When VersionPress missed its crowdfunding goal by raising only 45% of $30K, I cited several contributing factors, including lack of trust, licensing confusion, and the campaign’s short length. The lead developer of VersionPress, Borek Bernard, shared the lessons he learned from running the campaign on the company’s blog.
Bernard explains that despite the campaign being a single page site, a lot of work went into it:
In our case, the website took over 250 commits and hundreds of hours to get prepared. And it was a seemingly simple, single-page site! This was partly related to the fact that the campaign was self-hosted, but still, some tasks just can’t be skipped. For example, writing copy alone is a huge task should it be any good and easily takes weeks of effort. There are more things like that so be prepared to spend considerable amount of time and effort on the campaign page.
After I introduced readers to the VersionPress project, several people voiced their concern over the lack of licensing details. I got in touch with Bernard and explained why so many people were concerned. I explained what the GPL means to the project and the WordPress community in general. I cited examples of successful WordPress product businesses that use the license. I also told him that he’s likely receive more financial support by being 100% GPL.
Although it took a few days, Bernard announced VersionPress would be 100% GPL licensed. According to Bernard, the announcement didn’t translate into more backers.
By the way, it was interesting to see what the GPL announcement did to the actual contributions. We were told how the GPL was important and that it would bring us many more supporters, but in actuality, it didn’t have any measurable effect. During the whole campaign, the only factor that strongly correlated with the contributed sum was the number of visitors on the versionpress.net website.
It’s not clear why adopting the GPL license didn’t have an effect on the number of backers. However, I think that being licensed 100% GPL eliminates potential roadblocks that may have resulted in using a license not compatible with the GPL.
One of the lessons I learned from VersionsPress’ campaign is that despite not reaching its goal, the amount of feedback from media coverage and backers was enough to verify the idea. The team continues to move forward with development and is nearing a 1.0 release.
If you’re thinking about launching a crowdfunding campaign, I highly recommend listening to episode 156 of WordPress Weekly where Marcus Couch and I interview Scott Kingsley Clark, John Saddington, and Nick Haskins. All three describe their experience managing a crowdfunding campaign and share important tips and lessons to help reach funding goals.