to release timing.
“We looked closely at them to figure them out from the inside as a customer. I think they are a great example of how to do crowdfunding successfully. Pebble was there at the right spot with the right product at the right time. Everyone was talking about smart watches. Apple was rumored to be coming with a smart watch for some time back then already. It took them two years later to actually come with a smart watch that in my opinion is not as good as Pebble’s.”
3. Leverage Your Campaign For Market Validation
“The first reason to use crowdfunding is of course to fund your initial R&D and build the product and bring the product to market. The second reason is really market validation. We had a business plan. We wanted to do this, but we also wanted to know what people thought about it, if they liked our product.”
People talk, but ultimately, money talks much louder.
“That’s what’s so great about crowdfunding. People are voting with their wallet. You can send out surveys left and right and ask if people like your product. You can ask your friends, of course. You can ask your extended friends, you get some idea, but if people vote with their wallets and spend money not knowing if the product will ever make it, having trust in the company and they are willing to support the entrepreneur because they like the product so much, I think that is market validation.”
“That’s something that’s really valuable to show investors down the road and to show banks or whatever, to get more traditional money. That is really an important thing about crowdfunding.”
4. Choose The Crowdfunding Platform That Makes Sense FOR YOU
When it came to choosing between Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Aike said he evaluated the way in which the platforms manage and surface their campaigns. “We had the assumption that Indiegogo is more algorithm based whereas Kickstarter is more editorial based,” he describes. “In order to make it or break it, we thought that we would be more the engineers of our own success if we went with Indiegogo.”
He continued, “In addition, Kickstarter was just starting to open up for Dutch projects. They were US-only when we first thought about them and made our first decision…Another very practical reason was that if you and I decided to start a project or a crowdfunding project tonight, we could just launch on Indiegogo; with Kickstarter there is a vetting process and it takes time before the project can go live.”
5. Warm Up Your Network & The Press
With regards to pre-Indiegogo launch PR, marketing and preparation, Aike describes a very deliberate process of priming.
“We talked to the press before, and we warmed them up. We also really engaged ‘friends, family and fools’ as they say, to join the campaign on the first day. I think we had a list of about 1500 people, maybe a bit more. We contacted them beforehand and explained how important it was, what they needed to do – and they did. It was quite a success.”
6. With Traction, The Earlier The Better
Aike emphasized how important early traction was to the eventual success of the Keezel campaign. If you talk to people involved in the incubator and accelerator world, they’ll tell you the same thing about almost any product launch, crowdfunded or not.
“With crowdfunding it is very important to show traction early on. To show that there’s demand for the product in the first days that you are live you need to show that there’s growth in those first days. That’s how you bubble up and get on the Indiegogo front page. When you bubble up to the front page, maybe they put you in the newsletter and then you get even more traction.”
When I first heard about Keezel, it was via an email from Indiegogo.
7. Expect & Prepare For Slumps
While a the roller coaster cliche is an old one, it remains a valid one, and one that Aike is quick to invoke.
“There will be highs, and there will be lows. We had really good traction in the campaign, and then at some point there was interest from media. The biggest Dutch newspaper did a half-page article about us, and then we hit a large American blog that wrote about us.”
Inevitably though, there will be a lull; the more prepared you are for it and the more active you are during it, the better off you will be.
“Then you hit the mid-campaign slump where the originality of the beginning is gone, and you somehow still have to hang in there. You have to think how to engage people and how to continue to drive traffic to your campaign. There’s a lot of PR and marketing that needs to go on.”
8. Use Facebook…a lot
“Facebook is really one of the most important platforms there,” said Aike, “Because you can target the right crowd of people based on their interests, and people can engage and ask questions. It’s different from just having an ad in a newspaper or something.”
He continued, “Facebook is a big avenue on the one hand being a platform to advertise, and also where you can engage with people and have people share and re-share posts. We actively asked people to like our Keezel page as well. We used Facebook a lot.”
9. Establish A Halo Of Trust
Try not to be just a campaign or a product, but a body representing thought leadership, expertise and concern for the consumer.
“We wanted to establish ourselves as thought leaders in the market, and to become an institution in the space. If you look at VPN companies there’s a large range of different companies; some, the shady basement kind through to security companies that also offer a VPN service. As a result a very important thing about VPN is trust. You have to gain the trust of people. That’s why we write pieces like the one on IT security for surgical robots – to show that we know our stuff.”
Final Words Of Wisdom
I asked Aike for some final words of wisdom for the SnapMunk readers. Turns out crowdfunding does a pretty good job of imitating the general game of life…
“’Enjoy the ride’ is a very important lesson. When you’re part of a campaign, it is the roller coaster that people will tell you it is. One of my guiding mottos in life is ‘how hard can it be?’ I discover from time to time work can be very hard, but it’s never insurmountable. There’s always a way to get up. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions- having good people around you helps. Learn from the lessons of others. People are willing to help and willing to share, so don’t be afraid to ask. That’s how you get out of that stomach churning low.”
In the time it took to write this article Keezel’s Indiegogo campaign increased by USD 110K and broke the million dollar barrier.
Gail is a Chicago-based food scientist who writes for leading US and European food and technology publications. A devotee of all things shiny, electronic and buzzing, with a passion for building on-line communities and conservation, she is an entrepreneur and founder of a sustainability and social media startup who moonlights on weekends as DJ Moongirl on Moonalice Radio. Clients range from rock bands and media companies to high-tech startups.