How far along does my prototype have to be before I start a crowdsourcing campaign?

I am starting to have the first prototype up and running, is that good enough to start a Kickstarter/Indiegogo campaign? if not, what do I need?

Having a prototype is essential for your campaign, not only to do the VIDEO + show people that the product physically exists but for you to know the complexity of building a new product. You need to know and understand your design, look & feel, costs, etc.
That being said, one prototype is more than enough, and you should be fine with it for your campaign. GO GO GO !!!

Tomi Pierucci
Co-Founder / President, Bluesmart

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If your first prototype is all you need to show who you are and what your project is about, then great news - you’re ready to start crowdfunding! Can’t wait to see what you’ve got!

If you can, try to run your crowdfunding as late as possible. In the best case, you want to have finished prototyping, have a HQ prototype that looks and works just like the final product. Having that you are basically ready to proceed to partner with a factory to design for manufacturing and have a good understanding about the timeline and cost. This will definitely maximize your crowdfunding success as well as give you a higher probability to avoid delays.

Alternatively, if your prototype is good looking enough and doesn’t have all the features yet, then you might be able to proceed earlier as long as you can somehow else visually demonstrate the missing features. I’d definitely not recommend this approach however, unless your product is extremely seasonal (think the Coolest Cooler) and you’d need to launch during a certain period of the year.

Also depending on your product I’d be extremely cautious to perceive crowdfunding as the sole source of funding. It rarely works well unless you are making something extremely generic like an iPhone cable or dock.

Martin Kessler (@kesslerhk)
CMO @ Ambi Labs


It would be really great if there was an affordable service (say $1k) that hardware makers could use pre-kickstarter to validate their design to ensure it could actually be made. They could also get a better idea of how much manufacturing and distribution would cost. Kind of like a Dragon Certified-lite :

This means backers are more confident in the project and the creators are better equipped to understand the costs.

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Martin, I definitely agree with you when you say “to be extremely cautious to perceive crowdfunding as the sole source of funding.” Unless you have a very strong product or service I would definitely use crowdfunding as a add-on to another campaign ie: email campaign, tradeshow or other face to face event.
If you have the budget you may want to put together a focus group, this will give you some idea of whether you crowdfunding campaign is going to be well received.
Good Luck…can’t wait to see your amazing campaign. If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to put it out here.

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According to Eric Ries’s “Lean Start-Up” approach, crowd-funding is a great tool for validation from the market, confirming that customers are interested in your product. This kind of customer/market research can potentially save you wasted time and energy in building a product that could otherwise fail.