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I’m going to do a quick walk through of the three most successful Kickstarter projects, in the history of Kickstarter, as of the November 2015. Obviously this list may change in the future, if there are more successful Kickstarter projects. Who knows, someone might be working on a super successful Kickstarter project as we speak!
By successful I mean the highest funding amount, and not taking into account whether project execution was successful.
I’m going to look at:
- The project itself, including the name, a short description, the project team and the pledges (rewards for backing a project).
- The project financials.
- How successful the project execution ended up being (or seems likely if ongoing).
- Factors that led to the success of the Kickstarter project.
The Three Most Successful Kickstarter Projects
As I mentioned earlier, I’m defining a successful project as those that received the most backing. Regardless of whether they actually delivered what was promised.
As of November 2015, the three most successful Kickstarter projects are:
- Pebble Time with funding at $20,338,986 from 78,471 backers backers.
- Coolest Cooler with funding at $13,285,226 from 62,642 backers.
- Pebble (original) with funding at $10,266,845 from 68,929 backers.
Interestingly, the Pebble Time and Pebble, which are both smart watches from the same team, are in the top 3.
1- Pebble Time
The Pebble Time is a follow up version of the Pebble which we’ll be writing at later because it comes in at number 3 of most successful Kickstarter projects. The Pebble Time is a color e-paper based smart watch, with excellent battery performance (for a smart watch at least).
Pebble Time Background
E-paper screens mimic normal ink on paper, so require light to read them, as opposed to normal backlit screens (e.g. your TV, or smart phone). They’re less bright, obviously, and don’t have as high a resolution. But, they’re good enough, especially for a smart watch that doesn’t need to display too much data or graphics. Color e-paper screens are quite new, they’re a big improvement on the black and white (and grey) versions.
When you buy a watch, you’re not just buying something that is practical, you’re also doing it to look good. The color screen, and the watch itself, looks very stylish, even at a time when Apple iWatches and Android smart watches are available.
The Pebble Time smart watch has a number of standard apps, like the ability to choose a watch face which you can download, stop watch, alarm, etc. You can also download extra apps from the Pebble store, it has lots of apps ranging from weather apps, to navigation apps. The Pebble Time connects with your iPhone or Android phone via Bluetooth. Downloading apps, receiving updates, etc., it all comes via your smart phone of choice.
The battery lasts 7 days according to Pebble Technology (the makers of the Pebble Time). That’s an important attribute, because charging a smart watch is more annoying than charging your smart phone because you have to take your watch off every time to recharge it.
Pebble Time Project Team
Pebble Technology, the project team of the Pebble Time, was founded by Eric Migicovsky while studying engineers at university. He, together with some friends, started building smart watches. That resulted in their first smart watch model called the InPulse. The second generation smart watch that they developed was the Pebble, which was launched on the Kickstarter platform and led to a successful project (see our third most successful Kickstarter project item).
It’s interesting to note that Eric and his team were involved in smart watches before the project was launched on Kickstarter. Lots of people think that success starts with Kickstarter, whereas looking at successful projects, it’s clear that a lot of background work goes into the being successful on Kickstarter.
Pebble Time Pledge Structure
Pledges start at $159, for that money you get an early bird Pebble Time version. The next pledge up is the $179 Pebble Time, that’s the normal pledge price for the Pebble Time. The retail price for a pebble Time is $199. So you get a discount for backing via Kickstarter.
The next pledge costs $250, which lets you choose a color, and get a metal strap, along with the normal strap.
The higher pledges consist of multiple Pebble Times, with all the options.
This is actually quite reasonable for a smart watch. The Apple Watch currently retails for $349 and up.
Pebble Time Project Financials
The Pebble Time Kickstarter project raised $20,338,986 from 78,471 backers backers, so that’s an average of $259 dollars per backer. So that’s likely to be more than 80000 Pebble Time smart watches sold. It was the fastest funded Kickstarter project ever, and the highest funded project, which is why it’s number one on our list.
In fact, due to the publicity that Pebble Technology already received with the original Pebble, this time around the Kickstarter project was more of a product sale, than an actual fund raising exercise.
Pebble Time Project Execution
The project execution of the Pebble Time was successful. That means that the pledges were met pretty much on time. Also, the promises made regarding the Pebble Time, in terms of quality, and functionality are also delivered. There hasn’t been too much press on bad customer satisfaction.
Pebble Time Success Factors
The Pebble Time Kickstarter project is not your average Kickstarter project. That’s because they are already associated with Kickstarter, and because they’re broadly known amongst early adopter gadget lovers. So in that sense, Kickstarter has been used as a product launch platform, as well as a (crowd) funding platform. That’s interesting, because that could be a continuing trend in the future.
So the reason the Pebble Time was so successful was in part due to existing popularity. Another factor is of course the fact that they have an interesting project, at a time when big competitors like Apple, Samsung and LG, are pushing smart watches as well. That actually helps Pebble Technology in broadening appeal in smart watches.
2- Coolest Cooler
The Coolest Cooler, which we also wrote about here as part of a post about the impact of Kickstarter, is an upgrade to the traditional cooler you use for a picknick, or a visit to the beach.
Coolest Cooler Background
It’s a cooler that can:
- Cool things, obviously!
- Play music via Bluetooth
- Provides USB sockets for charging your smart phone
- even blend your drinks!
That’s a lot of innovation for a product that hasn’t seen a lot of innovation in a long while. It also looks very cool, so you’ll look cool going to the beach or the park.
You can charge the batteries at home, and you’ll enjoy the power on the move.
Coolest Cooler Project Team
Ryan Grepper is the inventor of the Coolest Cooler. He’s also an inventor in the sense that his ‘job’, is to invent things. He’s invented many many things that haven’t been so successful, but that’s part of the process. He also worked on many versions of the Coolest Cooler, up until the point that it was a hit on Kickstarter.
Coolest Cooler Pledge Structure
There are three pledges, from $5 – $55, that give you some goodies with Coolest Cooler goodies. At $165, and if you were early enough, you’d get an early bird version of the Coolest Cooler. At $185 you get the normal Coolest Cooler version.
The Coolest Cooler retails at $299, so the Kickstarter version is a bargain. The more expensive pledges cover international shipping, or extras on the Coolest Cooler product.
Coolest Cooler Project Financials
The Coolest Cooler project raised $13,285,226 from 62,642 backers, so that’s an average of $212 dollars per backer. So that’s likely to be more than 60000 Coolest Coolers sold via the Kickstarter project. It was the second highest funded project, which is why it’s number two on our list.
Interestingly, this successful attempt was the second attempt to pitch the Coolest Cooler. The first attempt resulted in a failed Kickstarter project for not meeting the funding goal of $125.000. He achieved $100.000 of pledges, but under Kickstarter rules, you get nothing if the target is not met.
Coolest Cooler Project Execution
The Coolest Cooler project has had some issues manufacturing enough units. So delivery of the units has had significant delays, and even worse, lots of backers don’t like the fact that they are also selling Coolest Cooler units online at retail prices. So they are delivering them earlier than to people who have pledged via Kickstarter. That makes backers angry.
This is one of the risks of pledging via Kickstarter. But there are worse Kickstarter projects out there!
Coolest Cooler Success Factors
The Coolest Cooler project is unique in a number of ways:
- There are many iterations of the Coolest Cooler, so the successful Coolest Cooler isn’t the first version out there.
- The successful Kickstarter project followed a failed Kickstarter project.
This helped the successful project because, he was able to improve the product to something the market really wants, and because the backing (in terms of people, marketing) from the first failed project, helped in the second successful project.
The Pebble (original) is an e-paper based smart watch.
The original Pebble has much of the same features as the Pebble Time described above. This version is just an earlier version, with a black and white (and grey) screen. It looks slightly more basic and less polished than the Pebble Time, and it’s battery life is not quite as good. But that’s quite reasonable given that it’s an earlier version.
Pebble Project Team
It’s the same as the Pebble Time.
Pebble Pledge Structure
The early bird edition was $99, versus $150 retail. The normal pledge costs $115. Those are for the black coloured versions. The coloured version, e.g. red or white) require pledges of $125.
More expensive pledges consist of multiple Pebbles, or a hacker special, with early access to the SDK.
In case you don’t know, an SDK is a programming interface, which allows you to program the smart watch for apps.
Pebble Project Financials
The Pebble Time Kickstarter project raised $10,266,845 from 68,929 backers, so that’s an average of $149 dollars per backer. So that’s likely to be around 65000 Pebble Time smart watches sold.
Pebble Project Execution
The original Pebble project execution was good. The pledges were met, with the Pebble smart watches being delivered to backers.
Pebble Success Factors
This was the first smart watch of the Pebble range. But the Pebble Technology team did have previous smart watches (as mentioned above). So they had a track record, and that no doubt helped to spread the word faster than if you were to start a project from nothing.
Other than that, it was just a well executed Kickstarter project.
The top 3 Kickstarter projects are huge multi million dollar successes. The products are now pretty mainstream to gadget lovers, as a result of the success form Kickstarter.
In the case of the Pebble, and the Pebble Time, it has kickstarted (some pun intended), a new product range from top companies like Apple, Samsung and LG. This shows that Kickstarter can really contribute to innovate new product lines.
In the case of the Coolest Cooler, it shows that a one man inventor team can also innovate, and that Kickstarter, as a funding platform and product launch platform can really make a difference.
What do you think of these successful Kickstarter projects? Do yo think they’ll be in the top 3 for long?