There seems to be a new crowd-funded drone project that launches every month. This week marked the launch of a Kickstarter campaign for Zyro, a drone-based outdoor game that replaces sports balls with a drone (tennis, frisbee etc.).
This most recent campaign got us thinking, what makes a successful drone Kickstarter? Some projects like HEXO+ and AirDog raised well over a million dollars each on Kickstarter and demoed their drones at CES this year, with plans to start selling to consumers this year. Other drone projects look promising but never get any funding. So what does it take to run a successful drone Kickstarter? Here are some patterns we recognized:
DO Have and demo your working prototype in your video. All of the most successful drone kickstarters have a viable prototype and show it in action. It makes sense – if you want people to invest in something, you better show them what it does. People aren’t inclined to spend money on a product that is still just an idea. Every project that had no actual footage of the drone in action in their video was unsuccessful in reaching their funding goals. Oh, and don’t fake drone footage either. That’s what Mind4 did and it makes for a pretty awkward video.
DO Build a Drone that does something noticeably different. Whether you are introducing a new feature, a new control scheme or an entirely new type of drone, make sure you are building something that will wow people. Nobody is going to get excited over just another camera toting drone.
DON’T Use Kickstarter for aerial imaging companies or drone software. We couldn’t find a single successfully funded Kickstarter campaign for a business that wanted to use drones to take pictures. This is probably because people would rather save their money, buy a drone, and give such a business a try themselves.
Projects that fell into this trap: All of them
Drone software is a little more tricky. On the whole, seeking crowd funding for a drone software project is inadvisable. Unlike the PC and the smartphone, drones haven’t quite reached the point where software is sexy. We are still in the phase where the hardware is new, so it’s much easier to make a splash with a flashy drone than with screenshots of a program running on your computer.
It’s not impossible to find success on Kickstarter with drone software – Drones Made Easy reached its $30,000 goal – but there are definitely more failures than successes. In some cases, piggybacking software on your drone could actually do more harm than good.
Oh, and while we are on that note, running a Kickstarter campaign for periphery drone hardware isn’t a DO or a DON’T… it’s more of a MIXED BAG. There are some successes and some failures. To increase your chances of success though, make sure you have a comprehensive video and your project solves a real problem.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com