How an established startup can successfully crowdfund to build a new product – a CyberGhost story

This is a guest post by Andreea Paraschiv, a passionate tech marketer who worked with startups and corporations like Intel, Microsoft, Kingston, VmWare, Maguay, CyberGhost and more. As she is recently behind an already successful crowdfunding campaign (46% ahead of target with 30 more days to go), I wanted to pick her brains and get the behind the scene story and advice and share them with you.

Crowdfunding is a good way to test the demand for new products for early-stage start-ups. Based on our latest experience, we can say that crowdfunding works even better when you’re an established startup, and want to build a new product.

As Forbes put it, $95 billion – that’s the total amount crowdfunding is expected to reach this year. 

With over 3.7M users, CyberGhost – the “Privacy as a Service” company where I work, launched on 4th of September a call-to-action to its community to get their attention in building the first #NoSpyProxy. The #NoSpyproxy is a safe datacenter for Cyberghost’s users, located in the company’s headquarter in Romania, which will offer them an improved level of security and privacy.

nospyproxy

Security is an industry where you need to be fast and continuously innovate, in order to stay ahead of spies, threats and competition. We really wanted to have our own #NoSpyProxy datacenter, in order to have 100% control over our hardware and offer our clients the very best. This was the boldest idea we’ve had so far and this is why we wanted to build it with the help of our community.

We chose to do crowdfunding, so we can test if there is actual demand and interest for such service. We needed €100,000 to build our #NoSpyProxy. And while the campaign will still run for 30 more days, we have already over achieved our target by 46%!

How we did it

As CyberGhost has 2 main important communities (English and German), we’ve split our campaign… into 2 campaigns:

We’ve worked 3 months on this campaign. We had a complex story to tell, and we tried to find the right balance between a technical story (for techies) and an emotional story (for security passionate people, but with no technical background).

Having a well-established community helped us because we had very positive feedback (and donations) from the very first hours of the campaign. To sum it all up, here is what we did to spread the word:

  • We’ve announced it inside our user base(we have dedicated campaign banners for all existing users)
  • We’ve announced it on our website (we have a countdown measuring the time left of the campaign, so users know exactly how much time they have left)
  • We’ve e-mailed all our users (and I must admit it’s quite large)
  • We’ve announced it on social media
  • We’ve published 3 press releases (so far)
  • We’ve listed the new product on Y Combinator News, StumbleUpon, GrowthHackers and many, many more
  • We kept an eye on Reddit and did our best to answer all open issues regarding our #NoSpyProxy

We didn’t offer gadgets or T-shirts in return of their support (and I’ll tell you later on why), but we offered 1 year Premium Plus subscriptions (with early and regular access) to this datacenter. More than 2200 backers supported the idea so far. The average donation was of €62 (our regular pricing is of €79, 1 year, Premium Plus, so they received a good deal on our service).

We had 15 lifetime subscriptions to the service claimed, so far. We were sold out on the 7 year perk, on both German and English campaign (100 perks in total), so we had to add a new batch (talking about long term commitment!).

We’ve been featured in Indiegogo’s newsletter and homepage. We’ve immediately seen a boost in visibility & donors. We received a lot of messages filled with happiness and kind words from our supporters, which can attest that our product idea was awesome and much appreciated.

And there are still 30 days to go!

Poster

 

Here’s what you need to know

…if you’re preparing your own crowdfunding (on Indiegogo or Kickstarter) campaign:

Know what you want very well

Know as much as you can about the product you want to build. You will get a lot of questions for potential supporters from all over the world, and you need to know the answer. Show your supporters you really know what you’re talking about and you will gain their trust.

Be careful with t-shirts

We’ve had another crowdfunding campaign when our company was in its early days. We offered t-shirts, certificates and posters, depending on their contribution. Our team spent a lot of time to sort all the packages and deliver them (and often shipping costs were bigger than expected). Yes, everybody wants a cool new t-shirt to wear & brag to friends, but think if you have the time to do all of this (your launch date might get delayed if you spend your time on other things).

Spread the word

It’s not enough just to set the campaign live, but you need to be consistent with your message. Use Google+ groups, Twitter, Facebook groups, forums or whatever works for you and encourage people –at least – to spread the word. If you get the support of one established community, you’ll definitely reach your target faster. Send multiple press releases (launch, special events and so on).

Organize a contest for your referrals

Indiegogo has a nice system which shows you exactly which supporters (must be Indiegogo users) shared your campaign and managed to attract donors. This will encourage people to be active supporters of your campaign and become your campaign advocates. I’ve seen various prizes: from t-shirts, to actual products or trips to the company’s headquarter. You know what suits you best.

Publish updates often

You keep your supporters informed and… get bonus points from Indiegogo (and might get featured in their newsletter or even homepage – and I can tell you for sure that this will attract new supporters). Add new stuff in the Gallery – it also helps with the points. And it is well-known the fact that visual elements help user understand your story better.

Show gratitude

Don’t be afraid to thank your community. They are helping you build something great and they need to know they play an important part in the success of your campaign.

Be patient

You won’t reach your goal in the first day (unless you’re Pebble, OUYA or Protonet). You’ll get tons of spam messages with “Choose us and we’ll boost your campaign’s visibility” (ok, some of them might be legitimate businesses, but you will get tons of messages from all sorts of “agencies”).

And PS:

If you like this idea of helping us build the first #NoSpyProxy datacenter out of NSA reach, maybe you’d like to keep an eye on our campaign, or even contribute.

nospythanks

Got any questions? Tweet them to me at @andreeaparaschi.