For some reason my photos aren't uploading correctly. Bear with me as I try to fix them!
The second coworking space I visited, and the only other well known space in Lima, is called Stars Camp.
I'll preface this article by saying that I didn't spend nearly as much time here as I did at Comunal, which I wrote about in a previous article. I spent three days at Comunal, whereas I got a quick tour at Stars Camp and later only spent a half day working there after trying to set up a workshop.
My overall impression is that Stars Camp has a different community and work environment compared to Comunal. It seems much more familial- which makes sense, as the three cofounders are all older women, and it's located in Lince, which is a more residential part of Lima. Where Comunal tries (and succeeds, in my experience) to be a fun, exciting place to be, Stars Camp's focus is on highlighting the startups in their space and trying to connect them with resources and expertise. The founders of both spaces recognize that they seek to serve somewhat distinct demographics- not to mention they're decently far away from each other in the city- so they have a jovial relationship.
Arriving at Stars Camp meant either taking a taxi, or using one of the buses that runs along Avenue Javier Prado. Though it's on a quieter residential street, it's perhaps a three minute walk from this main throughway. And 2 blocks away there's a supermarket.
Walking inside, you're greeted by the receptionist. The first thing she had me do was read Stars Camp's motto on the wall. Comunal had their tongue-in-cheek rules, and I suppose most any space like this will have a similar motto or credo that attempts to capture the spirit of the community within. I translated part of it below.
Here, dreams matter.
Translator's note- where I used the word begin, the orginal Spanish was "emprende", from the verb emprender. Emprender can literally be the verb form or the act of entrepreneurship, and it's often used more generally as well in the sense of beginning or forging something new. For example, you can say "emprender un camino" which would be to blaze a new trail. We would probably translate "emprende" in the sense of Stars Camp as the verb "to innovate" (entrepreneurship being a noun borrowed from French, we lack the verb form), but as you can see, the credo already uses the verb innovate just before "emprende". As a result, I've chosen to go with the more general meaning of the verb.
Around the corner to the right, there are two rooms of flex space. Remember, this is where the tenant pays a reduced fee to use a common space, where they don't have their own desk- they just grab whatever desk is open. You also often pay for less than a full 40 hour work week.
There's a bulletin board where they highlight and celebrate all the startup and business teams in their space, and on the opposing wall there is a big calendar of upcoming events. So one one side, you have the entrepreneurs climbing the wall to reach the top and become "stars", and on the other all the upcoming community events and resources that can help them get there.
The patio, where tenants can take a break, eat lunch, and relax. You're outdoors, in the sun and fresh air, but you're also still "inside" the coworking space. I think that's why patios and terraces are such great places to relax- you get a change of scenery, you're outdoors where you can be refreshed, but far away from traffic and the noise of the city, but you haven't left the building. Plus in Lima, which has a consistently pleasant temperature year round, you can always use it. I think a coworking or any kind of community space suffers for not having a patio or terrace!
Stars Camp's Zen Room, which is their community living room. Like Comunal, they use it for events. I'm beginning to see a pattern here with the bean bags and big cushions.
Upstairs, you can rent desks and even entire office rooms for your team. There are also several conference rooms of varying sizes that can be rented for meetings.
As a Stars Camp employee showed me around the space, they told me about some of the tenants. Many seemed to be software startups, more so than at Comunal. The recent success they're most proud of is a traffic app that helps drivers navigate through Lima more efficiently that was just beginning to get some traction.
As I said in the article on Comunal, next time I'd like to spend more time talking to the founders and tenants about the space. Regardless, I like that Stars Camp seems committed to the success of the entrepreneurs in its space. As an entrepreneur, I can say that it is appealing to feel surrounded by the resources and support of people who want to see you succeed. It's a cozy space where Comunal is fun and energetic. Which one you might want to work in depends on the type of business you have, your personality, and of course where you're located in Lima.
Until the next coworking space I visit!
Dillon Dakota Carroll
Originally posted on LevateLift.com
See our previous article for some context on the results of our Kickstarter campaign. We raised $13,235 over 40 days, falling short of our $30,000 goal. Here is our Kickstarter page.
After the Kickstarter ended, we discussed as a team how the campaign went. This article is a synthesis of this and other conversations and observations, with the intent of learning what we can improve for any future crowdfunding campaigns we run.
First, I'll say that we put a lot of work in up front to prime our network for our Kickstarter launch. This paid off: we raised $6000 in the first 24 hours, or 20% of our goal. But over the next 39 days, we only made $7,235 more, or $13,235 total.
In the spirit of being answer first: Our project was very early stage compared to most Kickstarter projects, at least in the hardware category, and ours was a product for a small percentage of the population. This meant that users outside of our personal networks were unlikely to contribute.
Were we to repeat the campaign, we'd do a smaller goal (perhaps $15,000) for less time. We would have used smarter outreach, getting introductions to second degree connections at media sources and potential sponsoring organizations. We also would have done this earlier than we did (particularly in the case of the sponsor outreach, which we started in full force somewhere about halfway through our campaign).
Our Kickstarter video was viewed over 2,000 times, so plenty of people saw it. However, we only had 67 contributors. That's a conversion rate of 3%. I'm not sure what a typical conversion rate is for a successful Kickstarter project. We could have gotten more contributors at the same conversion rate, or we could have done a better job at convincing those who did visit the page to contribute.
Of the 67 contributers we did have, here's where they came from:
In a famous article on Hacking Kickstarter, the author wrote that for them, twitter and facebook were the biggest sources of contributors. Interestingly enough, that was not the case for us. As you can see, Twitter doesn't even figure on the list, and Facebook was only responsible for 11% of our total contributions. Instead, half of our contributors and 66% of the total amount came from our website. That meant that it came from our direct outreach via email, Facebook messages, and the like. We know this because we typically sent our direct contacts to a landing page on levatelift.com, that then had a link to the Kickstarter.
On the other hand, our viral-factor was very low- no referrals from Twitter, and few from Facebook. We tried various strategies to try and jump start a viral loop on social media, to little effect. This included getting posts and tweets from influencers and media sources. For a while, Andrew Stewart got a series of high profile celebrities with millions of followers to retweet our campaign. Curiously, this led to no contributions.
This reinforces a general conclusion we drew over the course of the campaign: Few strangers contributed; nearly all of the contributions (especially in the larger sums) came from personal friends, family and connections. Just by doing a quick count of the contributors, I can say that at least 45, or 67% of our contributors, already had an existing relationship with the team before the Kickstarter. I think this is due to the particulars of our campaign: it was a socially focused project for a very specific subset of the general population, instead of a consumer project. It was also very early stage, and expensive for a typical Kickstarter project. This will probably influence our strategy if we do another crowdfunding campaign: We may need to do smaller campaigns focused on rallying as many of our personal connections as possible, and not count on lots of contributions outside of that, at least until we have a finished product. I'll talk more about that later.
A lot of what came from Facebook may have been from a series of ads that we ran over the course of the campaign. It's unfortunately difficult to say how many contributions ultimately came from these ads, but we know the following:
We spent $363 on Facebook ads, and the ads were seen by 32,000 people. Of those 32,000 people, 850 clicked through.
11 people contributed a total of $1495 through Facebook, but let's assume that one of those was a single big donation given by someone we knew who used a link we posted on Facebook to navigate to the Kickstarter page. Unfortunately the Kickstarter metrics don't tell you how each individual contributer was referred to the site, so this is a best guess on our part- what we do know is that all of the big contributers ($500+) were personal connections and friends.
That leaves 10 contributors with an average contribution of $50. 8 of the 10 contributors needed to have come from the Facebook ads for them to have paid for themselves.
So with 8 contributors from the Facebook ads, we would have made about $40 after subtracting the $363 investment. If we assume all 10 contributors for a total of about $500 came from the ads, that means we made about $140 on the ads. Better than nothing! For future Kickstarters, we may want to monitor their performance more closely at the beginning and make an earlier decision about their efficacy.
We were disappointed that we failed to get more media coverage than we did, especially from local media. James Simpson of Goldfire Studios was kind enough to give us a lot of great pointers and feedback on how to plan our campaign, and he mentioned that something like 50% of the contributors to their Kickstarter campaign came from Oklahomans who picked up on the story via local news sources.
We would have thought that OU, OKC, and Norman media sources would have loved our story. We made sure to reach out directly to the relevant editors instead of the general inquiry email. We sent several follow-up emails. In the end only the Norman Transcript got back to us, and that was very late in the campaign.
The biggest thing we could have done to improve our chances, I think, would have been to do some digging on Linkedin a few weeks before the campaign to find a 2nd degree connection to someone at the news source, then asked to be introduced.
Late in the campaign, as we brainstormed new strategies, we decided to reach out to other wheelchair related projects on Kickstarter and offer to cross promote.
While the only ongoing campaigns were doing much worse than ours (think 4 or 5 backers), we went ahead and reached out to previously successful projects and asked them to promote our project amongst their connections and previous backers. Of the 6 or 7 past projects we reached out to, only 1 responded. I think he may have tweeted about our campaign, but he only responded to our first email. So this turned out not to be an effective strategy for us. We couldn't even play the numbers game and reach out to a ton of projects, as there just aren't that many wheelchair related projects on Kickstarter.
About a third of the way through the campaign, we used a service called Backershub. As the name suggests, they manage a community of thousands of repeat backers of Kickstarter projects. The idea is pretty simple, project creators pay to have their project promoted to this community through email newsletters and Facebook posts. We went for the $297 option, which includes a mention in an email newsletter among 5 or so other projects and two unique Facebook posts to the private group. The service came recommended to us by an acquaintance, and the online reviews seemed to be generally positive.
Unfortunately, I don't think our use of the service resulted in any significant amount of contributions. After our first post on their Facebook group, I realized that all the other projects being promoted were products intended for the general consumer, and were basically already developed and just needing funding to begin production. In other words, as I mentioned above, our project simply wasn't going to be interesting to their community of backers. In hindsight, I could have done this research beforehand, drawn the same conclusion, and saved us $297.
We had a launch party the week we rolled out our Kickstarter. The format was pretty simple: we invited all our friends to a local coffee shop, Second Wind, on OU's Campus Corner on a Friday night. I would be remiss if I didn't mention a couple people here. Jeff Rothman, Second Wind's director, deserves a huge shout-out as he let us use the space for the night to support our cause. Michael Petri also got the OU Redliners, an a capella group, to sing a small set to kick off the night. We showed our Kickstarter video, talked for about 10 minutes about what our project was and what we were trying to accomplish, and explained how everyone could get involved. Afterwards, we mingled so that we could chat one on one with curious attendees.
We had about 20 friends and family show up, of about 40 that RSVP'd. We got about $60 in direct contributions from the event, and I know one of the attendees there I spoke with for a good while that night later made a $500 contribution. Rounding up, our launch party probably netted us about $600. Not a bad return considering that we didn't have to spend anything to put on the event.
As our Kickstarter started winding down, and we weren't seeing a high volume of contributions, we decided to try focusing on securing sponsorships from businesses and high net worth individuals. We figured that getting 10 $1000 or $2000 sponsorships was an achievable goal, especially as we had $5,000 from 3 sponsors in our first day alone.
Generally I'd say the same trend we saw on the whole held true for sponsorships: personal and professional connections were often very willing to contribute, but we had very little luck with a cold-outreach strategy. Of the five $1k+ contributors, 2 were family members, 2 were good family friends, and 1 was a business connection we'd met with 1 previous to the Kickstarter.
Some other business owners seemed interested in sponsoring, but as the Kickstarter was winding down it became less likely that they would contribute in time. I think focusing on sponsorships would have been more successful before the Kickstarter started, to give our acquaintances and professional connections more time to make the decision and work through their organization's bureaucracy.
One strategy that may have led to more success had we tried it earlier was to ask for an introduction to a second degree connection at businesses that were socially or philanthropically involved in the Oklahoma City area.
Wheelchair User Outreach
Outside of our personal networks, it's hard to know how many of our contributors were wheelchair users themselves. We did receive excellent feedback from several wheelchair users who contributed, including an editor at Disability Today in the UK.
We hoped for at least 1 preorder for the lift, which we did not get. It would have been excellent validation of the product idea. That said, we're not surprised we didn't get a preorder: $1,000 is a lot to pay for a product that you won't see for a year. I know I'm starting to sound like a songbird singing the same tune over and over again, but the early stage of the product once again limited the potential of our Kickstarter campaign outside of our friends and family.
Running our Kickstarter campaign was a massive amount of work. We're open to the idea of doing another crowdfunding campaign in the future, once we have the finished product ready and we're looking to scale up for manufacturing. It may be on Kickstarter, or we may look for a platform that's better suited to our unique project.
Were we to repeat our project, I think we would have done a smaller amount because of the early stage the product is at.. Discussing it with the team, we couldn't decide if we would have done a longer or shorter campaign. I would have done a shorter campaign, as nearly half of all our contributions came in the first 24 hours anyway.
I think we also would have front-loaded our sponsor search, and spent more of our time reconnecting with more of our personal network instead of trying to spur contributions through social media and strangers. I think we could have easily have hit a lower target just through our friends, family, and professional network.
We're unsure how the time of the year affected how many people were able to contribute. We thought that less people probably contributed due to the usual holiday spending, but another team member pointed out that some may have been more charitable and giving during the holidays.
If we do another crowdfunding campaign, we will put these lessons into practice with the recognition that having a finished product will also change the equation significantly.
Hopefully you can learn something about your own crowdfunding campaign through our lessons. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments on our experience!
Dillon and the Levaté Team
December 19th, 2014
Hello there! I hope you are all preparing for a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. If for whatever reason, you cannot be with either family or friends, I wish you a wonderful solitude that clears your mind and soul.
I would be remiss if, having returned from my trip to Peru, I didn't report on the results of my two principal experiments. In essence, I'm applying the Lean Startup cycle (Hypothesis, Test, Results, Insights) I teach in my workshops to my own life. To recap, I was testing these two hypotheses:
Hypothesis and Outcomes
Hypothesis #1: I can work remotely on my Levate to-dos effectively, efficiently, and without interruption in the amount or quality of work I can do.
Hypothesis #2: I can give entrepreneurship workshops abroad and get paid to do so.
Note that these hypotheses are in the form of yes/no statements. This lack of ambiguity is crucial- if I passed both tests, I wanted the outcome to be very clear (namely, that I would try a longer remote work arrangement in 2015). Likewise, I wanted the outcome to be clear if I failed one or both of the tests- that I would try giving workshops closer to home, or delay future travels until I had a way to work effectively on my startup.
The final question is, how I would decide if I had answered the questions one way or another.
Hypothesis #2: Test and Results
The second hypothesis is pretty clear: I had to earn income from a workshop that I organized and delivered while in Peru.
I'm happy to say that I did, indeed, validate this hypothesis. I gave two workshops while I was in Peru: the first was free, to begin to establish my network of contacts in Peru. This paid off, as it led to the second workshop, which I organized with Comunal Coworking in Barranco District. I did in fact earn income from the 15 entrepreneurs that enrolled in this workshop. I was pretty pleased about this- I validated the hypothesis, earned my first income in months, and developed a method for organizing workshops that I feel confident I could repeat in just about any part of the world. Huge shout-out to my friend Eric Morrow for getting me started on this path and giving me constant guidance!
Hypothesis #1: Test and Results
The first hypothesis is trickier to measure. The metrics I decided to use would be to self-evaluate myself as a remote worker. I'd then compare my results to the evaluation my business partner Ethan gave my performance.
In this case, we agreed that, for the most part, the remote work arrangement went very smoothly. If I did it again, I'd want to get a skype number so that I can take phone calls from my skype account. I might also look into some kind of portable wi-fi solution that runs off of mobile networks.
The issue we both identified was my inability to participate fully in face-to-face meetings. We agreed that calling in would be a decent substitute, but that there are some meetings that are best handled face to face, namely with potential investors. Thankfully, no meetings like this came up while I was in Peru. We both agreed that I would want to be in the OKC area for the beginning of 2014 for this reason, as we'll be spending a goodly portion of our time at the turn of the new year trying to finish out our first investment round.
What I loved about this trip is that it was so unique! I had a chance to be a tourist, and see some amazing parts of Cusco and Lima. I also was able to have the experience of living and working in Lima for 3 weeks, living out of a small backpack.
My first insight is that I really, really enjoyed the whole experience and that I want to do it again! It was the right mix of work, play, and really cool people.
Second, now that I've developed the workshop material in Spanish and practiced my delivery, I can give the same workshop all across Latin America and Spain. Each new workshop will take less time to set up, as the materials will already be developed, I'll get better at delivering it in Spanish, and I'll have more contacts which will facilitate setting up workshops more easily.
Speaking of which, I'm fairly certain I could ask my new contacts in Peru to introduce me to their colleagues in coworking spaces across Latin America. I have a leg up in setting up workshops in other parts of the continent, especially in Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay.
Have a Merry Christmas!
I hope to post a write-up about my family's adventures on the Inca Trail soon, so that you can see the other side of the work/play equation while I was in Peru!
Light kindles light,
Dillon Dakota Carroll
Comunal Coworking is the first of my series on coworking spaces. It lies in the Barranco District of Lima, which is the hip part of town according to my sources.
I spent three days working from Comunal as I prepared for the Lean Startup workshop I gave there. Overall, I'll say that I enjoyed my time there. It's a bright, fun, and energetic space, and everyone I met there seemed like great people.
Ernesto, one of the three founders of Comunal, told me that the coworking space was born when the three of them realized that there wasn't a single coworking space available in Lima. At some point they visited some of the more famous coworking spaces in the United States to get an idea of how they could craft their own in Lima. They launched about the same time the other big coworking space in Lima launched, Stars Camp. I'll be writing about Stars Camp in another post.
Let's take a look at the individual components of Comunal.
I must say I was quite impressed by Comunal. It feels cool, modern, and unique. There's a clean yellow, black and white aesthetic in the interior design and in the logo. When you walk in you see the reception desk and a small meeting room.
To the right, there's two stories of "flex space". More on that below.
There are typically two membership plans in a coworking space, from what I understand. You can pay a higher monthly sum to have your own desk (about $320 at Comunal), where you can leave your things and you know you can always come work any day and that desk will be yours. Or, you can pay a lower amount to use the flex space, where you don't have a set desk and you just grab a space that's open. These plans are more flexible too in that you can buy a part time membership, say, 20 hours a week, which saves money if you know you're not going to be there all the time. In Comunal's case, they offer 15 hours of flex space per week for $60. I imagine flex plans are good for the coworking spaces as well because they can capture a wider variety of customers.
I like how there are a lot of nooks and crannies in Comunal's flex space, along with a couple big desks.
Here you can see that they're in the process of remodeling the upstairs part of the flex space.
From the front door, if you proceed straight back you'll run into, in order, 1) stairs to more office space, with tenants that pay to have their own desks:
2) the community kitchen. Comunal provides soda, coffee, and beer as part of the membership package.
and 3) the community living room and outdoor patio.
I gave my workshop in this living area. I love this space, even if it wasn't the most practical arrangement for what I was doing. It's hard to get up and squeeze past everyone else, and not the best for breakout sessions and taking notes. The advantage is that about 18 people can fit in the stadium style seating. And who doesn't like bean bags?
The "rules" painted on the wall are worth translating:
In Comunal it is prohibited to:
That takes care of the main part of the coworking space.
Comunal is even bigger than this, though. They have several of the top floors in the same building that they rent out to larger groups. For example, there's an entire office for about 20 people rented out to a marketing firm that's doing consulting work for Coca-Cola in Peru.
I get the feeling that Comunal doesn't host a lot of events, because the staff member I worked with to organize my workshop told me that they were only just beginning to make regular programming a priority. At least my event was timely if nothing else!
And what of the people of Comunal? Here is where I wish I could have spent more time meeting tenants and learning about them and their business. Still, from the people I did meet, there was quite a variety, all very friendly.
This kind of variety is one of the cool parts of a coworking space: you find people from all over the world, in all kinds of fields.
Next time I visit a coworking space, I want to really achieve a greater knowledge of how the tenants and founders use and view the space. Still, I'm very happy about my time at Comunal. From what I've seen, the community lives up to the happy-go-lucky rules they've codified on their walls. Everyone I saw working there was enjoying themselves, and didn't hesitate to say hi and smile. Successfully capturing the essence of coworking is paying off: they're at 90% occupancy (in the absence of other data I'll assume that's very good for a coworking space) and are looking at creating branches all across Lima.
It's hard to draw too many conclusions, as this is one of the first coworking spaces I've ever been in. But for what it's worth, I'd happily return to Comunal and work there!
Stay tuned for an article on the other major coworking space in Lima, Stars Camp!
Dillon Dakota Carroll
As a child, I was a bit socially awkward. OK, really socially awkward. I got better, really.
However, even today, I find myself often unsure of what to do in new and unfamiliar social situations. The wonderful thing about traveling is that you're almost always in an unfamiliar social situation. Especially when you frequently find yourself a guest in the home of another, as I did in my recent month-long stay in Peru.
Being a guest is a wonderful opportunity, though! A chance to meet new people, see new lifestyles and values in action, and understand a people, culture, and city from a deeper, wider perspective compared to staying in a hotel or youth hostel. Or, it could simply mean a chance to reconnect with an old friend you haven't seen in ages. And now that I'm older and wiser (don't laugh), I love the idea of being a great guest, too. A guest that enriches the lives of their hosts, whose presence is a present.
The act of being a guest in another's home gives us a unique view not only into how they live their lives, but into how we can live ours. George Steiner has a wonderful essay on Jewish Identity (Zion and Jewish Identity, from My Unwritten Books) that is worth quoting:
It is my conviction that the Jew in the Diaspora must survive in order to be a guest among men. All of us are the guests of life, thrown into life beyond our volition and understanding. We are now being made grimly aware that we are the guests of a vandalized planet. Unless we learn to be one another's guests, mankind will slither into mutual destruction and perpetual hatred...
From this perspective, learning how to be a good guest means learning how to live convivially, sharing and creating mutual value with one another. Beyond fostering the empathic bonds necessary for our social and environmental survival, Steiner also sees the act of being a guest as leading to a personal state of perpetual curiosity:
If he is forced to resume his wandering, he will not regard this experience as a lamentable chastisement. It is also an opportunity. There is no language not worth learning. No nation or society not worth exploring. No city is not worth leaving if it succumbs to injustice. We are accomplices to that which leaves us indifferent. Judaism is Exodus, the spur of new beginnings, of the morning star.
For the curious guest, each new host is also a beginning, and an opportunity to learn, create, and enrich.
To return to how to be a good guest. I'm a great fan of simple rules of thumb. In light of my oft-lacking social skills, I decided to develop my own rules of thumb for the fine art of being a good guest. Some of these, most of them probably, will be obvious. Sometimes we forget to do the obvious, though- perhaps you'll find it useful, as I have, to have them written down and crystallized. I know I've had my share of embarrassing moments with hosts that I'd rather not repeat.
In the end, I think they can be summed up as: How can I leave my host's home as a good friend, or as a better friend than before? The principles of doing this are basic (clean up after yourself, share moments and give gifts, and over-communicate), though the application is particular. Let us commence.
My (by no means original) Rules to the Art of Being a Guest:
These rules of thumb are not hard and fast. To quote Orwell, "Break any of these rules sooner than say [or do] anything outright barbarous".
Are there any you would add?
Dillon Dakota Carroll
...sees much and knows much