Tell us a bit about yourself and Mountaineers.
I’ve always loved inventing things (or trying to). In spite of being a chemist by training, I’m very entrepreneurial, and have been since my childhood. I was inspired to create Mountaineers during a 3 month, 23 country backpacking trip across Europe with my wife in 2015. The beautiful Alps in Chamonix, France sparked the 3D mountain idea, and I spent the next week on a beach in Greece sketching up ideas. The fact that my wife and I love board games, and that I also love mountaineering definitely helped as well!
When we got back to the USA, I started making prototypes (which were actually pretty awful), but enough people liked them that I kept pressing into the idea. Two years later, we are actually raising money from awesome backers all around the world, to make this 3d game come to life!
You had a rather high funding goal. Were you nervous about not making it?
Not really. I was more nervous about barely making it. I’d rather have a project completely fail, or be a great success, then being somewhere in mediocre land!
What did you do to build up a following before you launched Mountaineers?
I spent 2 years testing, developing, and showing the game at conventions, trade fairs, conferences, and street markets. I’d go to stranger’s homes (upon request) and teach the game. I’d be the weird person with a board game in a video game convention. I’d setup the game in coffee shops while working. And importantly, instead of running giveaways to build my email list, I obtained emails from legitimate individuals that I had talked to in person and whom were interested in the game.
I saw you had a booth in Essen this year. How did the convention go for your promotion?
It was great! We weren’t in the best location this year (there was a natural gas leak one of the days!), but we had a lot of fun showing and teaching people the game, and the feedback was excellent. It was really funny watching people stop in their tracks, and turn around to come back to our booth and ask us, “what the heck is this?”!
When did you launch and why did you choose that exact moment?
We launched November 7th. To be honest, I had hoped to launch sooner in the year, but postponed things due to moving to a new apartment, and due to being too busy preparing for Essen. We ended up choosing November 7th because it was the date we told people at Essen, and because you really don’t want to launch a campaign much later in the year, due to holidays and tax season. If we hadn’t felt ready by November 7th, I probably would have waited for January or February. The key though, is don’t launch until you are ready. To completely contradict that statement, no campaign is every 100% ready. There is always something you can do to make it better!
Your first Kickstarter campaign was for a game display thing. How did the campaign go and how did you build a following for your first game?
Haha, the game display thing… Yes, our first campaign was for Massif Displays, which are actually pretty cool folding display stands for board games, especially useful to those in the gaming industry. To be honest, the campaign was difficult. Using Kickstarter for B2B sales isn’t easy, and we had to educate our backers on the need/use of the product. However, it was a great learning experience, and I’m glad we did it.
Our sales for the stands are growing every month, and a lot of other publishers are now using these displays. And our card/component trays (which we invented after the campaign) are proving very popular among hobby gamers. While I don’t think we necessarily built a huge following for Mountaineers from that campaign, I think that the experience and credibility it gave us was very important. Not a lot of first-time creators/companies can go from funded to fulfillment in under 4 months. And you just learn so much.
What is your best marketing tip during a campaign?
Other than the normal stuff, create really strong relationships with your biggest fans/supporters, and don’t be afraid to offer nice incentives/rewards to those people willing to help get the word out. Sincerely treat them as your friends and let them be involved in your campaign. People don’t want to hear me tell them about a game. They want to hear their friends tell them about a game!
How do you structure your days during a campaign?
I wake up, drink some coffee, and then work at my computer for 16 hours, thinking to myself that I should probably go exercise and eat breakfast at some point!
What’s the best kickstarter advice you ever received?
Probably 2 things… Jamey Stegmaier’s book where he talks about “bringing your crowd with you to Kickstarter”. And then the day before this last campaign, Daniel Zayas told me (and I paraphrase): “It looks good, but you need to change everything!” The lesson I took home: don’t be afraid of spending money to hire someone more experienced then you to give you advice and go through your campaign.
What´s your thoughts regarding stretch goals?
I’m the personality type that would prefer to make 1 perfect product at 1 price, and only have that be available. However, when you are a new creator on Kickstarter, I think stretch goals are a good indication of the community coming behind you and trusting you more by supporting the project and letting you turn it into that perfect product. Stretch goals are a “necessary evil”, but to be fair, they are great for building a community around your project and getting to meet new people. I’m sure that the majority of my future kickstarter campaigns will still have stretch goals in them.
What is your comment in the debate about paid vs unpayed reviews?
I think both are necessary. I think you need high-quality paid “previews” to show off your product well, but I also think that you need unpaid “reviews” to generate trust. However, I think it is pretty hard to get a truly unbiased review, as most unpaid reviews will be by reviewers who want to review your game in the first place. So I think ultimately, with respect to Kickstarter, a lot of it comes down to trust and personal preference.
What do you think is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
That’s a trick question. All the elements are important, and need to fit together well!
What is your favourite board game at the moment and why?
Hmm… Another tough question. I’ll avoid being a narcissist and saying Mountaineers! Probably Scythe and Terraforming Mars would be my favorites right now. Splendor is also a favorite 2 player game for me and my wife.
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
Jamey Stegmaier. I really appreciate his authentic and altruistic character.
Anything else you want to add?
Kickstarter’s are a lot of work! But the feeling you get from sharing an idea with the world and watching people come behind it, is pretty addictive! And, a shout out to all my amazing friends, family, and backers who have really been supporting me. You rock!
Click here to pre order Mountaineers.