The idea for Accelerate came about in November of 2012. We were looking through the content that we had generated for our blog – HowToWriteABusinessPlan.com – which focuses on advice from startup founders who had recently graduated their startup from an accelerator program… predominantly discussing why not to write a business plan. As we looked at the highest trafficked posts, they tended to be ones that listed the top accelerator programs in the world along with posts that had great content provided by an entrepreneur that had graduated from one of the top 2 or 3 accelerator programs in the world. This is when we started to realize “what we were carrying” in terms of content. So we decided that the next step had to be a book that focused on all the accelerator programs around the world featuring thoughts and advice from their graduates. And so the idea for Accelerate was hatched.
Marketing Plans, Concerns, and Goals
When we wrote the book, we decided that it had to be launched through KickStarter if we were going to give ourselves the chance to create the book at the level of quality that we hoped for. Our intention was, and still is, to use future earnings from Accelerate to continue to fund our startup company VineUp. We wanted to talk about this on the KickStarter project. 1) Because it was true and 2) because it created another avenue for a story that a blogger might want to write about. However, we were concerned that KickStarter might get confused about the relationship between the book and a company that really had nothing to do with the book, which they did.
Finding the right entrepreneurs to help us create great content was not really a concern, as we had a great starting point with the blog. We also felt that we would be able to generate backers at the beginning and at the end (through friends, press and featured entrepreneurs encouraging their network to support the book), but the middle 30 days of the 51 day project, (where bloggers had no interest to write about us and our friends list was exhausted), was a concern. We knew this would be a hurdle for us, as we couldn’t rely on the assumption that the book was going to go viral. So we created a vigorous promotional schedule and it paid off as we passed our goal with 11 days remaining.
Seeing what sticks, with what matters: Since we were targeting the entrepreneurial community, more specifically: early stage entrepreneurs, Twitter was an awesome place to find them all.
We went about this by querying twitter for #startups #founders and #entrepreneurs and created a list of the most active people in the entrepreneurial space, as well as the most retweeted ones and influential ones. Day by day we tweeted at these influencers about the book with something that they themselves can associate with. Example of a common tweet we would use : “hey @johnsmith, thought you’d be interested in our book with over 18 techstars founders featured”. For us, this was a bit easier since many of these influencers have an affiliation with one of the accelerators we featured in our book. Still, the concept of reaching out to people who would give a damn was very doable with twitter.
We found Twitter to be far better for engaging individuals, bloggers and sponsors than Facebook (though Facebook did bring us a slightly larger number of backers). Accelerate even managed to get a mention on Mashable through a conversation that was generated through Twitter. Unfortunately the reference to Accelerate didn’t appear in the Mashable post until 3 weeks after the KickStarter project had ended.
The lesson: Use twitter strategically by engaging (ideally proactively) with the people that are heavy Influencers in your field of interest, who live and die by the topic of your project.
LinkedIn: How do I get this to all my friends??? What’s really cool about LinkedIn is that it can serve as an awesome storage spot for your contacts. Double awesome is the fact that as they update their information through the years. We were able to export all of our contacts into a convenient excel spreadsheet. From there, you can easily layer this information into a simple mail merge document and contact these hundreds of people – “just like that.” What was really touching about this was seeing how many of our older contacts came out of the woodwork to support our project, and offer very inspiring praise. The worst response we got from this list of connections was “I don’t know you, stop emailing me.” The funny thing is that this individual requested Matt as a connection a few months earlier.
The lesson: Don’t request someone as a LinkedIn connection unless you are ok with the risk of getting emailed for pledge support by some cheeky entrepreneurs 😉
When it came to getting funded on KickStarter, generating early relationships with potential sponsors/supporters was the key to our projects KickStarter success.
In my next post for this series, I’ll be sharing what didn’t work and some of my key takeaways.
If you’d like to be one of the first to get your copy of Accelerate, click here to pre-order.
For more great insights into Accelerators- check out this Slideshare presentation: