We see a lot of crowdfunding campaigns every week that use embeds of 3D models to show a concept, work in progress or a product sample. We are asking the creators of various campaigns to share how they made their campaigns successful. Here’s Sentri’s story from Wendy Qi.
Sentri is a complete smart home monitoring solution designed to give you visibility and control of your home, no matter where you are. They raised nearly $400,000 in June 2014 from more than 1,200 backers on Kickstarter. Wendy Qi, co-founder, shares some insights!
All About Sentri
When we looked at the smart home landscape today, we saw products that were often too limited, too complicated, and lacked the style to complement to today’s home. So instead, we decided to build Sentri, a simple, beautiful all-in-one monitoring solution with the power to be the center of your smart home. Sentri requires no installation and is ready to use in minutes, coming pre-loaded with a built-in camera and sensors that track temperature, humidity, and air quality. It’s powerful enough to be the center of your smart home by connecting with popular monitoring devices like the Nest Thermostat, Philip Hue smart light, and Belkin WeMo smart switch.
And unlike many monitoring solutions on the market today, Sentri can be set up in minutes and requires no monthly contracts.
Our Month of Campaigning
Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter are incredibly helpful for new products like Sentri. It not only proved out that there was a product-market fit, which is why I think a lot of businesses go on sites like Kickstarter, but it also helped us create the type of community-focused brand we were looking to build from the very beginning.
Our campaign was not just a few people sitting in a room brainstorming about what people wanted. We wanted to actually involve our community in a very active way, and is indicative of the type of brands that we see becoming more and more relevant in the coming years. For example, after our campaign we hosted ‘Hangouts on Air’ with our team members and some of our backers, which added a whole other level of engagement to have actual conversations with our community about everything from the inner workings of the product to suggestions/thoughts around new types of features.
For instance, one thing that we have consistently heard throughout our campaign was to have a touch screen. Even though we didn’t initially have a touchscreen planned, conversations with our backers – even after our campaign ended – helped cement the importance of a touchscreen not just as another ‘cool feature’ but as a significant game changer in simplifying the experience of how people could interact with their homes. This feedback even helped us as point of negotiation with our suppliers to be able to implement a touchscreen at viable price.
Sharing a 3D Rendering
We decided to showcase Sentri in 3D during the campaign. What is really powerful about 3D is that it illustrates multiple dimensions of the product that you really don’t get through images or text, and helps bring a product to life.
Additionally, it is a critical step between a sketch and an actual product. Having the ability to share a 3D rendering of the structure of the product is so helpful for anyone touching the project – from the manufacturers we worked with to our team today. Having that first basic structure, which Sketchfab helped illustrate in those early days, can move the process a lot faster, while staying true to the original product as a whole.
And especially as platforms like Sketchfab continue to evolve and grow, such as with the recent Sketchfab/Microsoft partnership on the HoloLens, an augmented-reality device that will let people bring virtual content into their own environment, it’ll be really interesting to see the interactivity and new ways of engagement when people will be able to see and embed Sentri in their own rooms.
A Couple of Insights
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Creators often underestimate the amount of time it takes to prepare for the campaign. We would encourage any creators looking to launch a campaign to think about ways to grow your community even before you hit the ‘launch’ button – ways you can think about doing this can range from just having an e-mail signup form on your website to hosting forums beforehand to raise awareness and get people excited about what you’re working on.
Having media that highlights your story and your product is also very helpful. In addition to helping you raise awareness, it brings another perspective and voice to the conversation. Reach out to reporters early on, and be thoughtful when crafting those pitches about the type of stories they have reported on in the past, and what makes your story relevant and unique for their audience. While you don’t necessarily need a PR agency,, have someone on the team who is focused on thinking about the story you want to tell and dedicated to building out these critical relationships.
Communicate + Engage
One of the best things about crowdfunding is the ability to actively engage with your community, so think about ways to enable your community to make meaningful contributions. This can come in different forms such as short surveys, asking for community input on designs, or simply kicking off with conversation starters. For us, it’s led to things such as the addition of a touchscreen on Sentri, and really enforces our core DNA as a community-based brand.
Communication is also really key and understanding that people come to platforms like Kickstarter to not only have early access to cool new products, but to be part of a conversation. Remember that your campaign doesn’t really end when the clock runs down, but that it’s just the beginning of a new type of conversation. We update our backers at least once a month, and in doing so, it helps keep everyone in the loop in terms of where things stand and where they’re headed.
Thank you Wendy!