How my crowdfunding turned into singlefunding

The crowd­fund­ing market validation campaign for Debuggex (a visual regex tester) ended 4 days ago. I had the very specific goal of getting 20 paying customers in 20 days. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, I didn't succeed. However, I did reach my funding goal of $960. Debuggex received a total of $4374 in preorders, almost all of it from a single customer.

To provide some context, the campaign launched 4 weeks ago and was heavily aimed at single user sub­scrip­tions. There were basic ($48) and pro ($140) tiers with varying levels of features, and a cheaper perk to get a Debuggex themed poster ($25) for those that wanted to support the product but weren't willing to commit to a sub­scrip­tion.

In total, the campaign had 16 backers. Four backers purchased the $25 poster. Six backers donated $5. That leaves only 6 legitimate customers, of which nobody purchased the pro tier.

Aside: Debuggex needs paying users more than it needs paying nonusers. To thank you for your continued support (and risk-taking spirit), all backers of the poster and basic tier will be upgraded to the basic and pro tier, re­spec­tive­ly.

91% of all revenue came from a single enterprise customer. 95% of all revenue was from customers intending to use Debuggex in a work en­vi­ron­ment. That goes up to 98% if poster sales are excluded.

Despite the small sample size, these numbers are a strong indication for where to aim my sales efforts.

Here are a few of the things I did wrong:

  • 20 days was too short of a period. Most people are used to 30-day funding periods, and for them, seeing a project 25% funded with 14 days left is dis­heart­en­ing. 14 of the 16 backers con­tributed before day 13 of 20.

    In fact, prior to starting the campaign, I should've asked potential customers to contribute on the first day in order to exploit the public-vote-of-confidence effect for the full duration of the campaign.

  • I sent personal emails to only 41 people. I chose to notify those who had already showed sig­nif­i­cant interest in purchasing. 14 of them became backers, for a conversion rate of 34%. In­ci­den­tal­ly, all 14 learned of the campaign only because of my email.

    In hindsight, this was a big mistake. I should have gotten the word out even to those that had not previously shown direct interest.

  • I should've gotten more feedback on my video before launching the campaign. If you can't pay attention to what I'm saying because you are distracted by the quality of the video or audio, then I've failed at com­muncat­ing.

    Given how important it is for a startup to com­mu­ni­cate with its users, I've invested in equipment and software to make sure that never happens again.

    Un­for­tu­nate­ly, I don't have any data about how effective the content of the video was.

  • During the campaign, there was a link from the Debuggex home page to the campaign page. The click-through rate of that link was an abysmal 2%. A/B testing could have improved this sig­nif­i­cant­ly.

    What the link looked like

Debuggex will continue to get better. Based on the outcome of this campaign, there will be a lot more focus on the needs of corporate users. If you're part of a company (or government) that uses regular ex­pres­sions in mission-critical portions of your code or workflow, I'd love to discuss how Debuggex can help solve your problems.

I will also keep exploring sus­tain­able ways of getting Debuggex into the hands of single users.

If you'd like to give me feedback on how to improve any aspect of my com­mu­ni­ca­tion, I'd love to hear it. Compare attempt 0 and attempt 1 (re-edited but not refilmed).

p.s. There haven't been any public updates for a while, but I promise that something awesome is in the pipeline, and will be released very soon.

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