WTF Is 3D Audio, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Launch the Kickstarter
A year ago, I embarked on a quest to introduce 3D Audio to the masses. With a successful Kickstarter ($163K in 30 days http://kck.st/1ricVak), a functional prototype, and a team of talented engineers and designers now under my belt, this is what I've learned.
1. You Have No Idea What You Are Doing And That's Okay
One day, you wake with an idea so strong you need to find out whether it is possible. Relating that idea to other humans is another story altogether. Binaural, you know, it's like the way your ears hear but with a microphone. Like your ears are your headphones. Like your microphone is your ear as your headphones, but in your ears, you know? It was a simple concept to me -- a new place to put the microphones -- but most of my friends and family scrunched their faces and stared at me like I had two heads. I thought of other creators who started with simply an idea: Larry Page & Sergey Brin, Nick Woodman, Jack Dorsey. Nick Woodman, the founder of GoPro, introduced a camera at a time when affordable high end cameras saturated the market. Why did he do it? Because his camera was something different. That's how I see Hooke. My microphones are something different. By trusting that and holding firm to that conviction, I've found I have everything I need to make a product happen. When that foundation is in place, the right team members and the right tools come naturally.
2. You Don't Need As Much Money As You Think You Need
I mean, it costs. Just not as much as you might think.
When I started, I took a serious look at what I would need before launching a Kickstarter: a skeleton crew, lawyer fees, rent, money, food. The net value of these turned out to be surprisingly low. Doing this work early on meant not giving away valuable equity too soon. Instead, with the help of an experienced advisor, I was able to formulate a proposal to friends and family asking for small loans to get the company started. If I was able to create a successful Kickstarter, I could start manufacturing. I could start owning a company. I would also have very valuable resources like user acquisition costs, user feedback, and pre-orders to attract more investment later on.
3. Leverage Social Media Like It's Your Freaking Job
I hated doing this. We all hate doing this. But there is a way to do it respectfully and effectively:
After determining our target market and a timeline for our Kickstarter, I stepped into the world of social media to find where those early adopters lived: Reddit, Twitter, tech blogs like cerebraloverload.com, geekygadgets.com, and techurchin.com. I knew these communities had a reputation for being unkind to solicitors. I didn't see myself as one, but I needed to make it clear that I was sharing Hooke, not just peddling it. Yes, I wanted people to buy my product, but I also wanted them to care about it. Battering reddit with cries of "Buy this! Buy this now!" would only get my cyber head lopped off. So I joined these communities and actively interacted with them months before launch. I became a spectator and a contributor, and when the time came to introduce Hooke, no soliciting alarms were rung against me.
B) Know Who's Talking About You and Stay Engaged
There are many programs that allow you to track keywords and receive notices when someone mentions your name or company. I used a service called Mention (mention.com). Being able to engage with an audience quickly is something I cannot stress enough. I responded to every tweet, every Kickstarter comment, every Reddit comment, and every Facebook comment within 24 hours throughout the entire 30 day campaign. This was huge. By beginning the conversation instantly, you remind people that you're human and that you care. A bond is formed and you get support faster -- something appreciated by consumer and merchant alike.
Post, comment, and share constantly. Keep your vision fresh in their minds and they'll keep wanting. This benefits not only the perceived momentum of your product, but also your own personal momentum.
So The Kickstarter Happened. Now What?
Now I Build A Business.
Aside from getting the prototypes working and meeting manufacturing deadlines, I am outlining Hooke's five year plan. Not only where I see Hooke going, but how I see the commodity that is 3D Audio changing the world and how Hooke will change with it.
When HD Television was first introduced, no one knew they needed it. Once it became popular, one important thing happened: nobody wanted to return to standard def. This is exactly what will happen with Hooke and the world of 3D Audio. Once consumers have a simple, affordable device that will allow them to capture their world in 3D, they'll never want to go back to audio in 2D. The evolution of Hooke and its future products is not only important for my growth as a business owner and an entrepreneur. It is the first step toward making 3D Audio a household commodity that will change the way we interact with and learn from each other.
How Do I Feel Right Now?
Crazy. Absolutely flying by the seat of my pants crazy.
Never been happier though. I am so excited to be living in this age of innovation.
From One Ear To Another,