“If you are looking at Kickstarter as a cash cow, turn away. I see it as a stage for product validation. It is not somewhere you can make quick cash and get away.” – Alphonso Ngiam, founder of Modest Mark.
Crowdfunding can be a tough crowd, but it’s not an impossible one.
But looking past one-off projects, this local entrepreneur has actually run 8 projects – all of them successful.
Minimalism has becoming increasingly popular, and it’s reflected in 25-year-old Alphonso Ngiam’s projects.
Here is the full list but in a nutshell, his projects have been funded as quickly as under 2 hours, and up to 2800% of the asking goal.
It Began With A Leg Injury
“I was bedridden for 2 months during NS because of a leg operation. Laying there, I was Googling for new wallets when I stumbled upon interesting Kickstarter designs. I got hooked and backed 6 wallets in 2 months,” he laughs.
“That’s when I decided to create something that I would personally enjoy using and thus the first wallet (Haru) was launched!”
When he first began, Alphonso was running Kisetsu and after Haru, he roped in 3 other friends to join him. Today though, he’s no longer involved in Kisetsu and instead, he’s launched a new brand – Modest Mark.
With Kickstarter’s global reach, a global team is also important for him, from a team in Guangzhou for product development and manufacturing, to a team in India for online marketing. And in Singapore and Hong Kong, he also works with a fulfilment company for warehousing.
“For myself, I basically focus on product designing and content creation. I am now in talks with a branding agency to help bring us to the next level though,” he gushes excitedly.
“When I started Modest Mark, I stuck by this philosophy to reduce clutter in life. Everything is designed based on practicality,” Alphonso shares.
“The excesses of consumerism and material possessions creates too many distractions. [We want] to remove the non-essentials and focus on what truly matters.”
“Prior to Haru, I had no knowledge on crowdfunding,” he reveals.
“On the surface, it looks like I’m always successful, but things aren’t always smooth. We have been blindsided by hidden costs or spent too much on marketing and did not get enough funding to cover it.”
Other challenges also include finding the right partners, and learning how to manage cost versus lead time so that rewards can reach backers.
But each new project also teaches him something new, he says.
“With a brand new range, we work with a different set of obstacles to overcome. New factories, new materials, new shipping issues; it is a continuous learning journey.”
You might long to launch your project, but scanning through the failed or incomplete projects can be disheartening, so I probed him with one question – what are his secret strategies?
“If you are looking at Kickstarter as a cash cow, turn away,” he stated outrightly.
“It is a stage for product validation, not somewhere you can make quick cash and get away. If you are building a brand, Kickstarter is a great platform to start because you get a community of very supportive people.”
“A secret to be successful on Kickstarter,” he adds conspiratorially, “is to be genuinely friendly with people and the community.”
“I have personally thanked backers who have supported my campaigns from Day 1, and I am truly grateful they are still around to support me. Sometimes, I share personal stories and I guess it’s the connection.
“”Even virtual, connection brings people around.”
For Kickstarter newbies, Alphonso reiterates that it is very important to be careful about money.
“Be meticulous [and] get your friends involved. Do not be afraid to open your mouth and ask for help!”
“When Kickstarter opened its creators’ market last year, I have been seeing more creators and interesting campaigns.”
As a backer of projects like Zungle, Alphonso reveals he looks out for things that make him go “Oh my gosh, I need that!” or “Why didn’t I think of that before?!”
There is really no dearth of innovation in Singapore, he explains.
“Singaporeans in general love cool stuff and are early adopters to gadgets – we are just a huge community of really nice people!”
Being based in Singapore also helps, as creators can get their product out to local backers easily. It’s a “fulfilling” feeling, he muses.
So what’s in the future for Modest Mark?
“We happened to begin with wallets, but we’re not in the wallet business. We want to become a lifestyle brand people recognise for innovative yet affordable solutions to your everyday use.”
“I have yet to see anyone carrying our products along the streets, but I hope to be able to one day. I will approach them and give them high fives,” he adds jovially.
Featured Image Credit: Alphonso Ngiam