Interview with SunPort, $120,599 raised on Kickstarter (160% funded)
SunPort is a device that allows anyone to plug in and use solar power out of the grid, without needing to own solar panels. I does this by measuring how much power you take from the wall and matching it to solar credits that come from real solar panels feeding solar energy into the grid, which is the way all solar use in the gird works. SunPort includes a phone app that shows your impact and how you compare to your friends. In my previous business, we had begun doing business with various solar companies and attended industry conferences. At one such event, in an auditorium filled with thousands, the speaker asked how many people had solar. A few dozen hands went up. It was then that I knew there needed to be a different way for people to "go solar" if there was ever going to be a mainstream solar movement. After that, it was just brainstorming and pivoting until we came up with something that seemed useful, authentic and scalable.
Does it work Internationally?
Right now SunPort is focused on the US market but we have applied for international patents and we expect to offer the product internationally. The US product can be used in other areas of the world, but we have not done the safety certifications necessary to take it to all markets and it presently uses solar credits from the US. Of course, like any plug-in electrical device, if you want to use it internationally, it may require an adapter to fit into the local outlets. One of the wonderful things about SunPort is that it allows you to demand and use solar energy anywhere at any time. There is no consideration for local weather conditions or even time of day, since the credits it runs on are already generated from solar that went into the grid. The credits allow time and location shifting in such a way that you don't need to concern yourself with those issues. At the same time, you are creating real demand for solar and you're helping support existing solar installations.
Tell us about your Kickstarter Campaign
The Kickstarter campaign was an exciting and rewarding experience. The amount of preparation and effort required during the campaign was quite a bit more than expected. As they typically go, we had a strong initial surge based on friends and family, plus our considerable email list. The challenge of driving traffic was considerable, since overall it is so easy to be lost in the crowd of new campaigns that are continually launching on Kickstarter - strong PR is the key.
The best things about the campaign, besides successfully raising the money, are the visibility and exposure you get, plus the conversations you have with backers and prospective backers. We have made connections we could not have made any other way. We also learned so much about what people want and don't want, what questions they have, where they get confused, and most importantly, what they respond to.
Who made your Kickstarter Video?
Our video was created with the help of Fallon International, an advertising firm from Minneapolis. They had a basic idea of how to position our product and then we kept iterating the message after testing, to make sure the whole thing worked. It actually took a total of 17 edits to get the final video right. We shot video at three different locations and we had three separate trips to the studio, along the way. I don't recommend doing it the way we did, because it was very slow and expensive this way. We had a difficult product to explain and story to tell, so we might not have been able to improve on the process, but I would recommend more preparation and less rework.
Can you offer your advice on running a crowdfunding campaign?
My number-one tip for someone considering a crowdfunding campaign: Figure out how much time you need to prepare, then double it. Preparation is the key and rushing or redoing things makes them more expensive, less effective and much more stressful, so giving yourself enough time to get it done right is so important.
You should also plan to devote virtually all of your time to the campaign while it is running, so don't make other commitments for that period. The campaign is a very intense but very rewarding time of customer interaction, so prepare for it and then make the most of it.
What's next for SunPort?
Of course, we first need to fulfill the commitments of the campaign, developing our app and delivering product. Beyond that, we need to follow up on several interesting leads that came up during the campaign. We have numerous retail outlets that have expressed interest in selling SunPort, as well as several B2B opportunities that have surfaced. We will be very busy over the next few months!