Great minds think a-bike: 6 tips from MATE’s $4.6M crowdfunding success

Guest post written by Julie Kronstrøm Carton and Christian Adel Michael. Siblings and founding partners of MATE, a cool eBike designed for a young urban lifestyle.

It took a lot of work to make MATE one of Indiegogo’s biggest success stories last year. Our campaign raised over $3.4 million, plus an additional $1.2 million with Indiegogo InDemand. We’ve already sold more than 3,000 eBikes. The journey is far from over, but there are 6 key things we did to set ourselves apart before, during and after the campaign.

Before the campaign

1.   Offer a strong, simple and unique product

We got the idea for MATE because we saw an opportunity to create a hip and modern eBike unlike anything else on the market, and we knew eBikes were gaining increased interest. We began sketching and visiting suppliers, and developed a cool-looking prototype with the features we wanted. We knew we might be onto something when we started turning heads riding our prototype around Copenhagen. People were asking us where we bought the bike.

Copenhagen is known as the world’s cycling capital. You’ll find more people commuting by bike than car, double-tracked biking highways from the suburbs to the city center and a lot of sophisticated and personalized bikes you never knew existed. MATE is light, foldable, and able to charge your smartphone. It has very little in common with the eBike your grandmom would use.

The eBike market is already global and mature, and we found it segmented and difficult to penetrate. Crowdfunding through Indiegogo was an ideal choice because it gave us the ability to test an idea and spread it quickly through the backer community, which is composed of first movers and influencers. We could validate the market size without taking a huge risk.

We’d seen other eBikes try to get funded on crowdfunding platforms without success. So what could we do better and how big of a market could MATE attract?

We decided to keep our campaign as simple as possible. We used our campaign page to emphasize that our product is easy to use — and easy to buy. Some crowdfunding projects offer 10 or 20 different perks, but that gets too complicated for the backers. We narrowed our offering down to 6 perks and 4 color variations. We felt the offering should be as straightforward as possible.2.   Show passion on the campaign page

When preparing for the crowdfunding campaign – a phase that lasted about 9 months – we were very focused on how we could show the passion for the product to earn trust from the backers.

The most important element of our campaign was our video. We met with various creative agencies and offered them a no cure-no pay deal. If the agency  created a video that would help MATE reach its funding goal, they would get a cut on each eBike sold. If the goal was not reached, nobody owed anybody anything but we all got wiser. We found a creative agency that was up for the idea and came up with a video that was to the point.

The video tells a personal story about how we are siblings raised here in Copenhagen where everybody bikes. Passion is key for a good video: We highlight our background and our motivation, and you can feel our enthusiasm for the product in the video. In our case, it was also critical to have a fully functional prototype so backers could see the bike working in action.

We learned that we shouldn’t hide ourselves behind a campaign page. Introducing ourselves and making ourselves visible and real was as important as branding our product. When backers trusted us and empathized with us, it was easier for them to feel passionate about our project.

During the campaign

3. Make an offer that’s hard to resist

Usually, crowdfunders are advised to get a lot of backers within the first 1-2 days of the campaign. MATE’s case was different. Although the campaign got a good start, we got most of our funding at the end of the campaign. We peaked late. And we ended up prolonging the campaign to get even more backers on last minute offers.

There are two components that make an offer hard to resist: Time limitation and a good offer.

Everybody suffers from fear of missing out, so combining urgency with a good discount creates a very powerful buying incentive. We wanted to get as many pre-orders as possible. With more MATE-bikes on the street, we’d have more ambassadors and ultimately more orders on full-priced eBikes through word of mouth. With crowdfunding, there are no up-front investments in a huge stock. You might not sell out, so it’s really a volume game.4. Find the right promotional channels

From the very beginning of the project, we believed it was crucial to invest in ad and media spending during the entire period of the campaign. Fifty percent of our campaign sales came from Facebook. We got help from a  Facebook advertising specialist and got new backers at a conversion price of roughly 4% of the revenue. Facebook’s lookalike audience worked particularly well for us.  

But we didn’t put all our eggs in the same basket. We spent our budget throughout the campaign — not just at the start and the end. We tested different channels to find the best way to attract more backers. Hiring an agency to handle social media and advertising helped us stay focused on funding and production. Once we were rolling, media coverage gave us some great spikes of awareness.

After the campaign

5.   Invest in building an organization – not just shipping a product

To be honest, we never dreamed the campaign would go wild like it did. We are currently funded at 4220% of the original goal. That opens up a lot of opportunities, but it also makes things more complicated for creating a product line.

An excess of funding is great for giving you bargaining power with suppliers. We could improve the product and set up long term production and a solid business around the product and vision — while keeping the unit price the same, of course.

It’s fair to say that we’re investing some of that money in building an organization. We spend time and money creating an even better product, building better packaging, investing in quality control at the production plants and building processes for future deliveries. It’s all possible now that we have traction and more funding than we needed.

But getting over-funded is not all unicorns and rainbows. Each step of the process takes more time when you get a massive funding. Eighty percent of highly funded campaigns are delayed upon delivery. MATE is no exception. Legal stuff, accounting, supplier contracts — every part takes more time when you scale it 10 times higher than expected.

If you get more funding than you need, make sure you invest in building a company. And add 2-3 months to your timeline to get the final product is delivered.

6.   Plan beyond the campaign

Good planning is a main reason we had this remarkable crowdfunding success. We planned to work with Indiegogo far beyond the campaign. Our backers are still getting news about MATE and we involved backers in many other activities after the campaign ended. We’ve also continued to market the products on Indiegogo InDemand, where we’ve earned an additional $1.2 million..

It’s all about building community and shared passion for the product. For example, we started offering MATE in a Backer Blue color based on input from the community. And we share highly anticipated updates on a weekly basis. Backers are not just in it to get a cool product. Experienced backers know that getting a product on the market is an emotional journey, so we involve them as much as possible in what’s going on.

Some backers are getting impatient with their order. We are sure they will be satisfied when they get an even better product that they once invested in, and neither we nor the community want MATE to be a one-off. We are planning beyond the crowdfunding campaign and for future success.

Want to learn more about selling through InDemand? Read the Indiegogo InDemand FAQ.