Kickwatcher: Thank you Marc for taking some time out of your schedule to share your story with us and our blog readers about your Kickstarter project Openwords, in a nutshell, can you tell what us what Openwords is?
Openwords: Openwords is a foreign language leaning mobile app for the worlds open data. It is because we have open data, we can mine massive already existing repositories of data like Wiktionary. We are funding the completion of the app that reads that data we mine and presents problems to learners. We focus on foreign language learning, we are like Rosetta stone on a noble phone. We are leveraging open data that exists for a different purpose and are repurposing it into a language learning context. The groups we are taking the data from are supporting us and are excited about us. We are informally collaborating with creative commons on this particular project. We are a social enterprise, we are a unique company, we are not interested in big financial pursuits like venture capital. We want to main our mission and vision regardless of whether it is the most profitable direction.
KickWatcher: Tell us our story
OpenWords: I’ve been following open culture for many years. I’ve contributed to Wikipedia. I am a scientist and completed a PHD in biology. During my doctoral research, I was mining large piles of open data and repurposing it for new use. After I finished my dissertation at Indiana U, I realized that the methodology of my research method can be used for other context. Specifically language pedagogy for mobile. I am a geographer and i am interested in the word. I also want to learn a new language because I am dating someone who is a native speaker of a different language.
KW: You mentioned that OpenWords is a social enterprise that is not interested working with VCs and investors (who often puts pressure on driving profits), how is your team able to pay for operations? Are you going to be similar to Wikipedia with an annual appeal for donations?
KW: Tell us what one valuable lesson you have learned so far in launching your campaign.
OW: You try many things and you find out what works and what doesn't. One thing we have learned in the last few days since launch is that people will need to connect with you to run a successful crowdfunding campaign.
KW: Were you featured on any publications online or offline? Were they pre-launch or post campaign launch?
OW: Main publication we got featured on was opensource.com, creative commons blog and university newspaper (Indiana Students). We are looking for more. We have contacted a lot of people. In hind sight if we could turn back time, we would've approached more news media channels to get some main stream publicity.
KW: How about a community? How long did it take for you to build a community around your brand and how big was your community when you launched?
OW: You need to prepare and build a community prior to going on Kickstarter in order to be successful. We connected with linguistic groups and opensource communities. Our community consists of a significant number of educators, scientists, linguists and computer scientists who supported us on Kickstarter. A tip for community building is that we build the community for more than just kickstarter, we’re building it for the company and the brand as well.
KW: How much time are you and your team dedicating to this project? Are you also using any tools to enhanse your efforts?
OW: We meet on a weekly basis. We have people going around the town and meeting cultural groups. Bloomington Indiana is quite diverse and you can get a lot of people interested in a new platform that can bridge people across different linguistic divides. In terms of tools, we use Drop Box and GitHub to coordinate our efforts.
KW: What will you do if your team cannot make the 100% mark?
OW: We are committed to Openwords and will run a second campaign. The main loss is embarrassment, but if you are an entrepreneur, it’s not a big thing. If we feel that we need to do again, we will try again even if it is the next day or the next week.
KW: I admire your resilience. One of the keys of success in the Kickstarter world is to never give up. Successful campaign owners that got funded later on during their second attempt would say that despite a campaign that didnt work, they felt that they're in a better position because they have proven that people are willing to pay for this and they were able to gather a community of supporters. As well, they've made mistakes and discovered what worked and are more wise the second time around.
Thank you very much Marc for your time. If you want to find out more about Openwords, feel free to check them out and support them at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/279739136/openwords-foreign-language-learning-app-with-open