Play-i (previous post here), a consumer robotics startup had a huge launch today – and here’s how they did it. First, let’s recap: Play-i launched their self-hosted crowdfunding campaign at 6am this morning, hitting $30K by 7am and finishing the day (as of 11pm PST) at a cool $130,000 — already over half of their rather ambitious $250K goal and with 29 days to go. Very few crowdfunded projects break $100K, let alone on their first day, so let’s examine how they did it.
1) They launched the right product at the right time
Play-i’s educational robots target a trend that’s capturing the public’s imagination right now — teaching kids to program. Recently weeks have seen high-profile campaigns from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Code.org asking the public to help push programming in schools, and they’re riding that wave a bit. Play-i also aims at teaching younger kids, an audience for whom there aren’t a lot of offerings already.
2) They created a waiting list of buyers well before their launch
As seen in their blog here, Play-i did a great job of reaching groups of interested parents and early adopter buyers via a roadshow where they gave exclusive sneak-previews of their robots — in person. Then, a day before launch, they emailed participants asking for help in spreading the word on the day of, and allowing a limited set of 500 pre-orders receive a prize (collectible launch team outfits for the robots). We know because we got the email. Few things are more powerful than creating insiders and making them feel a part of something or “in the know” before it officially launches.
3) Attractive, physical products get press
In a world where tech press gets pitched a new iPhone/Android mobile app multiple times per day, physical products that you can touch & feel stand out — in particular if they have a polished industrial design. Play-i’s robots definitely do and it makes for a good story. Plus, robots for $149 are cool, period.
4) They prepped the press
Play-i provided a media kit (via email and clearly linked in the footer of their site) containing dozens of high quality photos of their robots in various poses and a press release with all the key facts needed to make writing a story easy. Press are busy people and this kind of prep work makes their job easier. As a result, they got picked up by USA Today, The Verge, Mashable, Engadget and other big outlets, plus dozens of smaller ones. Play-i (presumably) gave sneak-previews in person to multiple press outlets prior to their launch and asked for an embargo in exchange for the privilege (i.e. in effect, “I’ll show you my never-before-seen robot in person if you agree not to write about it until 6am on October 28th”).
4) Making friends and getting social
If there was ever a good audience overlap for play-i, it’s code.org. Thankfully for them, code.org shared the launch announcement to their audience via Facebook, which resulted in a ton of re-shares and likes – further exposing their launch to relevant people in code.org’s social graph.
Congrats, Play-i on a huge launch!
Note to readers: if you’re launching something and would like Hack Things to cover it, please get in touch (preferably ahead of time) via firstname.lastname@example.org.