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Crowdfunding a kids app? Some lessons from the trenches

Carly Shuler, the co-founder and CEO at communications app maker Kindoma, is in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign - and she offers up some words of wisdom for those looking to do the same.
January 21, 2016

Ask any independent educational app developer how difficult it is to fund, make and market quality innovative mobile products that are both discoverable and fun, and their short answer will be: Very.

At Kindoma, we get a lot of requests from people who want to use our iOS family-connecting apps, Kindoma Storytime and Kindoma Drawtime, on their Android devices, but our strategy team needed a new influx of funding to make that happen – so we thought we’d try crowdfunding. 

As we head toward our goal of reaching US$40,000 on Indiegogo, it’s safe to say the campaign has been a roller coaster. Although we are still are in the midst of it, having reached 40% of our target, here are some of the creative strategies we have tried that have worked for us thus far:

Throw a launch party

Kindoma – like many startups – is housed in a shared workspace. Knowing how important it is to get early supporters (they say you need to get to 30% in the first few days), we decided to launch our campaign with a pizza party at our office. I actually think this was one of the smartest things we did. We asked everyone who attended to make a contribution, and moreover to help us spread the word. Let’s just say we definitely got a return on our pizza investment.

Find the right partners

Partnering with other organizations that have a large reach can significantly amplify your marketing efforts. The catch is that in order to have an impact, the partner has to be legitimate and really care about helping you out. For our campaign, we partnered with Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and APDS at the Center for Social Innovation in New York to help us disseminate free Kindoma subscriptions to families suffering with distance due to hospital stays and incarceration, respectively. This is a win-win, as it helps us get subscriptions to kids who need it most, and both partners have large networks and vested interests in our success.

Offer corporate sponsorships

If your campaign has goodwill associated with it, there can be huge value in offering corporate sponsorships. This was a true experiment, as we’d never heard of anyone doing this before, but in our journey at Kindoma, we have found a lot of companies that want to be associated with what we’re doing around family engagement, so we wanted to have a perk for them. We offered three sponsorship levels: US$1,000, US$5,000 and US$10,000. We knew this was a long shot, but we were very pleased with the response. So far, we have sold two sponsorships – while this is still a small number, it makes up a significant portion of our funds raised, so it’s really worthwhile.

Run a contest

We’re getting close to the end of our campaign, and we wanted to do something to boost virality. So we have launched a referral contest, which is a program designed to increase campaign contributions by rewarding funders for referring people to the project. In these cases, you can either give prizes to everyone who refers a certain amount, or a grand prize to people who refer the most. We decided to do both, giving away a limited-edition kids poster series to people who bring in at least US$100, and a tablet of choice to the person who brings in the most contributions.

At the end of the day, in order to be successful with crowdfunding, you need to be creative, shameless and persistent. Where the Kindoma campaign will go for us remains to be seen, but at least I can now say I have been there, and done that.

Carly Shuler is the co-founder and CEO at Kindoma, the award-winning creator of communications apps for kids. Shuler has more than 15 years of experience in children’s media and toys, having worked with such organizations as Spin Master and The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. She has authored a number of reports, including D is for Digital and the iLearn series. You can reach her at carly@kindoma.com.

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