John Fiorentino, Creator of Gravity Blanket & Moon Pod
52.8 million Americans experience depression or prolonged anxiety, and over 164 million Americans have trouble falling asleep at night. John Fiorentino was one of them. Realizing the sheer scale of the problem, he decided to use his sleepless nights to research and develop a natural solution: a weighted blanket called Gravity.
He raised over $4 million on this first campaign and created a new product category on Kickstarter for stress-reducing products.
After a few bumps in the road with meeting demand, John learned that patience and a market-driven strategy is key. In his next million-dollar campaign to launch Moon Pod, he took the time to understand the market and listen to his customers’ experiences, even going so far as to bring it around on his back in New York City.
- To what do you attribute your huge success on Kickstarter?
I feel like so many people experience anxiety, depression or lack of sleep, including myself, so in some respects, when I created the Gravity Blanket I fell in love with it myself. So, it really starts with a great product idea that solves a critical problem.But, the answer is really that many factors contribute to a successful crowdsourcing campaign. The timing was good for me, I had a unique product that created curiosity. “What do you mean a 25-pound blanket?” People wanted to know what it was, there was a good buzz out there. The problem that it solves, help with stress and anxiety, is a big one so it was relatable to a mass of people. I also believe that luck has something to do with it but if really believe in something and are willing to go through trial and error with all the factors involved – combined with a solid product idea and value proposition, it will go viral.
- Was there any moment during your first or second Kickstarter campaign where your heart dropped and you thought that you won’t make it?
A crowdsourcing campaign is an insane sprint, the craziest 30 days of all time. Yes, it really gets your heart pumping. In my case, it was a run-away success at the beginning but there were lots of days when (especially my first campaign) was totally stressful. I was always balancing my time and energy, trying to make sure I was focused on the right thing.Once it got rolling I realized that I would have a large number of orders to fulfill and my original manufacturer was not able to deliver. I had to find another solution to the problem and shift my attention to that detail without taking my finger off the pulse of the campaign. It’s like a giant balancing act. But, it’s also the adrenaline that entrepreneurs thrive on.
- What was it like to transition from Kickstarter to a sustainable ongoing business?First of all, I think crowdfunding campaigns one of the best ways to get a business off the ground, bar none. Why? Because in doing this, it is a great way to figure out if you really have something that is going to fly, with a relatively low risk. I highly recommend this to anyone who feels that they have something exciting and unique to offer.From there, as you move into the next phase, for me having great partners and employees with complimentary skills is the key to success. A pain point for me was realizing that while I was good at discovery and invention, I needed help with other aspects of business, like operations, on-going marketing and managing the day-to-day aspects of an enterprise.
- What are 1-2 of the biggest trends that you think will impact creators in 2019?
The trend I see right now for entrepreneurs is an extremely low barrier to entry. Never before have resources needed to start a company been so low cost and easy to find. Everything from websites, creating prototypes and even opportunities to test the market with a variety of crowdfunding platforms out there.Today’s founders can do a lot of trial and error, pivots and product add-ons with very little at risk. They can start their projects on the side without leaving their full-time jobs and if they get traction, they can jump when the timing is right.
- What advice would you give to creators who are thinking about jumping into a crowdfunding campaign or starting a business?
First and foremost, “Don’t jump the gun”. The first business I tried, I went out and raised $1.5 million before I had really tested my idea. I found myself trying to catch up and fulfill on promises and in the end, I wound up giving back the money to the investors and taking a step back. The next time, I was more patient. I took the time to really understand the market, and find a product with a strong value proposition.I decided to be super honest with myself, and find something real and then find out if people not only liked it but were willing to spend money on it. This is why I believe crowdfunding to be an interesting way to test the market.
John Fiorentino is a serial entrepreneur, inventor, and creator. His weapon of choice is crowdfunding. “I think crowdfunding campaigns are one of the best ways to get a business off the ground, bar none. Why? Because in doing this, it is a great way to figure out if you really have something that is going to fly, with a relatively low risk. I highly recommend this to anyone who feels that they have something exciting and unique to offer.”