The $1.3 Million High-Flying HEXO+ Crowdfunding Case Study

In the medical field when a person dies under mysterious circumstances autopsies are almost always conducted to catch the culprit. In business big wigs sit down after failed projects to discuss strategies, find fault and often even push powerless colleagues under the bus.

But why in our vast wisdom as a species do we so improperly fail to take advantage of the success models all around us? How often do you hear of case studies and post-mortems on the most influential and accomplished individuals and businesses in order to uncover what makes these high achievers tick and perform at such outstanding levels?

Today let’s try it. Let’s look at one of the most historically successful and well executed Kickstarters of all time to unlock the methods and strategies employed by one of crowdfunding’s champions of change and innovation.

Creating a Killer Kickstarter Campaign

The first thing anyone notices about a crowdfunding campaign is almost always the thumbnail. That little preview which shows the product or gets backers excited to click and check out your project is absolutely critical to creating a successful campaign. You need the ability to pull in organic Kickstarter fanatics in addition to your own loyal and devoted network if you’re looking to succeed. So work to get potential backers on your page as quickly as possible.

As you can see in the HEXO+ campaign they did a smashing job of selling the drone before backers even arrived. From an exciting HD action shot of a pretty sexy quadcopter to the sneaky product placement of the GoPro camera the Squadrone System team immediately got the tech and artsy individuals of Kickstarter compelled to click.

HEXO Drone

As if their epic images weren’t enough they nailed the headlines with compelling copy which beautifully and succinctly shares both the story and experience of the HEXO drone. This is extremely important in your own Kickstarters as well. You need to pull people in with titles that tease and excite. Get backers begging to know more now.

Social Media Sells

In case you missed it take a glance back up below that beautiful drone. What you see is amazing social media savvy. With 49,338 Facebook shares, I personally cannot recall a campaign reaching such prolific sharing numbers. That is impressive, no amazing. Getting people to fall for and love a campaign is a challenge but look at the results it brings.

It is tough but not impossible to get backers, friends and family to really super share your project and make it go somewhat super successfully viral. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that individuals share what they really really like and what they think will make them look cool. In the case of Kickstarter your product functionality, photography and of course the all-important video play a pivotal role in this.

Show Social Proof

Usually after showcasing your product video and a pretty compelling tagline covering your company, many successful campaigns like to lift their coverage to the forefront. You’re probably wondering why this is if not feeling a little off put by the blatant showmanship being displayed by campaign creators or maybe you don’t even care cause almost every project page puts forth something similar.

HEXO Media

In fact there’s actually real important reasons and cold hard facts supporting showing off, at least a little bit. It’s credibility.

Everyday people put their trust in the Mashables, Engadgets and Washington Posts of the world to bring them the most up to date and accurate information from across the world and the web. These news networks, media sites and amazing blogs are like trusted friends and comrades in the search for truth. They have built rapport and good standing with their readers and garner amazing public support and strength around them and the stories they spread.

This lends a greater feeling of legitimacy around prospective campaigns looking to fund. If Wired, MSN and The Next Web put their support and stories behind the HEXO guys they must be for real. It is the ultimate form of personal recommendations and social proof.

Show your Stuff and How it Works

One thing that makes Kickstarter and crowdfunding so vastly different from commerce in a traditional sense is the feelings of uncertainty and unexpectedness surrounding the products. Typically startups aren’t absolutely finished finalizing and perfect their mass market versions when they come to Kickstarter. What with backers’ suggestions, small tweaks and potential hiccups in production people often end up getting something slightly different than what they expected.

This is tough to commit to. Backers are supporting your campaign and buying your product without ever having the chance to hold it, play with it, touch it or really understand exactly what they are getting. You need to alleviate these internal buying fears and convince prospective supporters with amazingly detailed product pics and awesome walkthroughs of how your invention works.

How It Works - HEXO Drone

Look at this guide walking the user through the inner workings of HEXO. From the amazing hi-res action shots, the in-depth app usage picture s and even a well-made video showing the drone and app in use the creators nailed it here.

Try to do something similar in your own projects if you can. Having a rich mixture of informative, well written copy, sexy photos and a video worthy of Mr. Spielberg himself hit the major logical and creative components of the brain in all the right ways. Like in our recent interview with Indiegogo entrepreneur Seymour Segnit, you need to hit all the triggers of both left and right brained buying decisions in order to really knock it out of the park.

The Ideal Customer

When you are creating something new, innovative and totally transformative in the marketplace you will inevitably turn some individuals off while attracting early adopters. You need to get past these hurdles as quickly as possible with success early on and begin penetrating the mass market. Here is where the true money is made and the success of your startup ensured.

This is really hard though. How do you actively avoid scaring off easily frightened, not too techy potential backers?

Target Customer - HEXO Drone

By making it beyond apparent what you are trying to do. Hit the high points, the early adopters and awesome ambassadors of your brand but also bring it back for others as well.

It’s easy aerial filming for all. That sounds cool. I could probably pull that off. This is what the big shot superstars of action photography are using but HEXO is making it accessible and awesome for everyone.


We covered the importance of trust and references earlier but really, more couldn’t hurt. Especially when the individuals standing up to support you are world-class athletes, Olympic skiers, snowboarding champs, and BMX bad boys. Look at this list. HEXO hit the nail on the head in much the same way Neil Young’s Pono Music played upon tremendous testimonials and superb feedback from stars and musicians throughout the world these guys gained ground by showing the cream of the crop, the individuals most in need of amazing aerial photography repping their product.

As a massive plus and something you should consider yourselves as well they showed photos of each of their extremely influential brand ambassadors. Whether you know their names or not when people put pictures, faces or even videos to their testimonials and support of a product it becomes much more real and impactful upon potential customers.

Brand Ambassadors - HEXO Drone

What Does it Do?

With a Kickstarter campaign or any type of product pitch there is somewhat of a logical progression in which the team will need to convince the potential customer that their product is something so awesome they just need to buy it.

In this case and in many of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns you need to start with a strong, exciting push. The drone company came out swinging with jaw dropping photography, captivating video and an amazing list of supporters and media willing to back up the aerial excellence of the startup.

But in order to achieve the sale you usually need some kind of specs, some feature explanations in order to share just what your product can do.

Product Features -HEXO Drone

In doing so HEXO and any campaign alleviate fear of deception and reinforce the reasons to buy their product. This is what makes their company, their product and the experience of flying and filming with HEXO unique. It addresses all the common complaints held by aerial photographers and sures up the startup in the eyes of backers.

For the truly committed hobbyists however more information is almost always needed to seal the deal. People familiar with and enraptured by the field of DIY drones and photography want to know exactly what to expect in your product. Regardless of what you are creating let people see precisely what you are offering. Share the weights, speeds, sizes and so forth so people have real metrics in which to evaluate.

Product Specs - HEXO Drone


Technological Magic

Many Kickstarter innovators and technological masterminds are pushing the boundaries everyday on exactly what science and technology can accomplish. When your inventions are so forward thinking, revolutionary and unexpected be prepared to defend your technological wizardry. Despite your best efforts trolls will almost always find futuristic and fascinating campaigns and products and put up a fight with the creators.

But they are losers and lost souls. Don’t worry about them. Instead focus on the true, excited backers legitimately interested in your campaign.

While every inventor wants his or her product to produce that Steve Jobs-esque magic effect upon people you must explain exactly how everything works. Crowdfunding scams while rare enough on Kickstarter(and more prominent on Indiegogo) do occasionally happen. If you claim to have invented a time machine, invisibility cloak or super Star Wars light saber you better back that up. Backers are bright individuals and will only trust if enough insight and knowledge is given into the true powers behind the product.

Technology Talk - HEXO Drone


Call to Action, Call to Arms

If you have managed to hold a backer’s attention this long something is surely going right. Whoever is on your page is clearly intrigued by your campaign. But sometimes people need that extra little nudge to push them over the edge and become a backer of your startup.

Here is where asking nicely and explaining exactly why and how Kickstarter can help your company to succeed is critical.

Kickstarter Help - HEXO Drone

As you can see the HEXO+ team does a terrific job here conveying exactly what they need. They lay out the massive efforts they have put forth in perfecting the drone and preparing the prototype to bring to market and again emphasize how awesome the device has been in the hands of earlier testers. They get individuals excited but add a flair of uncertainty in that they need this help in order to make the dream a reality.

This is powerful. It puts prospective backers in the driver’s seat of the campaign. Suddenly they aren’t simply a customer but rather a generous part of the team helping to make these lofty goals possible. And of course end with a heartfelt thank you to show how much it means to you and your team.

Ridiculously Beautiful Rewards

Let’s face it, despite all efforts of good will and tingly feelings felt at helping an inventor succeed, Kickstarter and crowdfunding are first and foremost a business. Many individuals are interested only in getting their hands on super awesome gear and goodies, especially before they hit shelves everywhere.

That means having rocking rewards is an absolute must(if you are having trouble or want help brainstorming out amazing rewards check out the recent post on The 9 Habits of Highly Effective Kickstarter Rewards). But let’s assume you have compelling rewards already that you know backers everywhere will be thrilled to get their hands upon. You need to present these goodies in as awesome a light as possible in order to really let them shine and build as big a base of backers as possible. The best way I have seen this done time and time again is an infographic.

Kickstarter Rewards - HEXO Drone

The HEXO guys did a killer job of nailing down their rewards and have two important features any aspiring Kickstarter ought to employ. The first of course is the ease of understanding. Just check out the shot above. They have truly taken the meaning of infographic and compressed larger amounts of complicated rewards information and made it extremely easy to understand and follow. With almost no text and in a simple, aesthetic way this startup shows exactly what each and every level of support means for backers. This eliminates headaches, hassles and misunderstandings and makes it crystal clear what individuals need to contribute to get each.

The second and often underutilized strategy HEXO’s creators capitalized on was updating the rewards infographic as the campaign progressed. As you can see the Early Bird performed pretty darn well and sold out rather rapidly. That is important. It conveys the scarcity of the campaign rewards, often pushing backers towards buying but also makes it inherently obvious which options are still available, avoiding conflict and questions down the line.

Show Some History

A big part of the appeal of Kickstarter and crowdfunding campaigns in general is aiding in the genesis of startups and successful businesses. You connect on a much deeper, more personal level with a company like HEXO than one of the industry leaders because they’re the little guys. It is almost as if you get to know them.

Well to see where someone is going it often helps to know where they have been. By including a timeline you share not only the schedule going forward of when you will develop, manufacture and ship out backer gear but also on what came before.

Kickstarter Timeline - HEXO Drone

As you would expect this historical chart extends beyond the Kickstarter campaign but it’s getting rather long and illustrates the point either way. As you can see the HEXO+ team were incredibly detailed in their breakdown of each and every important step in the creation of awesome aerial photography drone.

Here is one area in which I personally believe the company went a little overboard. The timeline is more than a bit cluttered with focus given to both the hardware and software sides of development which all-in-all makes for a slightly overwhelming investigation into the startup’s life. Either way though it illustrates the point and allows backers and builders everywhere to see exactly where HEXO stands, the enormous amounts of effort they have put into the project and the next steps to succeed post-Kickstarter. Not perfect but all-in-all effective.

Friendly Faces

We’ve talked about it but as important as it is, it bears repeating. Kickstarter is a platform of creators, innovators and inventors looking to change the world. It is a place for change, growth, and new life…not old corporate crap.

So show your stuff, showcase the team and tremendous people behind your products and creations. Backers and individuals in general believe in and trust people. That is the essence of business, relationships and life. So why do so few campaigns showcase the studs behind the scenes?

Kickstarter Team - HEXO Drone

The smaller the company, the more important each and every individual is to the organization. People produce the impact, build the business,  and especially in startups deserve recognition for the ridiculous amounts of work they put forward to make this product happen.

Giving your team time to shine will make them more excited about the company, the campaign and their own contributions to the Kickstarter creation which is great for morale and long term success of post-Kickstarter companies. It also personalizes and humanizes your mission in the eyes of backers, giving an unfair advantage over the Nikes and Walmarts of the world.

Final Findings

So all things considered HEXO absolutely killed it as a Kickstarter campaign. The small startup from Palo Alto, CA raised a mind-boggling $1.3 million during their Kickstarter campaign and amassed an impressive 2,338 backers throughout the process. As you’ve seen from our autopsy of these tremendously successful aerial acrobats there is quite a great deal to be learned from success.

Steal(or borrow 🙂 ) some of the strategies companies like HEXO+ used in making crowdfunding work for them. From amazing product photography, an excellent mixture of compelling visual and technical content, and killer social proof strategies to showcase the product and its performance there is much to learn from these guys.

What do you think? Was looking at the lessons of one of Kickstarter’s most successful campaigns helpful for you? Is this something you see helping you in your own crowdfunding projects or are their other more important problems and issues you would loved to see tackled?

I’d really appreciate if this article or Art of the Kickstart in general had a positive impact upon you and your life that you shared it with friends and other individuals in the crowdfunding community looking to change the world. This case study alone was a pretty sizable time commitment and if could help others I would love to have as many people as possible benefit before launching their own campaigns.


Hosted by
Roy Morejon

Roy Morejon is the President of Enventys Partners, a leading product development, crowdfunding and ecommerce marketing agency in Charlotte, North Carolina, in charge of digital marketing strategy, client services, and agency growth.

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