Dear folks pitching us crowdfunded hardware all day: There’s a good chance we won’t hear you.
Here’s why. At ExtremeTech, we try to spend as little time as possible on Kickstarters. We think crowdfunding in general is a great idea for creative and art projects, as well as niche interests (music albums, books, painting, pet research projects). It’s somewhat less reliable for games, if still viable. But when it comes to putting together a supply chain and delivering quality products, hardware Kickstarters tend to have a lot more challenges ahead. Profit margins are slim. Deadlines slip. First production runs have issues.
That said, we just covered what looks like a great piece of hardware on Kickstarter: the WhiteFox Mechanical Keyboard. Thanks to the high quality of past products from the company, we feel confident that they’ll deliver on this one, too; it’s a new variant of a proven design with a lower price and several new options. It’s tough to go wrong ordering one of these; that’s not something we usually (if ever) say about a crowdfunded hardware product.
There are lots of other projects out there we’d love to cover, but just don’t, because they’re crowdfunded and therefore highly likely to never amount to anything. We know this because we receive dozens of pitches per day. Some of them even do get media play, and we’ll hit a few on occasion when the hype truly seems warranted (Oculus, Pebble). Even then, it doesn’t always work out in the end (see: Pebble). Sometimes it’s nothing but a pitch, a Kickstarter page, and a rendering of something that may exist some time in the future, but probably won’t and certainly doesn’t now. That’s not going to make us feel confident enough to tell our readers about it.
In putting together this story, I also asked our senior editor Joel Hruska if he had anything to add. And did he! I’ll just cut and paste what he sent me here, in bullet points:
1). You do not have to read ExtremeTech on a daily basis to pitch your Kickstarter, but if your Kickstarter doesn’t have some kind of meaningful relevance to the topics we cover on a daily basis, we’re not going to write about it. Failure to perform due diligence on your part means I’m not even going to bother looking at your Kickstarter page.
2). Spelling and grammar errors: We recognize that not everyone speaks English as a primary language, but if your pitch is full of elementary grammar and spelling errors, you’re not getting the time of day from me. It’s one thing to have a bit of an issue with tenses or subject-verb agreement if you’re coming from a language where these things are handled differently. If the average golden retriever uses English more capably than you do, I’m going to assume you’re a scam artist.
3). Telling me you have a cutting-edge product created by a bunch of high schoolers or undergrads is like telling me you want me to back your astonishingly gifted kindergartner who needs funding to write his first symphony. Unless your five-year-old is a time-traveling Mozart, this is not a positive. It will not be received as a positive. It certainly won’t get you a response.
4). Do not, under any circumstances, pitch a product that’s diametrically opposed to what we’ve personally written on certain topics. This includes devices that can be used to spy on people, keylogging hardware, anything designed to infringe on a person’s privacy or anonymity, or new advanced smartphone apps that record everything you do into the cloud to be shared with unnamed, anonymous “trusted partners.” If you can’t be bothered to take the time to research what ExtremeTech (or any website) tends to say on a given topic that directly relates to the product or service you are pitching, I can’t be bothered to explain to you why you’ve picked exactly the wrong audience.
5). This is worse: The moment you email me claiming to be a big fan of my work on ExtremeTech, but then pitch me a product I’m utterly opposed to (the aforementioned keyloggers, snooping devices, etc.), you have instantly and forever lost me. Never, ever pretend to be contacting me based on my personal work if you haven’t actually read it. When you do that, you prove to me that you’re a liar. I don’t trust liars. I certainly don’t recommend that other people do so.
6). IF AND ONLY IF you have cleared steps 1-5 and I do not respond to your cold contact, it is acceptable to email me once more. Things get lost. Sometimes emails fall through the cracks. If you HAVEN’T cleared steps 1-5 and I do not respond to you, you may safely assume I didn’t respond because I have zero interest in responding to your amazing idea for a cat-based vacuum cleaner, do-it-yourself angioplasty kit, or home cloning machine. No, you will not receive a read receipt indicating I’ve read your email, because I don’t allow Google to load images from emails automatically. Too bad. Suck it up, buttercup, and move on to someone who might actually care about your amazing Uber-for-giraffes concept.
Okay, that’s it for Joel’s contribution. (Joel, are you okay? You can take a break if you need one.)
(I’M FINE. I’M JUST FINE. GET OFF MY LAWN -Joel).
So. What to do? One way around the problem is to have a third-party editor with plenty of experience covering startups to take a look at your work, like typewriter.plus. Services like this could provide immense value in ensuring your Kickstarter plan is as viable as something a venture capitalist would back. Having someone take a look at your pitch deck and help with coaching and strategy could pay huge dividends down the line, get more people to back the project, and — in turn — improve your chances of getting publications like ours to cover it. That powers the feedback loop that helps your product succeed.
There’s still no guarantee we’ll cover your Kickstarter. Our readers are a tightly focused, smart, enthusiast group that are much more likely to care about chips and Android and hardcore science and PC components than, say, yet another fitness tracker or iPhone case. (By the way, the world has enough phone cases and fitness trackers, and we’re not interested in them.) But hiring a third-party service certainly wouldn’t hurt, and most likely would help a great deal.
(Top image: The Pebble Time, a Kickstarter that, sadly, also failed in the end.)