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KeyChron: How 3 Friends crowdfunded a Keyboard Brand on Kickstarter

Keychron makes high-quality wireless mechanical Mac keyboards. To date, the company has run four successful Kickstarter campaigns totaling over 2 million dollars and grown from just 3 friends to a team of just 13 people.

Fab tells us the secret to their success is their enthusiastic community, for which he is always grateful. “Keychron is a team of keyboard enthusiasts. We believe in the power of crowdfunding, and we believe in the power of community.”

The story of Keychron’s success is intertwined with fan support and the power of community, and it all started when the three co-founders got together to complain about keyboards.

The KeyChron K2 received over $1,000,000 in funding on Kickstarter – powered by enthusiastic fans

Where It All Started: “We can design this for ourselves!”

It started with a gripe. Fab, Will, and Sven were friends, working in Shenzhen. They shared a love of MacOS, and equally, were unhappy about the Mac Keyboard.

“For dedicated typists, people who loved to type and needed to spend day typing,” remembers Fab, the keyboard was not great. The three of them wished they had a good keyboard they could use.

At the time, there were gaming keyboards, mechanical keyboards, and wireless keyboards, mostly for Windows. Back in 2017, a wireless, mechanical keyboard in a MacOS configuration did not exist.

It was Fab who spotted the business opportunity. He was pretty sure other Mac enthusiasts were looking for an alternative keyboard.  And, between the three of them, they had all the skills they needed. Will had a decade of experience in keyboard production, Sven had been working in industrial design for eleven years, and Fab had experience with sales and crowdfunding.

They decided to start a small business together. Fab quit his job to start the company and organize the Kickstarter. Will & Sven contacted factories and designed the keyboard while still at their job. The three of them pooled costs to run some small ads and pay for trial production.

Fab remembers making contingency plans. What if this was too niche a market, and didn’t get enough demand? The minimum order from a factory was 1,000 pieces. If the Kickstarter didn’t work out, Fab had plans to give some keyboards to friends and families and to sell the rest to local distributors to recoup the costs.

Unfortunately, he never had to use those plans, because the Kickstarter was a resounding success. 4000 backers backed the Keychron K1 and raised over $300,000 – turns out, they were right about Mac enthusiasts looking for a better keyboard.

Fab and team set out to run a $10,000 Kickstarter. They hit 3200% of their goal.

Will and Sven quit their jobs to work on Keychron full time, and they got to work on their next challenge: the overwhelming success of their Kickstarter.

Their Biggest Challenge: Their First Kickstarter Success

Crowdfunding is a painful moment if you need to ship over 1000 orders at the same time.”

The success of the first Kickstarter was also a humongous challenge. The team never expected such a huge response — but it also meant they needed to ship and fulfill more orders than they expected.

They ran into unexpected issues and production delays, despite their experience. With so many orders, they needed to find a reliable shipping channel, someone with great customer service but at a reasonable cost. Customers posted all the time asking for updates, wanting to change their orders and addresses. And when the first backers got their keyboards, they discovered new bugs that needed fixing.

The team of three juggled the responsibilities. They rented a small warehouse to ship orders. Someone needed to release firmware updates and bug fixes. Someone needed to figure out shipping channels. All three of them spent all day responding to customer queries and spending all night doing the picking and packing to get the keyboards out as fast as possible. Fab remembers even getting friends and family to help with the shipping.

It was exhausting and challenging. But during this period, they discovered that their customers were more than happy to give them feedback. Key position on the keyboard was a big concern. Would the Keychron team consider adjusting it for the next version of the Keyboard…?

They incorporated the customer feedback, took their business experience, grew their team, and soon launched yet another successful Kickstarter. It was their biggest yet. 11,000 backers pledged over a million dollars for the Keychron K2.

And the secret to that success was their Facebook group, the Keychron fan community.

Their Biggest Growth Driver: Their Community

The Keychron fans regularly provide suggestions and ideas on how to improve shipping, customer feedback, and the product. Fab says that this is quality feedback – and when they ask research questions, customers are more than happy to respond.

“We know what to do every day. We read and interact with our community every day, and they tell us what to do in terms of product and services.” It makes his job easier – their fans, their community tell Keychron exactly what they want.

This feedback helped the team figure out what to do in the next project, develop new versions of their product, and release updates to their firmware. And, it helped bring in new customers as well. While most of their customers have backed their Kickstarters before, Fab estimates that around 20% of their customers were referred by a friend, using ReferralCandy.

A fan proudly shares his new Keychron

“We didn’t know our customers would love using discount codes so much.” Fab was surprised at how many of Keychron’s customers liked sending referral links and codes to their friends for use, rather than publicly posting it on social media. Still, it’s the power of community marketing that has helped the growth of the Keychron brand.

The Keychron User Group on Facebook now has over 10,000 members. The number doubles if you add in the followers for the Keychron fan pages for US, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Thailand. Fab credits the Facebook community for helping with their success.

Lesson Learned: Believe in the power of Crowdfunding. Believe in the Power of Community.

One lesson Fab learned was to give himself more lead time for crowdfunding They set an aggressive shipping target the first time; crowdfunding for the K1 ended in November and they aimed to ship in January, a gruelling period of two months. They gave themselves 2-3 months for their most recent K6 Kickstarter.

But the biggest surprise for Fab was the power of the fans. Fab is grateful for the community, who have supported them through the Kickstarters, who offer them valuable feedback, and who have helped to bring them success by sharing their enthusiasm for Keychron keyboards. Mac and Tech enthusiasts often love posting pictures of their set-ups, and the Keychron keyboards are always prominently featured.

Via Keychron Facebook: Fan @thericebucket shares his set-up

The support of their fans helped turned a simple idea into a Kickstarter success into a thriving company. The power of crowdfunding and community have changed Fab, Will and Sven’s lives. But for now, Fab is busy and needs to get back to work – he needs to ship out keyboards for Keychron’s latest Kickstarter to their ardent fans.

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Darren Foong

Darren Foong

Darren works on Growth at ReferralCandy. He spends too much time reading fiction, performing improv, and doing things that don't scale. One day he hopes to be quite interesting.