This is a follow up to the analysis of 2013 projects on Kickstarter we published last week. Word of advice: if you have pledged for a crowd-funded product, be prepared to be patient, very very patient. We examined the 2012's top 30 most-funded projects on Kickstarter and found that 57% missed their target delivery dates.
Collectively the 2012 top 30 projects raised $1.03 million from more than 29k backers.
Going through the 2012 top 30 highest-funded campaign, only 11 hit their deadline. 9 projects left the warehouse months late and 8 were partially delivered or in most case hadn't even shipped!
Median delay is 6 months, although some outliers will take much longer, for example the Ultraviolet ($19k) Playing Cards project, which is 16 months overdue with no expected shipping date.
Here's the troubling question: Why are so many playing card projects blowing their deadlines? Over and over in our interviews, the same pattern emerged. What happens after the idea is successfully funded is always a big surprise for most first-time Kickstarter creators, mainly because many of the Kickstarter creators are individuals and inexperienced start-ups. The learning curve to set up a system for shipping hundreds of packages at one time while simultaneously dealing with outside vendors and manufacturers as well as customer service to backers, is incredibly steep and time consuming.
Also, inexperienced creators launched a project that they expected would attract a few hundred backers. It takes off, raising vastly more money than they anticipated- obliterating the original production plans and timeline. Managing projects of this size and structure requires full time attention and if creator only does this on a part-time basis, they will get caught out. Compounding the problem.
The problem is, when plans get pushed, not all backers are understanding. Quicksilver ($51k) was funded in November 2012 - 10 months later, the rewards were partially shipped and from the comment section of the project page, a number of frustrated and angry backers are still waiting for their pledge to be fulfilled. Failing to deliver will impact a creator's reputation and backer's trust making it hard to launch future projects. The Internet never forgets.
Let's change gear. Instead of focusing on the negatives, we look at how some of the 43% top 30 project meet their target delivery date.
Elite Playing Cards launched their first project, RITUAL ($23k) on September 2012. With full time commitment, knowledgeable staff and well organized distribution network, they have met their delivery target date. Since then, they have launched 5 other projects and successfully shipped DIVINE ($32k), Majestic ($21k) and PLATINUM ($27k) on time.
"We have been in business for almost 10 years. Our brands are our full time job. We have warehouses with permanent staff in California and in Europe," said Jay from Elite Playing Cards. "Our brands are our full time job. We have warehouses with permanent staff in California and in Europe. We eat and breath playing cards and magic tricks. Because of our background in business we are able to run a project from the beginning to the end without almost any bumps along the way."
The Blue Blood ($19k) playing cards was the first project for the popular design studio, UUSI. This beautiful deck was over 200% funded- more than anticipated. Once again, with experience, good systems and tried & tested distribution network in place they were able to efficiently get the playing cards to their backers on time.
"As a small design studio, Uusi has always had an online presence, so we had a shipping & customer service system in place when we created our first Kickstarter project, but it was still a huge surprise to us how intense fulfilment was on a project," Linnea from Uusi told us. "We also designed and in many cases produced products for large companies like Design Within Reach, Herman Miller and Anthropologie and have dealt with shipping large quantities of a single product at one time. This manufacturing & wholesale background and pre-existing shipping system allow us to handle our Kickstarter projects efficiently."
UUSI went on to launch 4 more projects, Bohemia ($45k), ROYAL OPTIK ($51k), Blueblood Redux ($29k) and PAGAN (currently live). All of their project were delivered on time. If you ask me, it is definitely not an easy task considering all of UUSI's projects were at least 200% funded. Also, the high quality of the final delivered products were maintained. Keeping backers happy. That is what makes UUSI one of the most respected name in the industry and backers keep coming back for more.
At Encarded, Paul Carpenter launched his first project Tendril ($42k) on February 2012. At that time, being new to the concept of crowd-funding with no experience in printing a deck of cards and never bought shipping materials in bulk or even assembled 1,000 packages, Paul managed to get Tendril ($42k) to all his backers on time. This is attributed to understanding and defining all of these various elements before he felt comfortable to launch his project. Only when he knew that he had accounted for all facets did he decide to make the project real.
"As to my projects, Tendril came in on time for a very simple reason. Planning. At the time there were very few playing card projects on Kickstarter and I spent many weeks researching the process of making cards," Paul explained. "This involved talking with USPCC, learning about their timeframes and the flow of their process, looking into Kickstarter and how long it took to receive the funds, checking with the Postal Service to see what rates were, what packaging was optimal for each tier, how many supplies I would need, what technology I could use to expedite the postage process, etc. Even after shipping well over 3,000 packages I am constantly refining my process and finding better ways to get my cards into customer hands."
The Black Swan
Even with all the planning experience, systems and knowledge, things can still go wrong. According to Linnea "...no matter how good you think your system is, shipping to hundreds – and for some of the larger funded projects, thousands of people– at one time, as well as shepherding your work through the manufacturing process successfully, is always a challenge and mistakes are bound to happen."
"The only thing that usually can happen is a delay of 2-3 weeks because of USPCC's busy schedule." said Jay.
Paul had a much interesting experience with his latest project Deco ($29k), "I took all that I learned in my first projects and ran my latest card project, Deco, the same way. As with Tendril, I planned out everything and had the advantage of knowing much more about the process and was fully prepared to have everything complete and shipped well before the deadline that I had set. I received the cards right on schedule and was all prepared to get them to my backers, when completely unforeseen circumstances appeared that I never would have accounted for. "
USPCC had been lax in their quality control and Paul recieved decks with blemishes that made them impossible to sell. Many creators assume that once they got delivery of the cards, it would be perfect but for Paul, that is not the case.
"Because of this I had to negotiate their replacement and this added nearly 7 weeks onto the process," Paul continued. "I felt that in this case, sending defective items to my customers was not a viable option, and the delay was the lesser of the two evils. In the end I got a much better product and was able to get those to my customers, late, but better than the first printing."
Black Swans do occur and these are things or events that are unplanned and beyond control but with solid experience, dedication, reliable systems and good knowledge & understanding will steer you back on track.
Jay added, "... thanks to our fantastic warehouse team that can ship hundreds of packages a day very easily. This allows us to stay on schedule. We don't sleep until everything is shipped out."
At the end of the day, it is all about the backers "What we have found to be the core elements in keeping our backers happy and getting their rewards out to them as fast as possible," said Linnea on what she learned from her Kickstarter experience.
If a project has been delayed or timeline is behind schedule, creators should communicate that to backers. Backers are generally patient and more acceptable of the truth. Keeping quiet and creating smokes screens, creators risk a backers revolt if they do not treat backers with respect or take backers for granted. No one wants that experience.
In Paul's case, the key to the Deco ($29k) situation was to communicate to his backers promptly and transparently describe what was happening. "I didn’t try to hide it and made sure to tell everyone why things were happening and why I had made certain decisions," explained Paul. "I felt that clearly and honestly telling everyone was the only way to make the situation acceptable and the response from the backers was that the delay was unfortunate but made sense, and everyone appreciated the lengths I took to get them a perfect product."