Startup Spotlight: IgnitionDeck Looks to Ignite Crowdfunding by Empowering Creators with a DIY Twist—Funding On Your Terms (#WordPress)
Hallelujah—it’s here! Finally, an intelligent twist within the crowdfunding platform that speaks to creators (musicians, filmmakers, software developers, artists, etc.), and aims to put the “$-kaching” back into the hands of developers, versus middlemen. IgnitionDeck is a newly launched WordPress plugin allowing artists to self-fund their projects without asking for permission, or giving away more money than they have to when using a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or IndieGogo.
Last week I ran across a post on Facebook talking about IgnitionDeck and instantly became smitten with the “take charge, empowering concept,” so I reached out for a quick “Startup Spotlight Q&A” with the IgnitionDeck Founders—Nathan Hangen and Shawn Christenson. Super smart guys, awesome concept twist—enjoy the Q&A!
Here. We. Go. IgnitionDeck is a DIY crowdfunding platform for WordPress that installs as a plugin and allows creators to raise money without the restrictions of other platforms. The problem we see with Kickstarter and similar platforms is that if your campaign fails to raise, you end up with zero investment despite the fact that you’ve worked your tail off trying to drive traffic to the Kickstarter site. We’re building IgnitionDeck for those people, and anyone else that wants to crowdfund on their own terms, rather than the terms of the middle man. It’s perfect for musicians, filmmakers, software developers, artists, and anyone else that has something cool to sell.
For starters, it’s the only product of its kind that empowers the creator, rather than the middle man. With ID, the creator is in complete control—they get to drive traffic to their site instead of another platform, get to keep the SEO benefit of linking/sharing, and get to keep all of the money (outside of Paypal’s fees). Another big benefit is that it works outside of the U.S., so anywhere you can use Paypal, you can use IgnitionDeck.
3. Are you the sole Founder/Creator of IgnitionDeck? If not, who are the other team members? Backgrounds?
The team is made of two co-founders, Nathan Hangen & Shawn Christenson, who live in Florida and Alberta, respectively. We both do a little bit of everything, but Shawn, being the better designer by far, does much of the product design, while Nathan focuses heavily on development and product management.
Nearly a year ago, Nathan was working with his friend Oleg Mokhov on the BlueRize music platform, and they were looking for a Kickstarter style widget they could use to sell merchandise. When they didn’t find one, they scrapped the idea and forgot about it. Later, when we formed Virtuous Giant, we needed something similar to sell our T-shirt designs, and were shocked to find that no one had built it yet. Since we were also looking to raise funds to build our game (also with Oleg) DJ’s vs Ninjas, we decided to build it ourselves, and here we are, almost 9 months later.
5. When did you enter private beta? What are your goals/expectations during the beta period?
We entered private beta in late September, hoping to get IgnitionDeck tested on as many installations of WordPress as possible. We chose these spots very carefully, based on email feedback and the understanding that during this time, IgnitionDeck would be very buggy. The reality is that we don’t have time to test on hundreds of WP themes and with thousands of WP plugins, but we don’t want to release a buggy product to our pre-release customers, so we went this route instead.
6. How is IgnitionDeck funded? Self-funded? Crowdsourced? Angel investors? Are you looking for funding?
IgnitionDeck was bootstrapped with our own money, and the revenue gained from our other products. In building it we came to a point where we needed to increase production, but didn’t have the revenue to do so. So we decided to use IgnitionDeck to launch itself, and hopefully gather support from the community so we can expand the team and keep building. We’ve toyed with the idea of investment, but to us, it seems silly to seek investment for a product focused on crowdfunding.
7. How long did it take you to build IgnitionDeck? What types of tests did you do along the way? Were there any hurdles?
From concept to product, it took us around 9 months to build it. We probably could’ve moved sooner, but we were building it part-time in the midst of client work and the development of Babysteps and Outrun.me. The biggest hurdle we ran into was developer talent. We need an additional PHP developer, but struggled to find one that was reliable and believed in the product. It was when we finally found the right person that the product really started to evolve and become legit in our eyes.
8. Have you attended any startup / tech conferences, or the likes? User acquisition is probably one of the tougher ‘finishing touches’ on any platform, or product launch, how will you market / promote?
We’ve been to Blogworld Expo, LessConf, and FOWA, and will probably hit the conference circuit this year. However, we’re not big on conference launching, and much prefer to reach out to people on an individual basis, so we will continue to do more of that. Lastly, the way our email list grew in the absence of marketing was really impressive, and if our hunches are right, we believe the built in virility of the product will help it spread on its own. We’re not in a hurry to spend money on marketing, so we’ll see how it does and adjust accordingly.
The toughest part has been being patient and not launching too early. Going 9 months without a live product has been very difficult to stomach, but we feel that IgnitionDeck is better because of it. There were many times that we almost lost interest, simply because we’d spent so much time and money without any return. But we’re good at motivating each other, and helped each other stay focused on our goal, which was never really to make a ton of cash with the product, but to build something great we could use for our own projects.
We’re far too early in the process to have an exit strategy, but we’d be happy as long as we can use IgnitionDeck to raise money for DJ’s vs Ninjas, which is where we plan on spending the bulk of our time in the coming years. If IgnitionDeck takes off, as we suspect it will, we’ll certainly have some discussion on how we want to proceed. We’re definitely not going to abandon the product, and we have a lot of ideas for improving it beyond a simple plugin, but for now, we’re focused on version 1.0.
All the best,
Shawn Christenson & Nathan Hangen
IgnitionDeck—Funding on Your Terms: http://ignitiondeck.com
Awesome Products: http://virtuousgiant.com
Guitar Hero + Ninjas = iPad Magic: http://djsvsninjas.com