Looking back at my Kickstarter campaign

On Dec 28th, 2012, the Goldfish Garden Kickstarter completed without reaching its funding goal of $50,000. Overall a total of $9,288 via 111 backers was raised over a 30 day period, generating ~18% of the funding needed to create this Goldfish garden product professionally. Sadly, this means that all those who backed the Goldfish Garden project ended up getting their pledged money back and no Goldfish Gardens will be manufactured at this time. This does not mean that the Goldfish Garden idea is over, however, it simply means that a different route will need to be taken to get funding.

There are many lessons to be learned from the Kickstarter event, and I will try to lay out a few here to shed some light on why I don’t think the Goldfish Garden is not a failure as a product. There were a few unforeseen factors that came into play with my release that had detrimental effect on the amount of funding I could have attained. Hopefully this will shed some light on what was going on inside the Goldfish Garden campaign and hint at the future of this innovative home aquaponic product.

 1. Goldfish are recommended to have 10 gallons or larger aquarium to live a long and healthy life (of up to 20 years in some cases).

It seems that I chose the wrong fish for this product. Even though the Goldfish Garden system does a great job at keeping baby goldfish happy and healthy, as well as bettas, killfish and other small fish, a lot of people messaged me saying the tank I used for this system is too small for a goldfish of any size. I purposely chose the largest fish bowl they make, thinking I would avoid this criticism, but was wrong. A very vocal minority of goldfish ‘experts’ made it their goal to take down my project for a period of time, and attack any press I received for my project. If I had chosen bettas as my fish for this project, I could have avoided a lot of harsh criticism, but you live and you learn. FYI- this means the name of this product will likely change to something more generic in the future…

2. Glass fish bowls are heavy and fragile to ship, especially overseas.

In my campaign I had a lot of foreign customers interested in my product but not interested in paying the $50 surcharge for shipping. As hard as I tried, shipping anything over 4lbs costs nearly an arm and a leg. For some countries $50 was not even enough (I had one quote to Hong Kong for $250!) and I would lose money on the deal had it gone through.

3. The price of the units was too high.

Originally I was trying to hit the $70 mark for these Goldfish Garden units, but as I continued to develop the product and add new features to make the product easier to use and more self cleaning for the user the cost of manufacture was adding up. This linked with the fact that it is much harder to raise prices than it is to lower them, made me want to pick a price high enough to make the money needed to manufacture this product while offering a quality point to pivot from.

4. Many people were not interested in the ‘complete’ package.

When I started going about the development of the Goldfish Garden I found that I had to keep going back to the pet store over, and over, and over again to buy little things that I found out I needed after keeping fish for a while. I came up with the idea of adding all these small units to the tank as more of a ‘but wait, there’s more!’ bonus to the customer, but it seemed that this extra package didn’t sweeten the deal much. I think this is more of a problem with consumer expectations, thinking narrowly about what is actually needed to keep fish properly. Many fish tank packages come with very small sample sizes of chemicals/food/equipment needed, maybe in the future this is what will be done with this product as well.

5. People buy into a ‘team’ more than an ‘individual’ these days.

What can I say about this. I am an innovator with a vision of creating a whole line of home aquaponic products that allow people to enjoy fish and food they product themselves. I have worked hard to learn just about everything I can about starting a small business and being an entrepreneur. I am the website admin, the product developer, the sales force, the marketing department and manufacturing machine. Starting out any business venture requires you to wear a lot of hats.  It would of course be better to have an entire tea of qualified experts running the many segments of this business, but when all you’ve got is an idea in your head and a couple dollars in your pocket, you’ve got to do all you can on your own.

6. The number one reason this campaign failed = BAD TIMING + A NEARLY IDENTICAL PRODUCT RELEASE

For those of you who were unaware, a VERY similar product released to Kickstarter literally 5 days before I was ready to release my product. After working for over a year on the Goldfish Garden, I always had a feeling in the back of my mind that someone would come up with a similar idea on their own and beat me to market, which is why I spent so much time trying to launch this product as quickly as possible. Sadly I missed the boat by 5 days (plus another week waiting for Kickstarter approval).  In the end this other project grossed a ridiculous $248,873 in 30 days. With this other project out on the Kickstarter site, my project received very little exposure from sustainable blogs and the like, because the Goldfish Garden was deemed to be a copy-cat product. Of course this was not the case at all, and I figured that with the extra innovations the Goldfish Garden employs it would out-compete this other product when it hit Kickstarter, but that failed to happen. The silver lining here is that a lot of people are willing to pay for home aquaponic fish tanks, so market viability has been proven for this product type. Bad news is they have the money and I don’t. Yet.

So this has been a little behind-the-scenes look into my Kickstarter campaign and what will likely change for the next step of this idea. I will try to update this blog with more information about the progress of the Goldfish Garden in the future. Sorry for the delay in this post, it has taken me some time to analyze everything that went on in my campaign.  If you would like to leave comments below or ask any questions you have, feel free.




I am the inventor of the GroPonix line of products and owner of Effortless Aquaponics LLC

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3 comments on “Looking back at my Kickstarter campaign
  1. Bill Ford says:

    Good job Ryan. Don’t ignore the BEC in your future plans.

    Also, I would be interested in the economics of your Kickstarter project. How much money did it cost you Not to get funded?

  2. Angel says:

    Wonderful product and a great idea! As you noted glass is heavy but acrylic more expensive but light. Are there any other materials out there to be explored? They need to be lightweight and cost effective – need good clarity and scratch resistant. Then the whole garden thing which I am not too crazy about. Would it be possible to not have the garden? Thirdly I am not sure if there’s current and heater in the tank. Forth, is it possible to enlarge the tank to the required 10 gallon? I love self cleaning tank that looks simple. Thanks for sharing!

    • Ryan Coghlan says:

      To answer some of your questions Angel-
      -Acrylic is a great material for tanks for its strength and light weight; future product designs are planned to use acrylic. You can get blow molded plastic tanks too, but they tend to be low quality. I have been able to source glass tanks to go along with this kit, which can be purchased here.
      -The plants in this system are integral to the cleaning and filtration design. In nature, wetlands provide the majority of water filtration in aquatic systems. Applying this natural filtration method is what keeps the tanks cleaner longer and keeps the maintenance down since water changes are generally not necessary. Can I ask why are you not crazy about the garden aspect?
      -Water is pumped into the tank via an airlift pump, which pumps around 10 gallons per hour and oxygenates the water at the same time. There is a heater cord groove in the back of the planter for a heater to be added to the tank, as I know bettas need warm water to be healthy.
      -For 10 gallon tanks we have created the GroPonix system, which has recently gone through a re-design that we are seeking funding to produce. This system is perfect for 10 gallon tanks and contains the necessary grow lights needed for efficient and effortless plant growth. Look for this product release soon to sign up for a pre-order if a 10 gallon GroPonix system is what you are interested in. Thanks!

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