Already $188K has been risen for project with a $9K goal...and shows no signs of stopping

Rockport entrepreneur makes Kickstarter history

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 8:00am

ROCKPORT—Retired attorney John Galley from Rockport had never used the popular crowdfunding website Kickstarter before and wasn’t quite sure to expect last month when he and his business partner, Kirk Kreutzig launched a Kickstarter campaign for their unique sunglasses called ORION4Sight.

Of all the other crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and GoFundMe, Kickstarter is probably the most recognized platform specializing in helping artists and entrepreneurs raise funds for creative projects. Kreutzig, who holds four patents on his vision enhancement technology, has been making eyewear and other products using his technology for almost two decades. His biggest customers are the elite U.S. Special Operations Commands and members of the Navy Seals and other “dark ops” groups. Kreutzig and Galley decided to team up and make a a spin-off version of Kreutzig’s military eyewear for consumers, a sort of “sunglasses on steroids.”

But first, they needed funds for research and development, production, marketing and legal expenses. So, they turned to Kickstarter.

With about two weeks to prep the campaign, including creating a video with his campaign “guru” Lucas McNelly at DreamLocal, Galley recalls what happened after pushing the “launch button” on Aug. 12.

“In 30 seconds or less, my email notification showed me that two people had backed the project, instantly,” said Galley. “I thought, ‘How in the world did that happen so fast? Were they lurking around on Kickstarter waiting for me to start it?’ Then in 20 minutes, 10 people backed us. In less than three hours, 50 people had claimed our allocated 50 pairs of sunglasses on our Early Bird special. In less than 24 hours, we sped right through our $9,000 goal. By the second day, we got an email from Kickstarter choosing us as one of their prestigious and coveted staff picks. By the third day, this Amazon seller’s community I belong to contacted me to be interviewed for their newsletter. It just kept going. It hasn’t stopped.”

At the time of this interview, the campaign was still 13 days from finishing with nearly 1,500 backers. As anyone who has ever backed a project, or started one of their own in Maine, Galley’s experience is unprecedented. “As of last Sunday, we became the number one Kickstarter campaign in Maine, regardless of category,” said Galley. “We’re now number two in the sunglasses category in all time and it’s likely to be a lock that we will be number one shortly.”

Asked his secret in how he got to this point, Galley said, “I think you’ve got to have a couple of things. First, you’ve got to have a good product and a good story. Then you have to have a compelling offer. All of these things are standard Marketing 101. What I was I totally unprepared for was the size and the breadth of the Kickstarter community. There are what I call ‘Kickstarter groupies’ who hang around because they are always looking for new and interesting things. They are what marketers call early adopters. They want to be the first kid on the block to have the new widget. And this looks like one hell of a widget.”

Galley estimates no more than five percent of the people he knows personally are backers. “The majority of these people I don’t know personally and they are driving this bus,” he said. The current numbers show the majority of backers are male. Interestingly enough, around 35% of their backers are from overseas. “I would never have known Kickstarter had that much of an international audience,” Galley said.

“There’s a viral component to this campaign,” adds campaign manager McNelly. “There’s a misconception that crowdfunding is asking your friends and family for money. It’s more about spreading out to lots of different people and communities. It’s kind of the same thing that fuels the TV show Shark Tank. People really want to see the process and how cool things happen and they’re willing to put their money toward it. Here, they’re getting a good deal on a good product faster than anyone else, and at a discount. In my experience with film projects, what you’re really pitching to is the guy in the cubicle in Nebraska who always wanted to do something artistic and has never really been able to and really wants to be a part of [a Kickstarter project.]”

All of this being so new to Galley, he stresses the need to stay on top of the comments section and in-box messages from backers. In fact, he spend about 15 hours a day upon this campaign. “Right now, we have close to 300 comments,” he said.  “The private messages are 5-10 times above that. I always send everyone a message back, because I want to reinforce their participation. In some cases, if I don’t respond within a reasonable time frame, it starts to take a different turn.”

With their unexpected monster success has come a small percentage of backlash, which is what typically happens in virally successful Kickstarter campaign. While the majority of backers are happy to ride along, a very small percentage of backers have persistently tried to question the validity of Galley and Kreutzig’s eyewear product. With more than two decades of work on this technology and four patents on it, they shouldn’t have to defend their company. But Kickstarter, in recent years, has had its reputation slightly marred with fraudulent campaigns, which has left some backers wary about fast rising campaigns.

Another form of backlash has occurred when certain backers began to see that Galley and Kreutzig’s campaign was surpassing nearly 1937% times its original goal and began asking them to give more back to the backers. Galley addresses this by emphasizing that the original goal of $9,000 was deliberately smaller than the anticipated expenses and that it will cost immeasurably more to cover the R&D, production, marketing, legal fees and costs of shipping the reward sunglasses out to the backers in the U.S. and abroad. ”The goal really has nothing to do with how much this will cost us, but you have to choose a lower goal so you don’t get shut out,” said Galley.

Finally, one strange turn no one on the campaign anticipated, is that an Australian scam artist lifted the text, videos and other elements of their Kickstarter campaign and tried to run a fraudulent mirror campaign under the same name on Indiegogo.  After he raised several hundred dollars on the scam campaign before being detected, that situation, has since been resolved.

All in all, it has been a wild ride for Galley, Kreutzig and McNelly. Asked for their advice on what to tell other Maine creatives who are interested in starting a campaign on a crowdfunding site, McNelly said, “I wouldn’t advise anyone to do a Kickstarter campaign unless they really have a good project and are going to put the time into it. If you’re just going to throw something up against the wall and see if it sticks, it will probably be unsuccessful. In the film community, we did a survey to see how many hours it takes to put into a successful Kickstarter campaign and the average was 10 hours a day. For an unsuccessful campaign it was four. And some people don’t even have four hours to put in.” 

Just to show how fast backers are contributing to this campaign, at the start of writing this article, the number of contributions was at $173,808. At the time this article went live, that number jumped to $188,556 and it shows no sign of stopping in the next 10 days. There’s no doubt that this campaign will end on a high note. Asked what they’ll do when the end date of Friday, Sept. 12 comes around, McNelly jokes, “Sleep.”

Galley remarks, “Our real work has just begun. You don’t quit when Kickstarter ends. We wouldn’t be on here if there wasn’t a plan beyond Kickstarter.”

To follow their campaign visit:

Kay Stephens can be reached at