Bad News – Kickstarter Schwag Delayed – 2012, December 18 I have lots and lots of ‘good news’.
But first, we’re going to start with ‘bad news’. I really don’t try to sugar-coat things. So read through this. But please keep one thing in mind – that even though the fulfillment of your rewards is way behind schedule, I’ve made huge progress in other areas. I’ll detail that progress in the next few days.
One lesson I’ve recently learned is that I need to be MUCH more proactive in posting updates. So here goes – Update 1 of 4 this week.
Choices I Made I have an apology to make to you; I’m sorry. I’ve made a couple mistakes, and because they have compounded, I have not gotten your Rewards to you when I said I would. I know some of you were counting on these for Christmas or Hanukkah – I’m really sorry.
So how did I get in this predicament? Lots of reasons, really.
Ultimately, it comes down to choices. I looked at what was happening with the KS Rewards, I looked at the Kickstarter Math (below) and figured that I had a very very short window if I wanted to get – not just this specific experiment built and flying – but if I also wanted to actually build an Elevator on the Moon – I had to act quickly. So I made a choice. I would go on a ‘grand tour’ and respond to the people that most wanted to help with the big project. With me traveling, I chose to hire someone to oversee the Kickstarter fulfillment… It seemed like a good idea at the time. (I will write a LOT of details about this trip in the next 3 updates.)
So I hired Michelle – and she’s terrific. She started out as a volunteer 9 months ago and quickly got herself promoted to full-time staff (the ONLY one besides me)! I got her set up; and then I got into an airplane.
Not Her Fault
But she simply could not do the job. It was ‘impossible’ – and you know me well enough to know that I don’t use that word lightly or often. When I returned from my travels – 6 weeks later! – she and I had a long talk. We decided she’d slip back to what she was good at – a valuable and talented volunteer – and that I’d find someone who was better able to handle what she refers to as “Kickstarter Hell”.
So now it’s back to being ‘just me’ for the time being. I am going to hire someone to help out; I need to. But that hasn’t happened yet.
Inadequate Resources I’ve examined a bunch of KS campaigns. Many (most!) of them don’t deliver on time – especially the ones that go way beyond the expectations of the campaign. I was determined that I’d not make the same mistakes the other campaigns do… and yet I did anyway. I think the kind of person that starts a KS project is naturally optimistic. Certainly anyone crazy enough to build an Elevator on the Moon must have huge reserves of optimism. And in both cases, that self-confidence compels the KS organizer to over-promise. I did. But there is something else at work, something I didn’t realize until I was in the daily grind of actually doing the fulfillment – that this stuff is hard! There is a reason I’m building robots and organizing research and not building a web store filled with t-shirts, art, jewelry and other stuff… because I don’t know how to do that stuff; I know how to build robots that climb into the sky! And every ‘successful’ KS campaign that brings in 14x its original goal must navigate these unknown and uncertain waters. I’m learning, but it’s a clumsy process.
These news articles are worth reading. I’m NOT using them as an excuse for what when wrong, but it does help to explain common Kickstarter problems. By CNN/Money standards we are “slightly tardy”. By my US Marine Corps standards “late is late”. I doesn’t matter if we’re just a little bit; that excuse doesn’t work for me.
Kickstarter Math and Time
The campaign started at the end of August, the campaign ran for three weeks (ending September 13) and then there is another (almost) three weeks before the money actually shows up in our checking account. So we didn’t really get started on your fulfillment until the beginning of October. You’d think two months to get the stuff designed, developed, ordered, packaged and shipped out – seems pretty reasonable right? It’s not. It’s ridiculously optimistic. But I had no way of knowing that when I launched the campaign. This is especially complicated if the so-called ‘leader’ (me) is traveling!
Rewards Status Report
So before I begin my status report, I look at the following list of rewards and shake my head. What was I thinking to have so many reward levels? So here goes!
$1 Friend of LiftPort (3,468 total) We’ve got the art finished for your badges, and now we just need to create the database of users and link the two. The “official” LiftPort newsletter will begin in January. I think that’s a good way to start the New Year. I’ve sent out the Kickstarter-only email address to everyone, already. (GetLF8D@ our company name .com) Please ensure that you use that – as it is the fastest way to reach me directly. And even though there are ~3500 of you – I want to ensure that I read and respond to you first! We have the list of names of all of you, and this will be inscribed on the robot, Neil, when it climbs!
$3 Greeting Card (3183 total) We have the first style complete, and we’re working on the 2nd and 3rd. Once that’s done, we’ll send a survey so you can choose which one you like. Important note: because Kickstarter only allows one survey, we’ll be going through a different service. Look for a message from PopSurvey next month.
$5 Ribbon and Greeting Card (3160 total) There was a huge problem with getting the string. Far more difficult than I anticipated. But that is solved now, and the string should arrive on Thursday or Friday this week. I’m relieved – we had to delay the robot design until we could get our hands on this stuff. So once the $3 Cards are finished, we’ll be able to attach the Ribbon and send these out.
$8 Card Carrying Supporter (3023 total) This remains my favorite reward item. I am so happy with this. I have the mock-up in my wallet right now and it’s terrific! We were going to give this laminated card that was kinda cheesy, but one of YOU – a fan – came through with a MUCH better idea. So we switched gears and raised the quality a lot. We’ve built an online tool that you will need to fill out. You will be able to customize this – your name, location, title – whatever you want. And you’ll be able to upload a photo/avatar of your choice. This upload tool MIGHT be available on Wednesday next week (but the holidays are jinxing my plans…) And the MYSTERY surprise starts in January along with the LiftPort newsletter.
$9 Friendship Bracelet (356 + 73 +156 total 585) For the same reason the Ribbon was delayed getting to us, we’ve been delayed getting this started. We have some of the hardware for bracelets that are more feminine, but we don’t have everything. And the stuff for the guys isn’t even on order yet – because it hasn’t been designed yet. As for labor to actually build these things? I’m about to recruit some child from a developing nation… (kidding!) because every source I’ve turned to has declined. I’ll figure something out, but it’s gonna be a while. Sorry. I’m trying.
$12 Art Print (159 total) This got off to a slow and rocky start, but it’s starting to smooth out. I’m hoping these are in production soon. Expect surveys early-mid January. Because we had so many of these, we were able to increase the size from 5x7 to 8x10 – so I’m pleased with that.
$15 Group Talk (68 + 67 +31 + 289 + 9 + 12 + 10 + 4 + 6 + 9 total 505) This is going to be kind of insane!. Assume 10 people per talk, at 2 hours each is about 100 hours of just me talking… And I have to get all this other stuff done too! But honestly, I like talking, so this will be fun! About 70 of you pledged this directly, but the bulk of these were because they were included in other reward levels. I’m really looking forward to talking with you! Because of that, I’ll concentrate these talks in January and February. I’ll plan on 10-15 people per conversation, and stagger them so that we cover a variety of time-zones, and various communications technology. I’ll send you folks a private message to give you some options. I’ve created a webtool that will help us schedule these.
$20 Necklace & Bracelet (73 + 156 total 229) See Jewelry note above. Some of the parts are sitting in my office. I don’t have the labor to tackle this yet. Perhaps I’ll enlist my family over the holidays – “You can’t have any turkey until you finish at least 2 more necklaces…”
$25 Medium Art Print (230 + 31 + 289 + 9 + 12 + 10 + 4 + 6 +9 total 600) See Art note above. Because we’re getting a good rate on printing, expect a bonus – TWO prints! Give one to a friend, or give both to that person you owe a Christmas present to and tell them I’m sorry it was late!
$35 Necklace, Bracelet, & Earrings (156 total) See Jewelry note above. I don’t have any witty comments. I know some of you guys were counting on them for presents (one guy promised them to his wife for their anniversary!) and I know that some of you ladies were hoping to show off your geek-cred at parties. I’m sorry that these are late.
$35 T-shirt (341 + 67 + 31 + 289 + 9 + 12 + 10 + 4 + 6 + 9 total 778) This is one of the few bright points in this chaotic mess. The T-shirts are shipping. I have a tracking number and expect them on Thursday. There’s no way I can turn these around and get them shipped to ya before Christmas, but I want you to know that I honestly tried… So we have 400 shirts en route; which is not enough. That’s 200 each of 2 designs. We are going to create a third and fourth design. I really like these shirts and can’t wait to wear them!
$40 Meet-up (19 total) I’ve met with a few of you already – and that’s great! Thanks! Starting with the New Year I will systematically approach this and contact each of you. We’ll figure out, specifically, how and when we will hold our meet-up. I’ll be in Los Angeles in January, so that’s likely the first to cross off the list. I’m looking forward to this! But what happens at these Meet-ups does not stay there = expect us to tweet and post pictures. I’ve created a webtool that will help us schedule these.
$50 – T-shirt + Group Talk (67 total) See T-shirt and Talk notes above. P.s. besides the many guys’ shirts, we also have lots of gals’ and kids sizes and shapes too! $50 Street Team (7 total) I’ve met with one of these already, and had long conversations with some. But that’s a story for another day… (Actually, I plan to write about it in the 3rd update of this series, so be patient.) But there is still a lot we can do with the Street team, so expect a call!
$75 Shirt, Talk & Print (31 total) See notes for Art, Talk and T-shirt above. And you’ve honestly got my sincere thanks! $100 Get Involved (289 + 9 + 9 + 12 + 10 + 4 + 6 + 9 total 348) See notes for Art, Talk and T-shirt above. Are you ready to actually “get involved”? Because in January, that’s what I’ll expect (hope!). I’ll try to get most of our calls in during that month, and while we’re at it, I’ll attempt to figure out how you can participate (if you want to) in the biggest thing, ever. I’ve a set of questions I’ll pose, month after month through a detailed survey. This will be incorporated into the LiftPort newsletter, and I’ll post your results in the following month. I went to an event while I was traveling that really made me think… And I’ll tell you about it in tomorrow’s update. But my first question revolves around ‘open science/open source’ technology.
$100 Advertise (12 + 9 + 12 + 10 + 4 + 6 + 9 total 62) Some of this has already happened. I’ll follow up with the rest as we finalize our new website this month.
$150 Exclusive Chat (9 total) See notes for Art, Talk, T-shirt, and Involved above. I apologize, but I’ve not really tackled this yet. I hope when you read the next 3 updates this week, that you’ll appreciate that I’ve been busy. And I appreciate that the only reason I was able to be ‘busy’ was because our community of supporters committed the capital to allow me to do this stuff. I’ll make you folks a priority with the New Year! Like with the Group Chat above, I’ve created webtool that will help us schedule these.
$250 Walk on Part (9 total) See notes for Art, Talk, T-shirt, and Involved above. I’ve communicated with many of you, but not all. Some of you are joining my Board of Advisors, and some have joined as part of the volunteer corps! I’m grateful – thanks! As for the rest, we are targeting March for the robotic experiment, and probably later in the Spring Summer for the “jumpers”. So you should have a choice of two different opportunities to be a part of history! There are far too many variables for me to pin down dates yet, so don’t buy a plane ticket yet. But I’ll keep you posted. As for locations, we considering the Oregon coast or in the deep wilderness/desert behind San Diego. We want to start at ‘sea level’, if possible. The FAA will help guide this choice. A lot.
$250 Video Channel (12 + 10 + 4 + 6 + 9 total 41) See notes for Art, Talk, T-shirt, Involved, and Advertise above. This might be the ONLY reward that comes in on time! January was the initial plan and I think that’s still on target. I’ve taken some classes (amateur, through friends) and think I’ve got a few ideas on how this will work. Initially, I’ll incorporate this in with a book club, and over time I’ll include interviews with ‘space elevator people’. So stay tuned! $300 Educations Kits (3x) (10 total) See notes for Art, Talk, T-shirt, Involved, and Advertise above. Lots to tell about this reward. But I’ll save this until the 4th of this series of updates.
$500 Speaker (4 total) See notes for Art, Talk, T-shirt, Involved, and Advertise above. No activity on this yet. I’ve dates for 2 of them, and still need to connect with some folks. The events that I do have booked, I’ll post about when the dates come around.
$500 Jump! (6 total) See notes for Art, Talk, T-shirt, Involved, and Advertise above. I’ve spoken to two jump-masters and have the beginnings of what we’ll need for you folks. But don’t buy your plane tickets just yet. We’ve talked it over, and we don’t think that it’s safe to have you folks jumping on the same system that our robot is climbing. Instead, we’ll do this as two separate adventures – first the robot in the Spring, and then you folks when the weather is better in the summer. You won’t get to jump until after the robot test is successful.
$750 Carbon Nanotube Wedding Rings (9 total) See notes for Art, Talk, T-shirt, Involved, and Advertise above. I’ve only spoken to two of you, so I need better communications with the rest. What I really need from you is deadlines – when is the wedding? I can plan my workload around that. It takes me about 3 days to complete a design – but I might need weeks to clear those 3 days, so we need to talk.
$1000 Custom Art (3 total) See notes for Art, Talk, T-shirt, Involved, Chat, and Advertise above. I’ve spoken to 1 of the 3. So this needs to change. Expect me to hound you in January until this is resolved to your satisfaction! We’ve had several (7) original items created, but we still have not satisfied this requirement.
Good News – Coming
So with all this stuff, what’s up with the robot? What about the trip that I took? What’s on the schedule for the spring and summer? And what about the company of LiftPort – what’s happening there? For answers to these questions and more, stay tuned. I’ll post some of this stuff tomorrow. And the next day and the day after that. I know a lot of you don’t want updates like this – in bursts, but I’ve not posted anything in two months, and there has been a lot going on. Take care, And thanks for your support (and patience)! Mjl Michael Laine President, LiftPort Group