Supporting Tech Startup CloudSolar’s Crowdfunding Campaign Launch

Supporting Tech Startup CloudSolar’s Crowdfunding Campaign Launch

Situation Analysis:

CloudSolar, a Boston-based startup and the first of its kind in the solar energy sector, sought to raise funds through an Indiegogo campaign to make solar power a hassle-free venture for those who had previously been unable to contribute to the solar energy movement. With the ultimate goal of building their first solar farm where, CloudSolar set a fundraising goal of $300,000.

Endorsed by prominent professors at Harvard’s Innovation Lab and Boston University’s Kindle Mentor Program, CloudSolar’s co-founders, Boston University electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. candidate ’15 Michael Sun, fellow Boston University mechanical engineering student Cory Absi and Georgia Tech electrical engineering Ph.D. candidate ’15 Xiaohang “X” Li, drew upon their respective backgrounds and interests to come together and design the CloudSolar concept. The obstacle? How would they gain awareness and raise $300K for what was, at the time, just a well thought out idea.

Sun and Absi turned to Schneider Associates for its launch expertise and personal and professional relationships with key influencers and members of local and national media to support the launch of CloudSolar’s Indiegogo campaign and help them reach their goal.

Campaign Objectives

Schneider Associates (SA) was retained to develop a media relations program to launch CloudSolar’s Indiegogo campaign to local (Boston) media as well asnational and trade media outlets. The goal was to generate media coverage leading up to, during and following CloudSolar’s Indiegogo campaign launch to garner support and generate contributions towards the fundraising goal.

Program Planning & Strategy

The first step in SA’s media relations campaign for CloudSolar was to conduct research to determine if this was truly a revolutionary idea within the solar energy field. In SA’s discovery meeting with Sun and Absi, it was confirmed that CloudSolar was indeed a first of its kind venture within the solar movement. SA capitalized on and further developed CloudSolar’s goal of providing anyone with the opportunity to contribute to the solar movement, regardless of their geographic location, roof condition or financial situation.

Following the discovery meeting, SA developed a media list of all local, national and trade outlets who would receive an official press release announcing the launch of the Indiegogo campaign and the CloudSolar concept. Additionally, SA determined that Callum Borchers, business reporter for the Boston Globe, would be offered an exclusive opportunity to announce the launch of CloudSolar. Providing a highly reputable outlet such as the Globe with an exclusive would ensure a larger impact upon the launch and further motivate prospective contributors to give to the Indiegogo campaign.

Following the initial announcement of the launch, SA developed five supplemental pitching ideas targeting business, entrepreneurism, startup, technology and solar/renewable energy reporters to generate buzz surrounding the campaign that would last beyond the launch date (until CloudSolar raised $300K).

Key Strategies

Media Relations: The launch of CloudSolar’s fundraising campaign was officially unveiled on Indiegogo on March 4. SA’s main focus leading up to, during, and following the launch was to secure and coordinate a series of quality print, broadcast and digital media opportunities for Sun and Absi. This task was carried out in the following order:

  1. Secure an exclusive interview opportunity with Callum Borchers, business reporter for the Boston Globe.
  2. Coordination of phone interviews for Absi and Sun with national, local and trade outlets following publication of the exclusive announcement surrounding the Indiegogo launch.
  3. Strategic follow-up to secure media coverage in additional outlets following the launch to ensure the end goal of $300K was achieved.
  4. Submission of the CloudSolar press release on BusinessWire for maximum exposure.
  5. A final round of outreach detailing the progress of raised funds as the end of the campaign approached.

Local coverage included the Boston Globe (print and online), Boston Business Journal, Boston.com and WBUR-FM’s “Here & Now.” National coverage included Fast Company, Inc., Gigaom, TechCrunch, Yahoo! Finance, Synacor, MarketWatch, Dallas News, Mercury News, Charlotte Observer and Benzinga.com.

Measurement & Results

  • Over the course of the one-month launch campaign, SA secured 16 print, broadcast and digital media placements for CloudSolar.
  • SA succeeded in supporting CloudSolar in reaching their goal of $300,000, surpassing the goal by 150% with $445,000 total funds raised.
  • SA conducted crisis PR to leverage a published story by Grist that was critical of CloudSolar’s business model.