Crowd Supply Hack Chat with Josh Lifton

Crowdfunding and mentoring hardware hackers

Wednesday, July 24, 2019 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
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Josh Lifton will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 at noon Pacific time.

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When you're ready to take your Next Big Idea from a project to a product, you face problems that don't normally present themselves to the hobbyist. Building one of something is quite different from building many of them, and soon you're dealing with issues with parts suppliers, PCB fabrication, assembly, packaging, shipping, marketing, and support. 

It takes a lot to get your idea to market, and a guiding hand would be most welcome to the budding hardware tycoon. That's the logic behind Crowd Supply, the Portland-based crowdfunding and mentoring company. Josh Lifton is its CEO, and he'll drop by the Hack Chat to answer all your questions about how crowdfunding works, what Crowd Supply offers to help creators, and what the fundamentals of a successful project are.  

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 3

    Lutetium07/24/2019 at 20:06 0 comments

    Patrick Van Oosterwijck12:47 PM
    @RichardCollins It seems like a natural progression of things and it's an approach that has worked for me

    Arsenijs12:47 PM
    you can use the web client for reading, I suppose

    Digicool Things12:47 PM
    @Joshua Lifton Understood. Thanks.

    Joshua Lifton12:48 PM
    @Kelly Heaton we haven't yet, but I've met Habib and others.

    RichardCollins12:48 PM
    @Patrick Van Oosterwijck Did that go just to you or everyone? I am new to this kind of chat.

    raviypujar12:48 PM
    I was facing scrolling problem, but if you scroll fast around 10 to 20 chats upwards, it keeps quite and you can scroll down slowly.

    Joshua Lifton12:48 PM
    And Joi Ito was close to Crowd Supply. I liked his coining of the phrase "transition lab"

    Joshua Lifton12:50 PM
    As mentioned, Hackaday is a great place to start a project that ends up on Crowd Supply.

    Joshua Lifton12:50 PM
    Market validation is the name of the game.

    Digicool Things12:50 PM
    @RichardCollins It's a public chat I believe.

    Kelly Heaton12:50 PM
    @Joshua Lifton for the sake of clarity only, can you give us a description of the perfect project for Crowd Supply (your dream project)?

    Joshua Lifton12:51 PM
    @Kelly Heaton even after six years, I'm still pleasantly surprised by which projects succeed and what success looks like to the creators.

    Joshua Lifton12:52 PM
    For some people, it's just getting it out the door. For others, it's making some money and supporting their transition into a new career.

    Joshua Lifton12:53 PM
    The most critical common thing across all projects I consider successful is a true passion on the part of the creator for what they are doing. It's necessary, if not sufficient.

    Joshua Lifton12:53 PM
    I'm also partial to satellites.

    Kelly Heaton12:53 PM
    @Joshua Lifton thanks!

    Joshua Lifton12:54 PM
    Check out the updates for this project:

    Joshua Lifton12:55 PM
    You can clearly see the kind of attention to detail that only comes from caring a lot about the project.

    RichardCollins12:56 PM
    It is the microscale and crowd sourcing from people specifically interested in the results that is so powerful. People see these technologies and want to use them, but cannot get past some basics that your designers can provide.

    Joshua Lifton12:56 PM
    That's one of the paradoxes of this business: niche products do better.

    Digicool Things12:56 PM
    @Joshua Lifton Good answers. I believe "Passion" is a an essential element to all successfully delivered projects! :-)

    Joshua Lifton12:57 PM
    This is because a niche product has a well-connected audience, so you only need to tell a few of those people and suddenly everyone knows about it.

    RichardCollins12:57 PM
    If it fills a specific niche, that is really a specific engineering hurdle that many people are stuck on.

    de∫hipu12:57 PM
    and the author is usually part of that niche as well

    Joshua Lifton12:57 PM
    Yeah, without passion it's easy to give up when you hit the inevitable setbacks.

    Joshua Lifton12:58 PM
    @de∫hipu yep, exactly.

    Joshua Lifton12:58 PM
    I look forward to seeing what projects you all have going on.

    Kelly Heaton12:58 PM
    @Joshua Lifton I'll be in touch

    Patrick Van Oosterwijck12:59 PM
    That's always the biggest problem, getting lost in the crowd. That's why I think a focused crowdsourcing platform like Crowd Supply is a better channel than a broad one like KS.

    Joshua Lifton12:59 PM
    One of the biggest mistakes of project creators is waiting until things are perfect before revealing them to the world.

    Joshua Lifton12:59 PM
    @Kelly Heaton great!

    Denis12:59 PM
    Hi, Josh, any possibility to tell us more about "Field Reports initiative"? It seems that I've missed that or you didn't have a chance to told us about it more.

    Joshua Lifton12:59 PM

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Lutetium07/24/2019 at 20:04 0 comments

    Johny Radio12:26 PM
    Traction question?

    Tyler12:26 PM
    Bubbling it up:

    @Joshua Lifton On your intake form, you ask for traction (email signups or something like that), how much traction are you looking for to get started? Or how much traction do successful projects have when they apply?

    Darrell Rossman12:26 PM
    Piotr also runs his own PnP's:

    Joshua Lifton12:27 PM
    Ah, traction. There are a few milestones: number of subscribers to a pre-launch page, number of those who convert to paying customers, response from the newsletter and other media, etc.

    Brandon12:27 PM
    Have you had products that ship w/ barebones firmware and then follow-up w/ improvements and full functionality?

    Like our solution ( we could probably ship earlier, and it will still have value, but it won't have nearly the firmware functionality we want it to have in the long-run.

    So we're thinking we're just candid about that for early supporters, so that they can get the hardware and start toying with it, using it, and then see better more feature-rich firmware later.

    de∫hipu12:27 PM
    I suspect it's more of an excuse to get a new shiny toy

    Joshua Lifton12:27 PM
    It really depends on how much you are looking to raise and the price/value ratio.

    Tyler12:28 PM
    I see a lot of projects raise in the $10K to $25K range. What about those?

    Joshua Lifton12:28 PM
    @Brandon that's certainly happened. The path from here to there needs to be clear, though.

    Tyler12:28 PM

    Joshua Lifton12:28 PM
    @Tyler some of those have been our best sellers after the campaign.

    Brandon12:28 PM
    Thanks @Joshua Lifton that makes sense. So probably spell that out w/ approximate dates on the launch page.

    Prof. Fartsparkle12:28 PM
    has the selling to mouser helped with logistics? It sounds like things like shipping could get a lot easier with such a larger distributor in the back. Also do you plan any cross promotions with mouser (think discounted part prices for campaings or so)

    Johny Radio12:28 PM
    You're saying $25k is your low or high end?

    Joshua Lifton12:29 PM
    @Brandon yep.

    Joshua Lifton12:29 PM
    @Tyler depends also on the price, not just the raise.

    Digicool Things12:29 PM
    @Joshua Lifton A challenge seems to be those of us outside the USA. eg. (Unexpected Maker in AUS). Where product needs to be shipped to USA too then be re-shipped to customers. When do you think you might be able to setup regional hubs for distribution? eg. AUS / NZL makers & customers can use a local Asia/Pacific? re-distribution point. Also, I imagine global shipping from Asia would be cheaper than from USA?

    Tyler12:29 PM
    @Johny Radio I was just saying that range pops up for many successfully funded projects on CrowdSupply.

    Joshua Lifton12:30 PM
    @Johny Radio our low end is about $100. Our high end is well over $1M.

    marvin joined  the room.12:30 PM

    Tyler12:30 PM
    @Joshua Lifton I have also noticed the average pledge amount on CS sees higher than kickstarter. Do you have stats on that?

    Johny Radio12:30 PM
    "number of those who convert to paying customers" You mean pre orders?

    Joshua Lifton12:30 PM
    @Tyler yes, there are a lot of electronics projects that happily live in the ~$25k space.

    Joshua Lifton12:31 PM
    @Tyler our average cart size is over $200.

    Joshua Lifton12:31 PM
    @Johny Radio we make a distinction between crowdfunding and pre-orders.

    Tyler12:31 PM
    OK. There was a time that KS was in the $75 range. So much higher.

    Prof. Fartsparkle12:32 PM
    is there a price range for products that sell specifically well or does price not matter as long as the value fits the price?

    Joshua Lifton12:32 PM
    The former is basically what you'd expect from a campaign, the latter are orders that pile up after the campaign while the product is being manufactured.


    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Lutetium07/24/2019 at 20:03 0 comments

    Hello everyone, it's that time again! Welcome to the Hack Chat, and welcome to Josh Lifton. He's CEO of Crowd Supply and we'll be talking all about crowdfunding and mentoring today.

    Hi Josh - can you start us off with a quick introduction?

    Joshua Lifton12:00 PM

    Boian Mitov12:00 PM
    Hello @Joshua Lifton :-)

    Joshua Lifton12:00 PM
    Well, I've been running Crowd Supply for about six years now.

    Joshua Lifton12:01 PM
    Before that, I spent some time at Puppet as a software engineer turned manager.

    de∫hipu12:01 PM

    Joshua Lifton12:01 PM
    Before that I did a lot of independent contracting / start up work in the hardware and software space in NYC.

    Joshua Lifton12:02 PM
    And before that, I got my doctorate from the MIT Media Lab studying distributed sensor networks with Joe Paradiso.

    Joshua Lifton12:03 PM
    That's the short version, anyway.

    de∫hipu12:03 PM
    What made you start with Crowd Supply?

    Joshua Lifton12:03 PM
    I wanted to get back to hardware.

    Joshua Lifton12:03 PM
    Of course, there was a logical fallacy there.

    de∫hipu12:04 PM
    haha, of course

    Joshua Lifton12:04 PM
    It's hard to work on your own projects if you build a platform to help everyone else run theirs. :)

    de∫hipu12:04 PM
    but then everyone else can work on theirs easier

    Joshua Lifton12:04 PM
    Yeah, and I get to vicariously enjoy them.

    Joshua Lifton12:05 PM
    Actually, it's been awesome being exposed to so many cool projects and having the chance to give some input on them.

    Joshua Lifton12:05 PM
    That's probably the best part of my job - the constant exposure to new projects.

    Prof. Fartsparkle12:05 PM
    how did you get to the idea of combining a crowdfunding site with fulfilment and shopping system?

    Joshua Lifton12:05 PM
    That, and the kombucha keg at the office.

    Darrell Rossman12:06 PM
    For reference, here's Josh's many-year project:

    Joshua Lifton12:06 PM
    We basically just looked at all the problems engineers and product designers were having and decided to take as much off their plate as possible.

    Joshua Lifton12:06 PM
    Fulfillment was a no-brainer. Turns out that ongoing sales and distribution is also difficult for a lot of people.

    Joshua Lifton12:07 PM
    Designing and building a product takes a different set of skills and personality traits than keeping it in production and shipping it to customers.

    ap-tech12:07 PM
    Is it more like a kick-starters or a Tindie?

    Joshua Lifton12:07 PM
    The opening talk at last year's Supercon explains this well.

    jolthoff joined  the room.12:07 PM

    de∫hipu12:08 PM
    Do you have a link handy?

    Joshua Lifton12:08 PM
    It's not really either and co-exists with those.

    Goran Mahovlic joined  the room.12:08 PM

    de∫hipu12:08 PM
    Actuallym, forget it, someone will post it here

    Joshua Lifton12:08 PM
    I don't have a link. Someone does!

    ap-tech12:08 PM
    Looks interesting

    RichardCollins12:09 PM
    What about the buyers and backers? Are you helping them to learn to use these products? Is that something you do, or do you try to get the designers to teach and support the users?

    Joshua Lifton12:09 PM
    Neither Tindie nor Kickstarter are really built for product development in the way Crowd Supply is.

    ap-tech12:09 PM

    Joshua Lifton12:09 PM
    We're limited by our capacity, so we mostly rely on backers and creators supporting each other. We facilitate as much as possible.

    Joshua Lifton12:10 PM
    One way we're doing that is with our new Field Reports initiative.

    Joshua Lifton12:10 PM
    A field report is basically a repot from a backer about how they are using a project.

    Joshua Lifton12:10 PM
    It shows off what can be done with a product.

    Patrick Van Oosterwijck12:10 PM

    Joshua Lifton12:10 PM
    Hi, Patrick!

    RichardCollins12:10 PM
    If it take...

    Read more »

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