Crowdfunding a Magazine: Starting Lean

By Tarmo Virki | lean startup | September 11, 2015

At a time when most of the media has become click-based advertising platforms, we decided to launch a print magazine. A print magazine for startups. In Europe. And we decided to crowdfund it. On Indiegogo.

To many it sounds strange, very strange, but we do have a plan. A friend of mine has a magazine in his long-term plan, but he thinks he needs to secure at least 200,000 euros before starting it. We started with zero, almost zero to be totally honest.

How on earth? To give you the details we will share our war stories in a series of posts here, starting from the real beginning, all the way back in 2014.

By getting into the startup scene we took the approach of our new world, we started to build a magazine like a lean startup. Meaning you progress step-by-step, test the product before you produce it, tweak it when needed, and definitely not spend a million advertising a new magazine no-one ever really wants, something still considered the standard practice in the old media world.

We started in the summer of 2014 with a minimum viable product (MVP), ordered a cover design example and content table for 40 euros from a designer on, and then we hit the sales trail. In August, we got the first commitments from launch partners, and this was the starting gun. The magazine in its own is not really a startup, but it allowed us to take the lean startup logic to the extremes — we sold enough in advance to cover most of our production costs before we started to work on the real product.

As previously mentioned, we did not have a million to spend on marketing, and we had to figure out how to somehow reach our potential buyers. So, how to reach many consumers in one go? We had noticed a rise in event magazines, so we hooked up with the top Nordic startup conference Slush, which allowed us to hand out the magazine and profile ourselves at their conference last November.

That gave us a full two months to prepare the magazine, from scratch. Tapping a few key people to do the design, we decided on the content and secured stories from friends across the startup scene. Most “startuppers” are rather flexible with payment terms when you start up something and some of the first partners were ready to make the first payments at the time when the magazine went to print. This obviously helped tremendously to get the first issue done.

When the first issue went to print in early November we knew crowdfunding would be the most logical way to reach many potential subscribers fast.