Let’s be clear. This is not just a post about raising funds. It’s a post about building a community.

And yep, that figure is totally real.

A company called Double Fine used Kick Starter to raise over $2,000,000 from random individuals in just over two weeks.

It was totally amazing.

In this post I want to show you how Kick Starter works but also show you a few really important community-building lessons that you can learn from this amazing online event.

What is Kick Starter?

Kick Starter is a sweet website that allows you to post project ideas and raise money from individuals around the world who like your idea.

For example, let’s say you have an idea for a really cool iPhone App. You would go on Kick Starter, tell everyone your idea and then ask them to help you fund it.

Donations start at $1 but often get a lot higher for really cool projects.

The really interesting thing is that this website is not about loans. You don’t have to pay all this money back. These people are donating to your idea because they believe it it and you and want to see it happen.

The Double Fine event on Kick Starter

A few months ago an adventure game company called Double Fine posted up a listing on Kick Starter asking for help to develop a new game in a struggling niche.

Within eight hours they had raised their aim of $400,000.

Within two weeks they had raised over $2,000,000.

*Sound of jaw hitting floor*

Now there are two really cool things that we can learn from this wonderful event:

  1. Kick Starter is awesome
    This really shows us how powerful this website can be for raising funds on cool projects that genuinely have something to offer the world.
  2. Double Fine did something VERY right
    The second thing we can learn is that their listing must have done something really, really right in order to get all that support.

Let’s take a look at some of the techniques that Double Fine used in their listing to grow such amazing support in such a short amount of time. These kinds of lessons can be applied to our blogs and online businesses in a very helpful way.

The lessons from Double Fine’s Kick Starter campaign

Let’s start this section by watching the video that formed the basis of their listing.

You can see the full listing and the current bidding amounts here.

1. Humor is important

One of the first things you notice when you watch the video is how funny it is. From the knocking over of the drum kit to the exclamation that one of his passions is “…charity… or something”.

Humor is so important for building a community because it helps your readers see the real you. It breaks down barriers and it takes a brand or a company into a very personal sphere.

Be yourself when you write your blog. Write as if you are talking to a friend. Let humor be a part of all your blog posts.

2. Rewards get results

On their pitch you will notice that these guys aren’t just begging for money, they offer rewards for people who take part.

This is important for several reasons:

  • It acts as an incentive
    Money for nothing is an unlikable thing. But donating money to get something in return is a pretty good incentive. Especially if people were going to get involved anyway.
  • It increases a sense of ownership
    If you want to grow a community you need your readers to feel like they have some ownership in the business or blog. Rewards are one way to do that.

Reward your readers regularly on your blog. Use plugins that show your top commenters or mention readers’ websites in your post. That backlink is often enough to make people feel very loved.

3. Niche, niche, niche

These guys aren’t just talking about developing a new video game. There are heaps of video games. What they do talk about a lot, however, is the fact that they want to develop an adventure video game – something that is not happening very much any more.

By appealing to a smaller niche you mobilize the troops much better. People feel a sense of loyalty to their passions and if you can tap into them in a very direct way you have a lot more luck than if you just mass market to everyone.

Your blog needs to have a niche but you also need to make sure your products and offerings on that blog are very niche specific.

Take blogging as an example. Within the niche of blogging you also have sub-niches like:

  • Guest posting
  • Email subscribers
  • Social media marketing
  • Affiliate programs
  • Product development
  • Etc.

So you need to know what sub-niche your readers are interested in if you want to get them really excited about something.

4. Transparency means trust

One of the things I noticed in the 6,000+ comments on this listing is that a lot of people are impressed with the idea of a tell-all documentary.

I think this basically equates to the fact that people trust you more if you are transparent. People like to know who they are dealing with and what the project involves. So you might need to show more steps in the process than you initially thought. You might need to give more details that you think people need.

So what about Blog Tyrant? Why don’t I show my face?

Well, I was interested to see whether I could build a brand without people knowing who was writing the content. And it seems I did it pretty well. I also noticed that you don’t really need a face and a name to be a transparent and trustworthy person.

But the exciting news for the long term readers out there is that I will be posting a photo or two of myself in the next couple of months.

I think its time to introduce myself to all my friends properly.

5. Have a damn good product

A lot of people have been asking why Double Fine did so well with their pitch and aside from the awesome video, the individual rewards and so on the reason is that they have an amazing product.

The sketches and the samples look really cool. The concept looks different. People interested in this niche would be paying attention.

Characters from Double Fine
Some of the sketches from Double Fine’s listing.

It doesn’t matter what tricks or ploys you use to sell your product if it is a crap product. You might have a nice bout of initial sales but you will get flooded with returns and refunds and no one will pay attention to your next offering.

Make sure everything that you attach your name to is a quality and helpful thing.

The importance of finding a bank roller

The last thing I want to talk about in this post is how important it is to find someone or some WAY to bank roll your projects.

As a blogger you will be filled with amazing ideas for plugins and websites and services but unless you have money coming in to set aside you will need to find an outside partner to help you finance those projects.

It is something that not enough bloggers embark on though because they feel scared about failing. And that is natural.

Whether you use a site like Kick Starter or go to a private individual, try and find someone who will be willing to finance your projects over the years. Offer them a share in the profits of the creation or some equity in your company. Or simply offer to pay them back with interest.

Yes its a risk but you really need that risk to get into the next levels.

What do you think?

What do you think about Double Fine’s listing? Did anything stand out to you? And what do you think about finding someone to bank roll your projects? Does anyone else have experience with this?


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  1. Lovely article and the best part is been sincere, not holding anything back and taking risk – get a partner to trust you to finance your project!


    1. the Blog Tyrant on March 5, 2012


  2. This is a really inspiring story.

    From watching the video, I can see why Double Fine has been so successful. Everything shouts “professionalism”: they’ve got a studio, sample sketch art, lots of equipment, etc. Not to mention having a full crew to shoot a documentary! You know you’re not just funding some lone guy on his laptop in a basement. Reminds me a bit about how bankers love to lend you money when you don’t look like you need it.

    You hit the nail on the head about transparency. They’re really going to show their backers everything that happens in game development. This kind of “backstage pass” is a tempting offer for gaming fans.

    I think the key is having lots of things to show and tell. Give the supporters as much as possible so that they can see what they’re going to get. Videos, art, previews, interviews with the key people, etc. Anything that helps take away the risk of putting in their money.

    One aspect I’d be interested in is how the accountability affects the fundraisers. Not that I think they’ll scam people. More how they’re motivated to take action, because they know that people believe in their project so much to have financed it.

    That’s a powerful thing to have when you’re embarking on a new endeavor. It’s a great feeling to know you already have a ready-made audience for your final product.

    1. the Blog Tyrant on March 5, 2012

      Hey Marcus. Huge comment as always!

      Not sure what you mean with your last two paragraphs. Can you expand?

      1. Ah, guess I wasn’t very clear. In the second to last paragraph, I meant that by accepting money from people at Kick Starter, it’s like having one massive accountability partner. That provides an external pressure to take action now.

        Double Fine has to come out with that game in a timely manner (and not pull a Duke Nukem Forever). Whereas if you’re by yourself, you can procrastinate and not get busted. However, when your project is in public, then you can’t slack off.

        As for the last paragraph, Kickstarter gives you more than money. It’s a way to validate an idea and build an audience for it. So when Double Fine comes out with the game, they don’t have to create buzz from scratch. Their backers are also their future customers.

        1. the Blog Tyrant on March 6, 2012

          First of all, I am really impressed that you know about the DNF failure.

          Secondly, you are very right. They must feel a lot of motivation/pressure these days.

          Thanks bro.

  3. Phil Willis on March 5, 2012

    I sponsored their campaign, and as well as being for all the reasons you mentioned, there was one other thing …

    They had a track record of years and years of brilliant games that their fans loved.

    Day of the Tentacle was released nearly 20 years ago.

    So these guys are no Johnny-come-latelys.

    1. the Blog Tyrant on March 5, 2012

      That is a really really good point. I might have to mention that in the post.

  4. Cristina Ansbjerg on March 5, 2012

    I love their video.
    “Adventure games are bit of a lost art form. They exist in our dreams, in our memories, in Germany…” LOL

    This game is building a community before it’s created. That is simply amazing.

    1. the Blog Tyrant on March 5, 2012

      Brilliant huh?

  5. Wiguan Fujiwara on March 5, 2012

    I’m excited to think “money is not a problem anymore”.

    But in this world, not all people is good.

    How about, let’s say there’s someone else with enough capital “steal” the idea?

    1. the Blog Tyrant on March 5, 2012

      I guess they could. That is an interesting point.

      1. Jasmine Henry on March 11, 2012

        Part of the risk of someone stealing your idea from Kickstarter is that you have to show people why they won’t get what you’re offering anywhere else.

        DF have got that down pat – you won’t find anyone with such a great vision for a game like that on the planet.

  6. Shaun @ Money Cactus on March 5, 2012

    I recently read a post by Tim Ferriss about this years Shopify competition. They showcased some of the previous winners and many of them used kickstarter to get their projects off the ground. Love the Double Fine example, it is amazing how much good will there is in the world.

    1. the Blog Tyrant on March 5, 2012

      Sure is. How’s your stuff going?

      1. Ha! Getting there mate, wish I could come up with something worth throwing up on kickstarter, but I don’t think my brain works that way. I’ll keep persevering though ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Simba Russeau on March 5, 2012

    First, I would like to say thank you for your blog. I enjoy the content. In a couple of days a campaign that I started on IndieGoGo (similar to Kickstarter) is about to end. I asked people from my community, posted on different sites, wrote guest blog posts to targeted audiences and even set a cause on cause.com.

    In the end, I only managed to get two funders. I think with the case you mention in this piece it has to also relate to something people are more interested in. I’m a journalist and my project was to document indigenous communities here in North Africa. According to feedback from friends, the incentives were more than enough.

    I think that the difference with the case you mention and my project is interest. How it appeals to more broad audience. Like you said, it’s fun. I would relate this to my blog. My personal blog combines journalism, human rights and Sufism into one to illustrate how life has aided me in developing better character. It relates to a specific tribe. Perhaps, that tribe will come at some point. On the other hand I also maintain a cultural revolution magazine where I showcase music, food and the arts from cultures from around the world including interviews with artists. I also have started a podcast of me Djing and this has grown. My point is that a creative idea like adventure games sounds like loads of fun and a treasured art where as real life events, in terms of politics, may be less marketable.

    Would love to hear your thoughts?

    1. the Blog Tyrant on March 5, 2012

      Hey Simba.

      Interesting thoughts.

      I would have thought that your project would get backers if it got the right attention. Did you contact any agencies like Get Up or charities to see if they would promote it?

      1. Simba Russeau on March 5, 2012

        Actually I write guest posts twice a month for a international women’s organisation. I asked if they would assist by tweeting and posting to Facebook. They did once. To give an example, I have a friend who used Kickstarter to fund his exhibition called LA vs War in which some of my images were used. He included paintings, photos, graffiti, live Dj during the event, etc. He was able to raise the same amount I asked for in a short amount of time. Also, he had a big sponsor who helped with promotion. The difference is that he had a close tight knit tribe where as I have more takers than givers. Also his event was fun. In Beirut, I tackled a tough issue and managed to raise $4,000 during an event. The event was an African dance party. When it came time for the demonstration in the streets no one showed up. ๐Ÿ™‚ lol

        1. the Blog Tyrant on March 5, 2012

          Yeah it is so tricky. You need to motivate people in such a strange way with charity – you want them to be upset about the problem but also hopeful about some kind of solution. Its tricky.

          Let me know how you go.

          1. Simba Russeau on March 5, 2012

            Here’s an interesting article on ThinkTraffic: http://thinktraffic.net/successful-kickstarter-projects

            The project was really interesting and I spoke with the guy after his deadline. He fell short of his goal.

  8. Rob Campbell on March 5, 2012

    I have (had?) a copy of Full Throttle for Window 98. Cool and fun game, and it was neat to see who made it.

    I’ve been thinking about using Kickstarter for some time to fund a book of my comic strips I’m publishing later this year. I have a publisher, and my take will be 10% of the initial run of books, which I’m pretty sure I can sell. She (the publisher) points out that my investment will make more money for me, and referred me to a previous author in my same niche (she only publishes biker material) who invested and did well.

    I’ve been trying to think of how to engage my readers into the project, how to reward them, etc. I’m not sure how to access all of my readers, as many of them read the strip on other sites, but I’m pretty sure I can include it when I post other places. A clever (and funny) video will help. This post is exactly what I need right now.

    1. the Blog Tyrant on March 5, 2012

      Good work Rob. Also offering individual and original drawings for big donations – that kind of thing helps.

      1. Rob Campbell on March 5, 2012

        Yup. I made a list of what they might get for various levels of donation. At a certain level they should also expect a copy of the book.

        Do some folks donate without expectation of getting something back?

        Also what cracks me up is that, for a comic book artist/writer, I have a completely dry, droll, and boring vision for the video, as if I’m pitching to my school board. This example you posted reminded me to mix it up a little, get personal, get some laughs.

        1. the Blog Tyrant on March 5, 2012

          I think people will donate without expecting anything back for sure but you should probably operate under the assumption that they won’t.

          Maybe include a free copy of the book for anyone over a certain amount? Try to encourage slightly larger donations?

          Maybe for the small donations (or everyone) you could make an exclusive mailing list that gets original stuff?

          1. Jasmine Henry on March 11, 2012

            From all of the KS pitches I’ve seen, it’s usually been that between 1-10 dollars, people don’t expect anything back but anything more than that they expect some sort of incentive.

  9. Jasmine Henry on March 11, 2012

    I blog about video games and I’m a massive Double Fine so I’ve been following them for a while so I’d just like to add this.

    -Part of the reason that DF did so well is that they are consistently great. They’ve made some absolutely brilliant games in the past, they’re creative and they’re talented, regardless of who funds it, anything they do will be A+ – you feel almost compelled to throw money at them because you trust them so much, they’ve got that ‘blue shirt trust’ that you’re so fond of ๐Ÿ˜€ – it’s the same with you BT, no, we don’t know your name or what you look like but you’re always on point, I know that if I had any money, I’d be willing to fund the entirety of any and every thing that you wanted to do.
    -DF have given entire games away for free before too. Like, they gave away a game that is heralded as the greatest downloadable title in history for absolutely nothing. We as people who want to sell things, or get stuff funded have to understand that we have to prove ourselves and that no one gets anywhere far by merciless begging – though I’m sure that works occasionally. But still, really giving people a reason is paramount.

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