We knew that getting funded wasn’t going to be easy, but we weren’t prepared for this (lack of) response. If crowdfunding were easy, every project that got posted would get funded, and every project would deliver the goods that they promised. The fact is, most projects don’t get funded, and those that do don’t always deliver. Expectedly, this leaves a sour taste in the mouths of their backers resulting in less opportunities for the rest of us trying to raise funds from the crowd. While this is an unfortunate scenario, in most cases there is no one to blame – it is the nature of crowdfunding. It’s not easy to create a product, prototype, test, manufacture, package and ship without any of this experience under your own belt.
Then, on top of the challenges posed by crowdfunding alone, trying to raise money for a product focused on cannabis presents it’s own unique hurdles to leap. See, to successfully raise money from strangers you need two things – for them to see your product and then for them to trust you enough to give you money months before receiving their product (let alone actually being produced). Cannabis related products inherently have difficulties attaining both of these milestones(?). Let me tell you why I think that is.
First, as much as we see cannabis in the news, in magazines, and on our favorite TV shows it’s still not mainstream enough for people to declare to their entire group of friends and family that they are cannabis enthusiasts. For crowdfunding to be successful, your product needs to go viral and get in front of as many people as possible. Everyone that you know should support you by at least sending an email to their friends, or sharing on their social media platforms. Then, everyone that buys from you should do the same, along with everyone that simply thinks your product is cool. Once this happens, you create a bit of buzz for your product with the hope that it will get tweeted or talked about by someone with influence, i.e. a blogger, a reporter, a movie star or anyone else with a wide reach. With a cannabis product, the amount of people that are willing to a) back you and b) tell everyone else that they backed you is less than most other products on sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Furthermore, the number of influencers with a large reach of online followers is very small and I’m sure the amount of requests they get is huge. You must have to do something special to catch their attention, because we haven’t figured that part out yet. Lastly, there are few major publications or even websites that garner enough traffic to justify the investment in advertising with them, especially on such a short budget like most startups are.
Now, to dive into the trust that is needed for a campaign to succeed. There are many ways that a project can earn trust from their backers. The easiest I’ve seen is to have proof of the team executing a project similar in scope or size. If the team has produced a product (crowdfunding or not), this goes a long way in gaining the trust of strangers that they will be able to deliver on the current project. Another way is social proof – gained by the virality detailed above. It’s a lot easier for people to shell out a few hundred dollars if a few of their friends have, or thousands of others have, or they see the product mentioned by someone they trust (an influencer). You may feel like this is a loop with no beginning, and at times I have felt the same. However, I think that you can really start anywhere, and the rest of the loop will follow – I just don’t know how to get that started.
I’m sure there are other ways to gain the trust of a large group of strangers, but I think the rest of them take time – like blogging, classes or lectures, conventions, writing for a publication are a few that come to mind. We have tried a few of these things, and will continue to try others, because we won’t quit until this project is done. With that being said, I think trust is a hard thing for any cannabis product to earn though essentially caused by the stigma associated with cannabis consumers. I think most people, consumers included, assume that cannabis consumers are not motivated and/or capable of doing everything necessary in order to bring a product to life. There is a long standing “stoner” stereotype that implies that every person that consumes cannabis HAS to sit on the couch, eat Cheetos and play video games all day. Most people can’t wrap their heads around the thought that a couple of regular cannabis consumers are intelligent, driven, and hard-working people that are dedicated to making their dreams come true. We, along with many, MANY others are working diligently to reverse that stereotype and prove to the world that cannabis consumers can do something more than kill zombies and bags of Cheetos.
Other challenges that crowdfunding poses for our industry – growers are reluctant to try new things in their gardens, unless they see it works, for a variety of reasons. The unknowns of damage to plants, strength of support, strength of connections, etc. make it necessary for us to be in stores. Cannabis is also a cash crop/industry so online ordering is difficult. Growers also trust their grow store employees advice, so we think we need to start there.
Please keep following along as we bring the Atlas Plant Trainer to a grow store near you – because we will.