2 years ago 3 friends took a motorcycle tour around northern Vietnam. We drove from Hanoi taking a round trip, up near the Chinese border, on down to Halong Bay, and through a place they call charcoal town. On the trip we had two Nokia N95′s, an HD camcorder and a helmet camera. From the footage we have created a 45 minute movie that documents the numerous and unexpected exploits on this trip, including our guide (who could not hold his alcohol), various mechanical breakdowns, strange things being eaten, and the invention of some alcoholic drinks. We screened the movie for the Montgomery Group Motorcycle Club and we got great feedback, in fact two of the guys went to Vietnam 2 months later. Here’s a trailer we put together and are thinking about trying to fund distribution on kickstarter and maybe even fund another trip? What do you think?
I think there is a great opportunity to use Kickstarter for people that want to build community driven sites and applications. Building community sites are very easy technically, almost every successful community platform and app has dozens of open source clones. What is usually missing is a team of motivated people to work on making that site or application a success. Crowdfunding community sites or applications would help scale funding to match the scale of community interest around the concept. No longer will you have to ask “if you build it will they come”, they’ve already bought tickets. Contributions will come from people who want to be involved in different aspects of making the site successful and gain a stake in the direction of the site and potential upside. Stakeholders not only get to contribute to different aspects of building and leading the community but also help create the vision and be leaders in the community.
Here’s a strawman of a potential funding model for a community driven site or application. I’ve tried to include roles that help bridge important communities, partners, developers and businesses that often want early access to startups and particular requirements that they would want to influence:
Customer: free for first year and beta access $
Business Customer: free for first year and stakeholders in the business community $$$$
Voter: free for first year and gain early beta access $$
Contributor: help create and vote on content $$$
Editor: post & edit content $$$$
Partner Membership helps stakeholders in the partner community
Board Member: helps shape long term vision for site, lead community $$$$$
Developer: access to API, maybe voting influence on feature roadmap $$$$$
Owners: major stakeholders $$$$$$$$$$
It wouldn’t have to contain all those of course and it could be tweaked to match individual business models.
This could be a great kickstart for many community driven applications, designers, indie game developers, and entrepreneurs because it could create an early group of users who are stakeholders in the success of the community.
Yelp has just rolled out an enhancement to their checkin service that is focused on enabling businesses to offer deals to their loyal customers. Interestingly Yelp has announced this as an additional feature as a part of their business dashboard so local businesses can create deals and offers easily. This is a very smart move on Yelp’s part, they learnt early on that they’re most valuable customers were not users but businesses and struggled early on as they’re focus was on user acquisition. Foursquare may have broke new ground and literally created a new market for the “check in” but Yelp and Facebook’s fast follower strategy is paying off and enabling them to leapfrog the services focused on user acquisition like Foursquare and Gowalla.
Recent survey data certainly supports both Facebook and Yelps strategy as the number one reason people check in is to receive a coupon or deal. Astoundingly an average, 30% of the audience in this survey willing to travel over five miles to redeem a mobile coupon.
In the end many social startups need to realize that their user base is more valuable to other businesses and need to build capabilities to market and sell to those other businesses early on. In the end this is about social startups developing business ecosystems that takes advantage of the disruption that their service brings. Many startups don’t develop this skill early on and often get swept up by the inertia of current industry practices and end up as part of an outdated model. See social networks and display advertising.
As someone who straddles the marketing world and the gaming world I’ve been struck by the convergence of goals between the industries and I think that marketers are likely to move boldly into creating games as a growing part of their mix. There has been experimentation with platforms like Foursquare and more recently with Facebook places and deals, but in my mind these are not tools built for marketers and don’t offer much in the way of depth of content or more importantly game design.
Here are a couple of thoughts on the convergence of goals between marketers and games:
Progressive Immersion and Continuous Engagement – both game designers and advertisers want to move prospects and players progressively through a lifecycle. For advertisers it might be from awareness to consideration with game designers it’s from one level of challenge to another.
Communicate and Influence Culture – Advertisers communicate and influence culture through stories and symbols. Games immerse players in a value system from which culture or sub-culture is created.
Motivation – this is where games and marketing collide, game designers and ad planners are both masterful at understanding human motivation and the empathic design necessary to move the emotional levers. If you put a conference together of ad planners and game designers I believe that sparks would fly
There are some startups emerging to help marketers develop games like SCVNGR and StashGames providing the ability to create a deeper game experience. SCVNGR provides a simple framework for stitching together mobile scavenger hunt type games. StashGames on the other hand has a game design platform that enables brands and agencies to develop immersive story lines and add their own creative content via a white label mobile application.
It’s going to be very interesting over the next couple of years to see how games evolve to not just contain advertising, but become a key tool in the advertisers and marketers playbook for telling stories and engaging audiences.
Consumers are leading the way it seems in changing our culture of funding ideas. Recently an industrial design company called Minimal put a concept for an iPod Nano watch on Kickstarter with the aim of raising 15K to put their watch into production. In the last 2 days they have managed to raise a staggering $107,000 and they still have 28 days to go. In the last 4 days they’ve raised almost $250,000 and have 26 days to go. I’ll have to stop updating this soon, they have now raised over $400,000
The success of Kickstarter at funding projects can’t be ignored and other startups are entering the space; like Profounder which is focused specifically on the startup market. This also can’t be ignored by bigger enterprises as well that needs to gain a better focus and connection with their increasingly informed, connected and influential customers. Enterprises have their own culture of funding ideas and they are often shrouded in tacit policies and politic. The key with success with any crowdfunding enterprise is to create the right cultural reward system to grow the community and reward valuable participation. The next phase of crowdsourcing will involve going beyond just rewarding participation by creating sustainable outcomes.
It will be very interesting to see how this break out success will encourage other companies to experiment with this open funding or crowdfunding model. As with most social sites it takes big tangible success stories to gain mainstream attention. This is probably a dream come true for a lot of design and creative agencies that used to rely upon getting a company to fund an idea, a process that involves a lot more compromise. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some design companies offering crowdfunding as an option to clients with the understanding that the design company will have more control and maybe even a stake in the product.
It’s important to keep in mind that this concept of funding ideas that consumers actively select is not that new and has numerous success stories. The T-Shirt site Threadless used active commuity involvement to select t-shirts they should print with stunning success. Started in 2001 for $500 was doing well over $40 million in T-Shirts a few years later. In addition to their own success the Threadless model has been duplicated with great success by companies like DesignByHumans and Tilteed and countless more.
The challenge for existing enterprises and organizations is to understand how ideas get funded in their organizations from a cultural and business process perspective and work at the cultural changes necessary to engage consumers in the process. This is no easy challenge as even just managing consumer ideas is an overwhelming task for many large companies. This recent post from Vovici really highlights this point: Idea Voting Communities: The Challenge of Prioritizing. The good news I think as consumers get more involved in funding ideas is money is the great equalizer and will really help separate the break through ideas from the noise of consumer conversation.
SCVNGR is an innovative location based game platform rather like Foursquare, you check in at different locations and you can unlock various rewards. The approach that SCVNGR is taking though is creating a platform that allows anyone to create games and challenges that could be associated with one location (challenges or rewards) or span multiple checkins (a Trek).
As it is so easy to create games businesses are jumping on as quickly as consumers creating a vibrant community of over 500,000 users already. As it turns out Google Ventures is SCVNGR’s biggest backer giving it access to a lot of resources, including it’s location database which is powered by the Google Places API giving it international reach. SCVNGR is an important company to watch in this space as they are really the first to make a play to be the platform in this space. As you can see they have a pretty interesting revenue model where people pay depending on the amount of checkins they want to create.
Apart from paying for things SCVNGR also supports the ability for users to earn the ability to add rewards and challenges to places they have checked in at. I did manage to get a look at some of the game creation features and was very impressed with the simplicity but the important details, like the ability to include QR codes.
Take a look at this video from the founders that really get’s into the background and their longer term ambitions.
After posting previously about the opportunities that have spawned from Chatroulette I came across a post by Joseph Jaffe (another kindred spirit in the marketing wasteland) talking about how marketers and main stream brands are experimenting with Chatroulette. Jaffe also comments on how Chatroulette has a great deal of mindshare with the general public even compared to products like twitter and foursquare, maybe thats why so many marketers are beginning to experiment. Do yourself a favor and check out the recent campaign from The Last Exorcism on youtube, over 3 Million people have viewed this so far.
A recent gawker article mourns the loss of the the hilarious random video chat site ChatRoulette and deems it a lost opportunity, lumping it into a category of failure with the likes of Napster and HotorNot. It may be viewed as a failure by the VC’s courting what appeared to be a sensation. But the model itself is not a failure at all, clearly these companies advertising on google on the search term Chatroulette are getting a positive ROI from the ads.
These companies figured out how to deal with the various problems with the largely anonymous and penis ridden ChatRoulette site. Impressively the speed dating site WooMe which was founded in 2007 (2 years before chatroulette) was smart enough to reposition and market the experience as a social one. Not only that they have improved on the model from a marketing perspective and a key value proposition is watching your friends meet new friends, that’s pretty compelling.
Not only that even a quoted search on google for “open source chatroulette” yielded 10,100 results, an important lesson for startups, unless you figure out how to capitalize, someone else will.