From Zero To Kickstarter in $5,000

Oct 18, 2013

EDITORS NOTE: The following was written by my friend and old co-founder Jon Wheatley

This is the first post in a planned series documenting everything we’re working on. The goal is to be as open as possible and share everything along the way.

Marshall and I were in my apartment, putting the finishing touches on our last Kickstarter campaign. We needed to print and sign some incorporation documents and unfortunately I don’t own a printer (does anyone anymore?), so I had to run to OfficeMax.

I was standing in line waiting for the guy to get to me, when something caught my eye. One of the staff had made a little notebook out of a few pages of paper and some wire binding so people could test out the custom stamps they make. It was smaller and thicker than most notebooks I’d seen before and I liked the fact that it didn’t have a front and back cover. I proceeded to pull out my phone and snap a picture of it.

The spiritual precursor to Draft.

“Can I buy this?”, I asked.

“No, but I can make you one”.

I think the guy charged me around $4 for my own version of this hacked together notebook. This was essentially Draft v0.1.

I took it back to the apartment and showed Marshall. We threw a few notebook related ideas around for a few minutes, but promptly got back to working on more pressing things.

We really had nothing of value at this point. Not even an idea. But this little notebook got us thinking about what we could or would make if we were going to make a notebook. It was more of a fun thought experiment than anything else.

I had a pile of old notebooks in my office, which I had acquired over the past few months . One of the things I did every time I completed a notebook was snap a picture of every page and upload them to Evernote.

I pulled this from Evernote. I have hundreds of these low quality pictures.

This was a pretty horrible experience, and took an ungodly amount of time. Evernote also limits the number of images you can attach to a single “note”, so each notebook is broken up into multiple “notes”, all filled with horrible low quality images. Evernote really isn’t set up for consuming these kinds of posts either.

I really liked having a digital backup of these things, though. I have pictures of notebooks going back to 2009, when I first started sketching out what later became DailyBooth. Those notebooks are long gone, but I’m so happy that I will have digital copies forever.

Marshall had also tweeted this picture a few weeks before.

The sketch that eventually became Obsorb (since acquired by MetaLab)

This got me thinking…. Wouldn’t it be cool if your notebook was effortlessly backed up somehow? What if every note you ever wrote down was synced and saved forever? I wanted this.

This is the actual chat log from when I first pitched Marshall.

We decided to do it.

A New Type of Company

After the success of our last Kickstarter, we decided to launch Draft through Kickstarter as well.

There seems to be a new type of company that’s started to pop up. These companies validate all their ideas through Kickstarter or other crowd funding platforms before launching them. Flint & Tinder and Studio Neat are good examples of this. It’s a really interesting model which I think we’re only going to see more of. I mean, why wouldn’t you validate your idea with paying customers before actually building it? It’s hard to think of a compelling reason why you wouldn’t launch a product on Kickstarter (or another crowd funding platform).

The Notebook

The cloud sync part of this was cool but we wanted to make a great notebook too. We went through multiple iterations before we landed on something we loved.

Here’s just a few different concepts we played around with.
Here’s one of the earlier versions of a Draft notebook. I was so excited, I opened it in the car on my way home from DHL.

We decided on a hard cover, so you can throw it in your bag without worrying about it. Super thick paper means when you’re writing a note, it never bleeds through to the next page (this would also be important during scanning!). We also made them the exact size of the iPad mini, as a lot of people will probably be carrying these things together anyway.

The final design in 5 colors.

Positioning & Testing

We needed to work out how we were going to position this. We’d played around with A/B testing headlines on Facebook with Smart Bedding, but it can get pretty expensive if you want a decent-sized pool of data.

Marshall discovered that paying for a Facebook ad that links to another page on Facebook was much cheaper than linking to something off site. We made a little post on our Facebook page that prompted people to go to our website, then setup a little splash page with a rotating headline. We then tracked visits and emails, working out the conversion % for each headline.

We tested the following headlines:

  • Physical Notebooks Synced to the Cloud (3.89%)
  • A Physical Notebook That Syncs to the Cloud (6.42%)
  • A Never Ending Notebook Synced to the Cloud (3.94%)
  • Paper Notebooks Synced to the Cloud (4.44%)
  • A Never Ending Notebook (4.98%)

The % value next to each title represents the % of visitors that entered their email address. It was very interesting to me how large a difference a very subtle change in wording can make to your conversion ratio.

Loaded with this new info we pressed on!

Designing the App

We hired a design studio to mock up a basic version of the app we could use in the Kickstarter video. In the spirit of being open, here’s the brief we sent them.

It didn’t take them long to whip up a mockup of the app. I then spent a bit of time animating the transitions in After Effects, so it actually looked like a working app and not just an image.

Incidentally, if you’re a product person that ever has trouble explaining flows and communicating ideas to designers and engineers, I can’t recommend spending a few hours learning your way around After Effects highly enough. Being able to mock up exactly how you want things to look and work, in a few minutes, is INVALUABLE!

An animated version of the app mockup.

We now had enough to start putting the Kickstarter page together.

Filming the Video

There seems to be a strong correlation between the quality of a Kickstarter video and how much money that project raises. Because of this, we wanted to make sure our video was decent. This was by far our biggest expense.

We found a video guy in L.A. to help us out. He drove up to San Francisco for a couple of days and we got all the shots we needed. Luckily my friend was nice enough to let us borrow his office for the shoot. (Thanks Josh!)

The Mino Monsters office; the location of the Draft video shoot.
Marshall and our video guy, Josh fiddling with the GoPro.
Filming some close ups of the paper.
Marshall reading the rough voiceover for the video, in the car outside our scanning facility.

Once the video was shot and edited, we were pretty much set.


OfficeMax Sample: $4
Factory Samples: $500
Kickstarter Video: $2,800
Logo: $445
Website/App Design: $800
Lawyer fees: $750

Total cost to get to this stage: $5,299

Total time taken from idea to Kickstarter launch: 3 months

EDITORS NOTE: Draft became Mod Notebooks, which was sold years ago.

If you liked this post, you can follow me on Twitter @Jon and @Marshal

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