In this interview, Esperantist Chuck Smith shares the story of a successful launch of a Kickstarter campaign for the Amikumu app.
Congratulations for the very successful start of Amikumu’s Kickstarter campaign and thanks for interviewing with Yozzi.com.
Tell us about the process of coming up with the idea to create Amikumu.
Shortly afterwards, we realized there’s no reason to limit it to Esperanto seakers, so we decided to support searching for speakers of all 7,000+ languages in the world!” — Chuck Smith of Amikumu
How much time did it take you to prepare the Kickstarter campaign before the official launch?
Since I had the idea at that conference, I started immediately getting feedback from other participants to see what they thought of the idea and collecting any feedback I could. So, from idea to Kickstarter, we spent 3 months working on it.
What did you do to make sure your campaign would be a success?
We started making our idea more concrete, researching every possible part of the app. In addition, we spent considerable time trying to build our community, through our mailing list, Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and VK. In addition, we made sure we had a very visually appealing campaign, so that potential backers would understand that we can do professional and beautiful work.
Where did you find backers for your campaign?
I always say that I would never do this project without the Duolingo Esperanto course and Evildea. Since last year, half a million people have started learning Esperanto on Duolingo and most of them don’t have any contacts in the community, so in a way we’re building the app exactly for them. In a similar vein, Evildea’s channel nearly has 4,000 subscribers. Before and during the campaign, he has been making video updates of our progress, which also draw potential backers to our campaign.
Why did you decide to fund Amikumu on Kickstarter?
We thought a lot about how we could get started finding a team and developing the app. We thought about seeking investors, but we both thought that if you bring up Esperanto with them, they will mostly just laugh at you, because they don’t realize the actual size of the community. That’s when we thought that we could prove the idea by launching it on Kickstarter. If enough people supported it with their hard-earned money, we’ll know we have a mandate from our future users to make the project happen.
What were your expectations as you launched the campaign?
I was thinking that in the best case scenario we’d hit our goal in a week. Richard and I were both surprised when we hit our goal of 8500€ in just 27 hours! The community has come through for us in a huge way and we’re so grateful for their support.
What does Amikumu mean?
It means “make friends” in Esperanto.
What is your current language-learning priority?
That’s a secret I plan to announce toward the end of our campaign. If you’re interested, join our newsletter on amikumu.com and you’ll be the first to know!
Tell us about the different levels of development, which you see as the Kickstarter campaign raises more money.
Luckily, we just passed 16,000€ which means that we’ll also have events and local groups in the app. For example, a German/Hebrew tandem group could put their events in our app and people nearby would find them. Now we’re pushing for 20,000€ to add interests. We think this is the holy grail. With this, you could search for a French tennis player near you, for example. Needless to say, we have high hopes for this feature and can’t wait to use it ourselves!
How did you promote the campaign among Esperanto speakers?
We mostly concentrated on developing our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, VK. This way we could continue to reach our clients even after the campaign is over. I think we were most surprised by how effective our Telegram group is. Even though we only have 150 members there, they’re incredibly active and so helpful!
Besides our own social media, we reached out pretty much everywhere, online news sources, Facebook groups, the Duolingo forum, Reddit and even Esperanto print media. After a few days, we already felt like we had saturated the Esperanto market for our target demographic: 18-35 with smartphones.
How did you promote the campaign among polyglots?
Judith Meyer and I are both on the organizing team of the Polyglot Gathering, so we’ve met a lot of amazing people in the past few years. We’re currently at the Polyglot Conference in Thessaloniki, Greece and the reaction from participants has been overwhelmingly positive. We can’t wait for the next big polyglot event where participants can find practice partners with our app locally!
We’ve been working with prominent polyglots like Benny Lewis, Lindsay Does Languages and Professor Ghil’ad to spread the word. We were pleased at the conference here in Greece that already about half of the people we talked to were already familiar with this project.
Tell us about your team.
Do you have anything else to add?
Just that we hope readers will visit our Kickstarter campaign and spread the word. Even a pledge as small as 1€ is greatly appreciated!
Thank you for your time and I wish you success with the rest of the campaign and the app’s launch.
Thank you very much. We also can’t wait to see our app launch!
Thanks again Chuck for sharing the story of your successful Kickstarter campaign with the readers of Yozzi. Looking forward to using the app to practice many languages with so many language enthusiasts from around the globe.