Because Command Partners is a digital marketing agency that uses data-driven strategies and tactics to execute online marketing campaigns, the team here at CP is always excited to learn about what others in the crowdfunding arena are doing to track the effectiveness of their initiatives.

Following our latest exclusive interview with Vincent Etter of Sidekick, we’re now tapping into the mind of Adam Clark, Founder of Kicktraq, to find out more about the platform and what Clark believes is the key to crowdfunding success.

  1. What is your background – have you ever run a Kickstarter campaign?

I have not personally run a Kickstarter for myself, but I’ve actively worked with dozens of campaigns (and probably thousands passively) over the past few years to help make them successful.

I’m not just an outsider looking in gathering data points, I’m a huge participant in the community and support many projects on a regular basis. As backer of nearly 450 Kickstarter projects to-date, I would say that I am intimately familiar with the processes from the backer’s perspective (and an overflowing game closet of amazing games to show for it). I frequently attend conventions and spend time talking with individuals, private groups, and even on panels in places like PAX to share trends in crowdfunding and resources to hopefully make them excited about crowdfunding their own projects and hopefully more successful in the process.

  1. What led you to create Kicktraq?

As a long time board-gamer, watching the shift in what Kickstarter was allowing folks to do in the board game and tabletop space was exciting. I started manually tracking projects that I found interesting just to watch what they were doing, where they may go, and what kind of stretch goals might be reached. As the list I was tracking grew, my patience for doing the work manually grew more frustrating. The developer part of me insisted I figure out how to automate some of the process, and then I built a super-simple website for my personal use so I could access it without needing to be on the same computer.

I started sharing some of the information I was collecting on sites like BoardGameGeek just to keep folks excited about various projects or to help figure out what we might be able to do to help a project turn the tide. On a whim, I wrote some rendering code to generate dynamic charts that would automatically update when new data was available. I started posting these charts around on various sites, and because of how I’d set things up with the charts being completely dynamic, the BGG community figured out how to automatically add additional projects to the site even before I had a pubic front end interface to do so.

I’d only sent the “front end” portion of what Kicktraq was at the time to a few friends to ask them to try it out and let me know how it worked for the projects they were watching. I’d been closely monitoring how many projects were being added and it jumped dramatically over the course of a couple days and I soon realized that dozens of people were using the charts for their own projects. After some initial panic, I sat down and whipped up the first incarnations of what Kicktraq would become over the course of a sleepless weekend.

Much like those first few charts, our purpose and drive is still exactly the same more than 2 years later. Our entire purpose is to help projects of all sizes to be successful, to give project owners as much helpful information at their fingertips as possible, and to offer tools that empower backers to stay engaged and excited about projects they care about.

  1. How accurate are Kicktraq’s trending predictions?

Just a little clarification. Our trend chart is truly a pure linear representation of time series data extrapolated over the entire duration of the campaign. The purpose of our trend chart isn’t to be a predictor of potential outcome, but to show the trajectory of the current activity. This chart is best used to see the direction the wind is blowing, right now, so people can observe the shift in continued backer engagement. It doesn’t mean that it won’t shift again, but it gives you a good idea of how things are going at this very moment.

However, this type of chart (Trend) doesn’t work well for prediction, which is why we put together our Projection Cone. Obviously crowdfunding campaigns vary wildly depending on the veracity of their crowd, but the “cone” gives a reasonably good prediction. We talk about the cone’s accuracy on our blog.

The reason we went with a cone vs changing our trend chart is that the cone shows a range of potential and not a specific value, which is more reasonable than saying the campaign will be at X especially because our model uses a confidence value based on the behavior of the current campaign compared to campaigns of similar type. So, we chose to express that through the range of the prediction vs hiding it and giving an absolute value. As the project goes on, the confidence usually gets better and the range shrinks considerably.

  1. Does 9 days into a project still give you the best projection?

Just after the first week in a 30 – 35 day campaign is the sweet-spot when you’re talking prediction. Days 7-9 are a good spot check point because your initial rush generally quiets down, and you start seeing the momentum over the long haul at that point. This is another reason why the current projection cone doesn’t kick in until after day-6. Folks should be aware that most of these charts are based on normalized averages of sets of projects that run in the 30-35 day range. Projects that are significantly shorter or longer can have vastly different momentum curves.

  1. Are you currently working on a way to fix initial optimistic projections?

Absolutely. We are constantly listening to user feedback and tweaking our algorithms as the data matures. We’ve debated about replacing the trend with the projection cone or some other chart as some users don’t understand that a trend is (a) not a projection (b) optimistic at first due to the volume curve of most campaigns and (c) can be wildly inaccurate as a prediction tool over the long haul depending on so many unpredictable factors. This is part of the reason why we worked on the cone chart as a replacement as it already accounts for some of these things.

  1. What factors do you use to gauge the success probability of a project?

Engagement is the biggest. Projects that engage their backers both to keep them motivated and to utilize those backers as advocates do better. The Reading Rainbow project is a perfect example. They developed a small army of around 1000 “Reading Rainbow Representatives” that were tasked with spreading the word on social media, answering questions in comments, or any number of tasks that needed doing. This is what we’ve been saying for literally years. The best folks to help spread the word are excited and engaged backers. You’ll find they engage within comments as well as listen and respond to feedback on updates without even having to be asked. Imagine what they would do if you actually asked them to help.

The number of projects that are lucky enough to have that super-viral success where the project takes on a life of its own regardless of engagement are few compared with the whole. It’s the continued engagement on your everyday projects that keeps their funding trucking along and empowering backers only helps excite them further and inspire them to tell others about you. Word-of-mouth is considerably more powerful than generic marketing, and empowering others to share your story and be excited for you enough to tell others about a project they also care about is incredibly powerful.

  1. How often is the success probability updated on Kicktraq?

We update projects once an hour on the hour, and if the project is within 48 hours of closing we update them every 15 minutes.

  1. What are Kicktraq’s most trafficked pages?

The most trafficked pages on Kicktraq are our homepage which has the latest news in regard to projects, the Hotlistwhich shows the daily movers and shakers, and individual project pages. Generally in that order.

  1. What factors contribute to projects making it to Kicktraq’s Hot Lists?

Overall popularity of projects with Kicktraq users are the primary source of the projects that appear on the hotlist. We provide weighting based on project momentum, additional bonuses for things like engagement (comments, news, mini-chart embeds, etc), but mostly daily popularity and sustained funding momentum.

  1. How accurate are Kicktraq’s trending predictions in a niche where there is less social activity, like Art or Children’s Books?

Niche doesn’t really impact the accuracy of our overall projections, though categories like art and children’s books tend to fund very close to their goal so sometimes you’ll find they stall once they reach their goal, where your consumer-goods products tend to over-fund. I think that’s just the nature of the beast when an art project needs X amount of dollars, there’s not really an incentive to give more once they’ve reached their goal since they don’t often have stretch-goals. Those projects aren’t as easy to ‘gamify’ for over-funding, but I think folks that support those types of projects don’t expect over-funding from them either, and that’s not a bad thing.

  1. I understand that social media plays a big part in the analysis, but does your algorithm also account for large press hits?

Large press hits are not directly correlated to any type of success unless it corresponds to a significant spike in both activity on the project itself as well as popularity specifically on Kicktraq. What this can mean is that even projects with controversial press coverage can become “popular” due to the sheer increase in activity on the project, and thus can jump significantly on things like the Hotlist. But, a burst of press doesn’t automatically correlate into project success, so things like the projection cone don’t take into account the number of large press hits until results appear in the actual Daily Data and funding progression of a project.

While there are a myriad of crowdfunding analytics platforms out there, Kicktraq (in our opinion) is certainly one of the leaders in the space. Because of that, the team at Command Partners has been using Kicktraq as a resource for the past few years where we’ve helped entrepreneurs crowdfund over $7,000,000 in funding.

We could sit and talk with Clark about crowdfunding all day, but for brevity’s sake, we’ll save the extra good stuff for next time. Stay tuned for Part II where we ask Clark about advertising on Kicktraq and what it takes to drive a successful crowdfunding campaign!