in Kickstarter 2015

This month’s Kickstarter pledge is SunPort. It’s raised $50,000 from 700 backers, needs another $25k to succeed, and has 18 days to do it. Seems feasible, unless you consider data collected by investment company Elephants&Ventures to be accurate.

Elephants&Ventures has a lot of experience in supporting and advising start ups taking the crowd sourcing route. Last year, co-founders Alexis Houssou and Barbara Belvisi gave a rundown on launching a Kickstarter campaign, and number six on their 10-point checklist is relevant to most of the pledges I’ve made to date.

Houssou and Belvisi’s experience suggests that when it comes to making a success of Kickstarter, the majority of crowd funding projects need to be fully backed within three days. 38 percent even reach their goal on day one, meaning early momentum is essential – something to consider for future campaigns whether you’re backing them or launching one yourself.

Anyway, back to SunPort. The reason I want to bring this particular campaign to your attention is that it’s actually a great example of how not to approach Kickstarter. Go ahead and watch the video on their page then come back, I’ll wait.

Done? Good. Confused? You bet.

SunPort’s video, it’s key selling mechanism and the method by which it can quickly and efficiently explain its business model to a potential backer, doesn’t make a great deal of sense. It’s been scripted in a way that suggests by using SunPort you’ll get (free?) access to solar power. And the written explanation that goes along with it isn’t much better.

This device won’t reduce your energy bills. In fact, SunPort will increase them. It does, however, according to Tech Times, let you “offset your usage by buying solar credits.”

Still confused? Yep, I was too. So I did some more research in order to let me explain this in another way.

Basically, SunPort is a smart meter. You can’t get solar energy from it. What you can do, however, is demonstrate to your current energy company that you’re interested in them supplying you with solar power in the future.

SunPort monitors your energy usage and uses the data it collects as leverage to encourage energy providers in switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources like solar power.

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) are used by SunPort behind the scenes to help demonstrate demand. This video explains the role of a S/REC far better than SunPort can, but it’s not overly necessary to understand how that process works in order to make sense of SunPort’s core proposition.

There’s no clever wizardry here – SunPort is all about crowd sourcing demand for renewable energy and helping to save the planet.

Put like that, it’s actually a really compelling idea and product. But the way it’s been presented to date leaves a lot to be desired, and I’m sure the overcomplicated nature of its Kickstarter page and intro video has put a lot of people off. After all, would you back something that you didn’t fully understand?

I can’t imagine many of us would, especially when a product like SunPort is asking for a not inconsiderable sum ($50) before you to get your hands on one.

Oh, and in case you noticed, yes, I did miss July’s Kickstarter pledge. Life got in the way. Normal service will resume from next month. Probably.

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