10/7/2013— Kelsey Breseman
One of the most important pieces of starting a company is understanding your audience. At Technical Machine, we’ve been really impressed by the number of people who reach out to us. People ask us about the specifics of how Tessel works, whether we can integrate with their products, or even asking if they can help. Keep it up! We enjoy hearing from you.
We sent out a few surveys to our backers throughout the course of our Dragon Innovation campaign to ask them what stretch goal modules we should offer. This was really useful in helping us decide what to do immediately, but we also took the opportunity to ask our backers why they had purchased a Tessel:
(Take this graph with a grain of salt; not all of our backers responded here.)
What does this graph say to us? Here are the main insights:
“JS and Node-compatibility on a microcontroller is a childhood dream of mine.” Our backers probably come from a web development background– hence the excitement about JS and Node.
“The tech seems cool and I wanted to try it out.” Backers on crowdfunding platforms, as expected, are inherently excited about new technologies. No one is surprised.
“I’m excited about where I think you guys are going” is interesting because it seems almost like an investment. We’ve had a few verbal/email reactions from people who think Tessel might be the next evolution in democratizing hardware. Thanks for believing in us– we’re trying to make sure you’re right!
“I don’t know hardware too well, but I want to build and this project gives me hope.” Personally, I had expected more backers to be in this category. The fact that this wasn’t a main self-categorization suggests that some of our initial audience is from people who have at least tried hardware before. Perhaps this is not so surprising; Jon, Jia, and Tim came up with the idea for Tessel after becoming frustrated with existing platforms for making internet-connected hardware– likely many of our backers are coming from a similar place.
“I want to incorporate Tessel into a professional/corporate project.” This is a category we’re keeping an eye on. Tessel’s OS is designed so that the same code can be run from prototype to full-production product, and we’re excited about working with other entrepreneurs in the Internet of Things space. Some of these backers have already reached out to us to tell us their stories, and we’re really excited to work with them!
Through the same backer survey and by email, we’ve been asking people about what projects they’d like to do with Tessel. Here’s what we know:
(Take this graph with an even bigger grain of salt; sample size is small and categorizations are my own.)
By far the largest portion of the backers surveyed were interested in home automation projects– ranging from energy conservation applications to automated barbecues. Additionally, you could arguably lump the (surprisingly large) percentage interested in pet-related applications into that category for a whopping 40% of the pie chart.
This is one place where we see a bit of data skew. The Project Plans chart incorporates data from a backer survey and from emails we have received. The people with the most incentive to reach out to us directly are entrepreneurs with industry-type applications. (My categorization of “industry” rather broadly stands for any application you could make a business out of– though you could arguably add RC into that category for a combined 32.7% of the pie.) Most of the “Smart home” category comes from survey data and most of the “Industry” category comes through emails. Thus, since the Smart home and other categories have little reason to reach out to us, there are likely even more of them than are represented here.
Oh- and in case you were wondering, that >10% “Joke” wedge is just our backers having a sense of humor… or at least, we assume they aren’t really plotting Skynet or world domination.
What does this mean for us?
The main reaction here is that these statistics are interesting, but they don’t mean much– at least not quantitatively. Partly, the data collection is hard to trust. Coming from a scientific background, I would throw out the results here as “not enough information”, since the sample size is so small– on the order of 300 respondents out of our over 1,000 backers, and easily self-selecting.
We’ve also been warned that our backers on crowdfunding might not be representative of our long-term audience. This makes sense; early adopters understand the value of a project before it is fully realized, and often back on crowdfunding campaigns because they want to be a part of that project’s future. We love our early adopters precisely for this reason, but it also means that not all of our backers had specific plans in mind when they backed us. Thus, it’s hard to gauge what the long-term uses of Tessel will be based solely on backers’ responses.
On the whole, these results are a good reality check for us; mostly, nothing too surprising has shown up in these graphs, and we’ve enjoyed hearing about specific projects from our supporters. Keep in touch!