Robotical: The Crowdfunding Adventures of Marty


15 July 2016

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As Robotical are just over the halfway point in their 40-day crowdfunding campaign we thought it would be a good time to catch up with founder, Alexander Enoch, and see how he’s finding his first crowdfunding experience so far. Of course, the other benefit of speaking to him now is it’s another way to promote his campaign, the more shares it gets the likelier he is to reach his target!

 

While Robotical started off as a side project during Alexander’s PhD studies in Edinburgh, it is increasingly becoming a promising avenue for the future of technology education in Scotland. Marty, is a programmable robot which allows children to garner robotics skills in a hands-on and engaging way.

 

                  

 

Following his fantastic live pitch at #EIE16, Robotical has done a stellar job in attracting coverage from the press and social media, has secured a £60k EDGE award and been part of the 12 Week John Lewis Accelerator programme. We had a catch up at local coffee favourite ‘Cult’ to learn more about his very busy summer so far!

 

SILVIA, Digital Marketing Associate, Informatics Ventures interviewing Alexander Enoch, Robotical on 06/07/2016

“Getting social coverage makes the biggest amount of difference because you get the right type of audience for your page.”

 
 

INFORMATICS VENTURES: Could you tell me about your experience in setting up and running a crowdfunding campaign.

 
Alexander Enoch: It’s been a reasonably long process. We’re pre-selling the product now [Marty], in July, and it won’t ship until January so there is a huge amount of preparation you have to do in terms of building up marketing and a mailing list, and also on the production side as you have to know your costs before you prepare the price. I spent quite a lot of time building up the mailing list so that involved doing as many events as I could, we ran a competition to find the name of the robot, we did a science festival, and anything really that was reachable and relevant to us.
 
 

And how is it going? Have you planned anything to keep the momentum up?

 
We are in the middle period so it’s progressing very slowly, there’s always a spike and then you get this lul and it tends to pick up again towards the end…It’s crazy how much you need to push, it’s not like you can put it there and leave it, you really need to be working and getting people speaking about you.
 
 

Did you construct a plan for before, during, and after the campaign?

 
We knew we wanted to launch coinciding with some press we were getting so we had some things lined up and we wanted to push while we had some stuff going on.
 
The plan before hand was months in advance, we actually pushed it back by a couple of weeks because we were still getting things ready on the campaign side, pulling together all the graphics. During the campaign we have a list of content we want to create to push, website we want to go to. After the crowdfund we put manufacturing in place. I continue business development, but shift more to actually getting the product made.
 
 

And, how do you feel about your ongoing resources in terms of social media and communications? Which strategy has worked best?

 
For social media, getting mentioned by people who are related to you or interested in you works best. We got mentioned by Rasberry Pi once last week and got mentioned by one of the resource channels YouTube tech things but really brief. Even after something like that you see a big spike coming through, rather than if you spend money on advertising. Getting social coverage makes the biggest amount of difference because you get the right type of audience for your page…So it’s all about awareness, newspaper coverage gets you other things; people from the council getting in touch or schools. It’s great for more traditional sales and organisations. Individual sales and crowdfunding is way more social.
 
 

What made you ultimately decide on crowdfunding in general?

 
We have money coming in from different places. We just won £60K as a half grant half loan from ScottEDGE mainly for growing the team, branding, trademarking, little bit for prototyping before we do the production run. It’s not for the actual production, so crowdfunding is a nice way to supplement that and basically make it so we can produce the first batch of products without requiring big capital amount ourselves. I was very keen to a) make sure we wouldn’t have products sat on the shelves and b) get validation right from the beginning.
 
 

Why did you choose to do pre-selling crowdfunding as opposed to equity?

 
Partly because the product lends itself that way. It gives us a nicer user base for our initial production run, when things are still a little rough around the edges…so it’s a great way to get to market with slightly more forgiving customers so that when you get to the next stage and scale up to a larger retailer, we’ll know what we’re doing more.
 

 

“For us its validation, it’s getting a community, starting to build around the product, starting to engage with them while we do the process. But accept that it’s going to be a hard slog.”

 
 

What has the response been from your backers?

 
The crowdfunding has been incredibly useful in defining what offering we will provide. We gave people two main options: with arms and without for a lesser price. 99.5% went for the more expensive option, with arms, so we decided to take out the optional choice and combining it into one thing. There’s no point confusing people… This is useful feedback we’ve got from actually selling it which maybe we wouldn’t have gotten if we had just asked around or sampled.
 
 

Is crowdfunding as you expected or thought it would be?

 
It’s definitely quite stressful to do, the initial week is the worst as you’re trying to figure out if everything is going alright on the page, then when everything starts to slow down then you sort of accept that certain days are faster than others.
 
 

What have been the biggest challenges so far?

 
Keeping the publicity going. We have potentially more press interest…we’re about to start pushing into Reddit and other [online] avenues. Man power is still a big challenge, we have a summer intern who is doing technical stuff and a volunteer who’s doing social media stuff. We’re also still drastically short of time, I’m often travelling to events. I’ve been in London for the past two days and then in Cambridge next week all week. It’s hard to find the time to do everything, so man power is the biggest challenge for us. The ScottEDGE funding is useful because I can actually pay people to do things.
 
 

Would you recommend crowdfunding to other start-ups?

 
Yes, it’s definitely something to consider. You have to accept that it’s going to take up a large portion of your time for less money that you can potentially get from other sources so you have to make sure it can add value to you in other ways. For us its validation, it’s getting a community, starting to build around the product, starting to engage with them while we do the process. But accept that it’s going to be a hard slog. Speak to companies for advice, speak to as many people as you can to get tips and tricks for doing it and spend at least 6 months to prepare for it. Realise that for the entirety of the crowdfunding you’re going to be spending most of your time on that.

 

We garnered extensive insight into the crowdfunding experience from Alexander and hope you have too.

The main takeaway for me was that preparing and maintaining a crowdfund is incredibly time consuming so it really needs to be the right strategy for your business for you to pursue it. Alexander was still open to traditional sources of finance and was in fact keeping in touch with investors he met at EIE16 which is great news and for me that sums up crowdfunding’s position; it is a complimentary source of finance rather than an alternative to the traditional sources.

 

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I would like to say a huge thank you to Alexander for taking the time to meet with me and wish him all the best for the rest of his campaign. I can’t wait to see lots of Marty’s running around and lining the shelves next year!

 
Check out his crowdfunding campaign here!
 

It has been a great #iVCrowdfunding week with a perfect finish!

 

More from this week:

Scotland is into Crowdfunding in 2016

Crowdfunding Facts or Fads

Reach your crowdfunding target!

Which crowdfunding website?

 

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