These 5 Startups Raised Serious Money Through Crowdfunding—And Made It Look Seriously Easy. Here’s How

By Kate Springer

Since Kickstarter's Asia launch in 2016, crowdfunding has become a useful tool for startups looking to raise money without spending the time—or the equity—required for a seed-stage funding round. Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an attractive alternative to traditional funding models due to their speed, marketing potential and direct link to the end consumer. “It’s an evolving resource—simply because the platforms weren't available in Asia until a couple of years ago,” says Nicole Denholder, founder of Next Chapter, a crowdfunding platform for female entrepreneurs. “But a lot of entrepreneurs think you can just put your product online and magically raise US$1 million. They don't realise how important pre-planning and careful marketing is for a successful crowdfunding campaign.” A former PricewaterhouseCoopers director, Denholder says that successful campaigns have a few things in common: clear focus, professional visuals, timely or innovative ideas, strong testimonials, targeted media coverage, and tiers of pledge options to make it accessible to everyone. Here, we take a look at five of the most successful campaigns in Asia over the past two years. From smart wallets to virtual reality headsets, Denholder explains why these campaigns were able to smash targets and inspire a firestorm of media coverage.

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1. <strong>Pimax</strong>

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Location China
Total raised US$4.2 million (HK$33.2 million)
Number of backers 5,946

The product Promising the world’s first 8K VR headset with a 200-degree field of vision, Pimax raised an impressive HK$33 million during its Kickstarter campaign.

The Shanghai-based company drummed up coverage from key tech media before the campaign even launched, building enthusiasm in the press around the headset’s cutting-edge technology and modular design. Instead of selling a one-size-fits-all kit, Pimax enables “VR futurists” to upgrade the headset as new technology rolls out. 

What made the campaign successful? “Pimax raised a ton of money because the bulk of their backers pledged around US$800. That’s a lot to invest, but you’re more likely to see that for futuristic tech, which gets people excited,” says Denholder.

“To explain their product, they used a lot of powerful videos and testimonials. But they also secured [a lot] of media—and, most importantly, tech media. The thing is, you need to find your ideal audience and connect with them. In this case, it’s early adopters and they will be reading these types of publications.”

2. <strong>Silentmode</strong>

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Location Hong Kong
Total raised HK$1.3 million
Number of backers 1,133

The product Tapping into the belief that controlled breathing and quality rest can fight stress and boost productivity, tech and wellness company Silentmode developed a new “relaxation toolkit”: the Nap Mask. Essentially, the blackout headband wraps around your eyes, plays beautiful soundscapes, and pairs with an app that analyzes your biometric data to optimize rest and “breathwork” schedules.

What made the campaign successful? “The timing of the Kickstarter campaign launch fits well into the current trend around wellness and the importance of sleep, digital detoxing, and mental health—everyone is worried about sleep right now,” says Denholder.

“They were very smart to include lots of video testimonials, showing notable people [such as New York Giants player Adam Gettis] using it and loving it. They’re not just selling a product—they create a community by providing lots of insights on how to improve your sleep and improve productivity.”

3. <strong>Flux</strong>

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Location Taiwan
Total raised US$1.8 million (HK$14.1 million)
Number of backers 1,928  

The product Based in Taiwan, Flux developed a compact, stylish 3D printer that looks nothing like the bulky contraptions of the past.  Nicknamed “The Everything Machine,” Flux Delta Plus syncs with your laptop or phone using Wi-Fi or USB. You send a 3D image file to the printer and it churns out a replica made with PLA filament—an eco-friendly and safe material that comes in all shades of the rainbow.

What made the campaign successful? “I loved the imagery and videos on this Indiegogo campaign—they made the 3D printer seem quite cool and versatile,” says Denholder. “In total, they raised US$2.7 million—this is their second Kickstarter—and they’ve done an excellent job of leveraging their existing community to market and sell this second campaign.”

“There are resources available online and inspirational videos and GIFs, which open up a world of possibilities. It doesn’t feel too technical—the technology feels really accessible.”

4. <strong>Kin</strong>

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Where Singapore
Total raised HK$1.68 million
Number of backers 4,746 

The product A team of female industrial designers based in Singapore are the brains behind the Kin wallet. The idea? To offer a simple solution to the universal headache of sorting coins. Instead of fumbling with a coin pouch, you pour both your cash and change into the smart wallet, and it magically separates the coins. 

A video on the Kickstarter campaign shows the process in action—even if you turn the wallet upside down, the coins stay put. The team is tight-lipped about the technology, but says it has to do with a strategic sewing method that keeps coins organised. 

What made the campaign successful? “Kin was able to attract nearly 5,000 backers—that’s pretty hard to achieve,” says Denholder. “What’s interesting about them is the value per reward is quite low compared to tech campaigns, so the volume they’ve achieved is impressive.”

“I think they garnered a lot of attention because they’re solving an age-old problem—a painful issue that everyone can relate to no matter where they are from. They’ve demonstrated the wallet’s functionality with professional videos... and they’ve communicated it all well with professional content.”

5. <strong>Ambi Climate 2</strong>

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Where Hong Kong and the Philippines
Total raised HK$1.21 million
Number of backers 1,016

The product Ambi Climate’s “AI-enhanced air-conditioning” caught the imagination of Kickstarter backers around the world with its smart, stylish air-conditioning controllers.

How does it work? The Ambi Climate 2 takes your existing AC to the next level by harnessing the power of AI and smart sensors, which monitor the temperature, humidity, sunlight, and your metabolic cycle to create a unique profile for each user.

Through machine learning technology, the unit figures out your preferences and auto-adjusts your air conditioners accordingly. In addition to tailoring your “thermal environment,” the device also pairs with an app and smart home devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa.

What made the campaign successful? “We should note that this is Ambi Climate’s second campaign, so they have some experience creating a slick experience—you can see this in the imagery, consistent messaging, excellent icons and graphics,” says Denholder.

“I think this campaign reflects the idea of smart cities and the future of urban living—and that’s captivating for a lot of people. Another reason this tech campaign might have been so successful is the security for backers: Ambi Climate offered a two-year warranty and money-back guarantee. It’s really unusual, since there’s no legal requirement for crowdfunders to deliver a product. It reflects a confidence in the technology and the product.”

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