A Story of a Failed Kickstarter That Lead To Victory
When the journey is the destination. With almost a year and a half since our epic rollercoaster Kickstarter campaign began - we can truly say that we emerged stronger. Yes, a cliché end quote befitting for all the clichés we endured during the nail biting and triumphant (in retrospect) 31 days on the world’s largest crowdfunding platform.
What the small print on the Kickstarter Home page should indicate are the following side effects: paranoia, episodes of stomach sickness, insomnia, temporary nirvanic ecstatic connection to other humans, loss of petty cash to anyone on street asking, deteriorated relationships with those who don't support, overwhelming gratitude, the list goes on and on and on… how crazy could we be, forging a new genre of engagement and using crowdfunding to create a grassroots movement to finance it? Clearly a recipe for upheaval of the deepest sorts as the experience unilaterally restructures your brain functioning... or worse, if you really are invested in what you are doing.
In the crisp days of early November in 2013, we began soaking in as much research (first and second hand) on how to successfully reach your target goal. Some pointers were conflicting, most were broad and not applicable, and some have become Kickstarter’s own clichés --- "upside down bell curve," "sweet spot of 30 days," "rewards," "donors," "day 15," "staff pick," and “stretch goals.” It was at the modest Kickstarter offices in the Lower East Side, before they set up camp across the river in their new, glossy, far less "startupy" HQ, where we shook a lot of hands, smiled and sealed our fate. It was there that we settled on the final goal of $395,000 to finance the first episode of our independent video game entitled 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, which is set in the actual events of the Revolution in Iran in 1979, our first title in our “Verite Games” series of narrative adventure video games set in real events.
It was on November 13, 2014 at 7:00AM that we went to war --- launched with a party, lots of friends and the boundless mix of hope and fear, never to emerge the same. Our amazing team consisted of our artist/graphic design/producer, organizational email coordinator, energetic maven producer, 1979's creator (our tireless front person) and myself. An accumulation of 49+ articles later --- a press blizzard that started with a slow burn, erupted with fine pieces in the New Yorker, The Guardian, BBC, Indiewire, Al Jazeera, and crescendoed with appearances on Bloomberg TV, features on Fast Company and NPR... and $309,000 pledged dollars. The contributions came rolling in up until the very last minute 6:59am, some of which were rolling in at $10,000 a time from anonymous donors.... and still we fell a devastatingly $84,000 short of our goal. Thousands of emails and art assets, 1,653 unrealized rewards (including revolutionary socks, graphic novels, and ‘making of’ documentaries) and 7,000 Facebook friends later, we could not collect $1 raised --- at 7:00am on a December morning, time was up.
In perpetuity, our Kickstarter tombstone will state: FUNDING UNSUCCESSFUL... but to us at iNK Stories, our greater goal surpassed our imagination – the battle could not have worked out better in our favor. It doesn't mean that the compound word doesn't still give me a physiological twitch every time I hear it.
What did happen was the momentum we created with our 24/7 flurry of activity, the press echoed 1979 Revolution’s message to the universe that we were determinedly shouting out to, was finally being heard. It took us a short 3 months after that to align with equity investors and privately raise more than 3 times our KS goal for a larger scope game, a stronger team, incredible cast and gain the support of our key partners which include the Sundance Institute and Doris Duke Foundation. Our Kickstarter journey became the template within our company for hard work, relationships with our audience, and knowing, really knowing what it means to make something new… after all, who said innovation was going to come easily.
1979 Revolution: Black Friday is a two hour experience, find it on Steam and on the Apple AppStore