Nathan Miller helps startups think big – most recently as the marketing strategist behind the million dollar Kickstarter fundraising success of Kano Computing, billed as the “the computer anyone can make.” With just a few days to go in the Kickstarter campaign, MISC sat with Miller at Kano’s headquarters in the Silicon Roundabout area of Shoreditch, London , where he explained how a powerful product and succinct message grew Kano’s audience and leveraged the crowd to raise funds far beyond the original goal of $100,000.
What is Kano? Why is it important?
Kano is a computer and coding kit for all ages, all over the world. It’s as simple as Lego, and powered by Raspberry Pi so that anyone from five year-olds to 85 year-olds can put the computer together, make games, get a basic understanding for the software coding concepts [to begin creating] the future. The modern world is made and coded with technology, from our smartphones to our traffic lights to our washing machines, yet only a self-selected group understand the processes behind the screens. The process of making a Kano computer is all about encouraging confidence to start creating with technology in anyone who wouldn’t normally have it.
You led Kano’s hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. Tell me about that process.
We knew the product resonated with a wide audience, having tested prototypes in 30 – 40 schools up and down the UK [with]the oldest person to put a kit together being 81. The question was how to create a consensus around the product story in an instant way online that people would buy into across the intersecting categories Kano stands for: education, technology and creativity. As it turns out, Kickstarter is a surprisingly great tool that forces you to tell a five-word story for a product. If people can understand the appeal of the product across different sectors in five words, then the project stands a great chance of building consensus.
The next step was to decide who we would talk to. We built a list of about 1,000 journalists and influencers from education, the creative sector and technology who we would then succinctly reach out to in seeding the campaign.
Were you surprised by the response?
While it’s possible to have an idea of something that might work, until you hit send and [wait for a response], it’s still guesswork ultimately. So yes, we were surprised by the volume of our response. We’ve had 10,000 backers in less than three weeks which is unprecedented. It speaks to the quality of what the team has been building and the story we’ve told around it.
You seem to have this highly elastic communications strategy. There is a ton of detailed information available about the product, yet you’ve also got these succinct and sharable messages like “a computer anyone can make” along with a clear visual language. Tell me about that the thinking behind what seems like a pretty nuanced approach to messaging.
Building a consensus around a single purpose with groups of people can be hard, as the singular point of view has to have elements that groups feel they can own themselves – almost as if you’ve expressed something they’ve always thought. The way to build consensus is to have really clear messages that tick all the category boxes in a simple expressive way. So long as you provide these short, clear, single images and five-word stories that can be shared and instantly understood, you can add a wealth of them in terms of volume. [If] the structure and progression is clear, people can choose to absorb all of it or just the sharable short stories.
Kano has a wide appeal. Who is it resonating with most?
From eight-year-old schoolgirls who are just beginning to feel confident with technology, to young people in Sierra Leone who have never used a computer before, to 81-year-olds who want to reengage with technology, Kano speaks to a need that people of all ages, all around the world have: to [understand] the technological processes that are shaping themselves and their relationships. That, more than anything, has led to its continuing Kickstarter success.