In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we speak with Elena Favilli of Timbuktu Labs about her new children’s book that reinvents fairy tales by telling the stories of 100 great women throughout history. Join us as we learn what inspired the book, how the team prepared for the project and how they were able to raise more than half a million dollars on Kickstarter.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – 100 tales to dream BIG

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How long it takes to prepare for a Kickstarter project
  • How to build the initial momentum and traction you need when launching a Kickstarter campaign
  • How to find journalists who would be interested in covering your crowdfunding project
  • What tools can help you run a successful Kickstarter campaign
  • What prep work to do before launching on Kickstarter


Connect with Timbuktu Labs


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View this episode's transcript
Roy: Welcome to Art of the Kickstart, your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, President of Command Partners, the top full-service crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped raise over 70 million dollars for our clients since 2010. Each week I’ll interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur or a business expert in order to help take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding.


  Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by the Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. To learn more, visit Now let’s get on with the show. Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I am honored to be joined by the team from the Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. Elena, thank you so much for joining us.


Elena: Thank you, hi.


Roy: You guys have been kicking butt on this campaign. As a father of two young girls, I’m really impressed with the work that you have done. I’m a buyer of this product myself. Give our community a little bit of background on how your story began.


Elena: Oh yeah, sure. We started planning this campaign six months ago, and so we’ve been putting a lot of work into this. Actually, the Kickstarter campaign that you see is just the tip of the iceberg, because within researching the product first and slowly building an audience before actually launching the campaign on Kickstarter, so on the day that we launched, we already had a very engaged audience of a little over 4,000 people who were ready to just jump on board and buy the book as soon as we launched it.


  I think that was a very important piece of our strategy for launch day. Also, we already had a children’s media company, an existing company, which is called Timbuktu Labs, that we started about five years ago, so we already had a network of users and of people who already knew our products and who were familiar with what we do and what we stand for. That certainly helped in building that initial momentum and traction that is so important when you launch a Kickstarter campaign.


Roy: I couldn’t agree more. I mean, it’s obviously great to hear that you guys have built a base. You built Timbuktu, you guys have mobile apps that are out there. You’re published in many different places. You have partnerships with some of these elite brands in the world. How did Timbuktu magazine even come into play?


Elena: Timbuktu magazine was our first product in 2011; that’s when we launched. We decided to work on an iPad magazine for kids because the iPad was about to come out and we really wanted to experiment with something on that medium. We were deeply passionate about illustrations and especially children’s illustration, and we were also very passionate about publishing in general and of course, design and technology. That seemed like the perfect moment to try to experiment with something new in the publishing space.


  We launched the first issue of the magazine in the app store in 2011, and it immediately started to get some nice press coverage, some initial traction with users, so that was our first … It was basically the beginning of our startup. We realized that there was something big that we could tap into and that we could start building a company around it. We eventually decided to create a media company called Timbuktu Labs, and for the past five years that’s what we’ve been working on.


Roy: You guys were an Italian startup basically and you moved to Silicon Valley … What, like four years ago, to start this media company, and then I guess you guys have been in LA ever since. What triggered that move? Was it a necessary move for you to be closer to the Valley?


Elena: Yes, absolutely. I think it was one of the most crucial decisions that we took. The first issue of the magazine, yes, we were still in Milan when we did that, but we quickly realized that we needed to be in San Francisco or in Silicon Valley if we really wanted to grow this company more quickly, so yeah, we moved to San Francisco in 2012. We applied to 500 Startups, which is one of the most prestigious incubators in the US right now. We were selected by Dave McClure and his team, so that was like a huge turning point for us. It was a great experience. We raised our first round of funding during the program, and we met amazing people: Mentors, investors, and we built our first network here in the US, because as you can imagine, coming from a different country and not knowing anyone basically, we completely built this from scratch.


Roy: It’s a beautiful story. You guys have raised over $400,000 currently. This children’s book is really beautiful and well done, from these illustrations and the inspiring stories that you’ve put together. Talk about the process of putting all that together and how you’ve sourced everything to make this beautiful product come to life.


Elena: We’ve always worked with a huge network of illustrators from all over the world, and that’s always been one of our main strengths I would say. We like to work with many different illustrators. We like our products to reflect a very diverse style of illustrations, so that’s why we decided to do this also for this book. The way we usually find them is we’re very passionate about illustrations, so we follow Instagram accounts. We follow illustrators wherever they might be on social media. Of course, we read and we buy a lot of children’s books, so that’s another great way to find amazing illustrators.


  Then of course, over the past five years, there’s a lot of people who have worked with us and who keep writing to us in a very organic way, and they just reach out because they want to work with us. Part of the process of the Kickstarter campaign was also to make the process as open as possible. We actually say this in the video: We encourage backers or anyone who sees this campaign to suggest stories, but also artists, illustrators, who might be perfect for this book.


Roy: That’s great, embrace the crowd, right, and you’ve certainly done that on many multiple fronts. What was inspiring to me is the fact that you guys have gotten so much press, but you aren’t working with an agency per se. Talk about how you guys have gone about that in terms of your approach to getting media to cover your project.


Elena: Yeah, we didn’t work with any PR agency. We’ve done a lot of research on the right journalists that we should try to get in touch with, and we’ve been doing this way before the beginning of the campaign. We started doing this two months before, or even more, even three months. It’s very important when you launch something that you begin to establish a connection with the right influencers and the right journalists early on, and you make them part of the process of what you’re building so that when you launch, they will be more likely to feature you and to talk about you. Also one of their important tricks that you can use when you plan your launch is to look for journalists who wrote about something similar in the past, so journalists who covered similar campaigns or similar products, and that’s usually a very strong signal that they will probably cover your campaign as well.


Roy: Absolutely. Were there any tool sets that you used, or was it all just Google search?


Elena: We used a lot of Google search and especially also Google images was very helpful for this, but we also used BuzzSumo and other’s software or I should say probably another course that we used and that was extremely helpful in the planning of the campaign and the framework that we used for the campaign, is this new course called From Zero to Funded, which is a new online course launched by this amazing entrepreneur, whose name is Cathryn Lavery, if I’m not mistaken.


Roy: Great, great. We’ll definitely look into that. In terms of the prep work on the PR side, you had mentioned that you had started working on this project to launch on crowdfunding about six months ago. What were some of the other prep work that you did in anticipation of your launch?


Elena: We did a lot of work with content marketing and newsletters, so we built a very specific audience with our newsletter, and we started to week after week send specific stories around this theme of empowering young girls. We were also using the newsletter as a customer discovery tool and slowly understanding with our audience the kind of stories that resonated the most with them. Eventually we came up with the idea of this book and we decided to shape it this way, also because we had done that type of research with our user base.


Roy: Excellent, all great info, Elena. I appreciate that. This gets us into our launch round where I rapid fire questions at you. Are you ready?


Elena: Yeah, okay.


Roy: What inspired you to become a female entrepreneur?


Elena: I grew up surrounded by many strong women, so that’s probably been the most … The strongest reason why I decided to do something on my own.


Roy: Who did you look up to, growing up?


Elena: Wow, that’s a hard one. I don’t know. Of course, the first example, as I said, was definitely my mom, who is a doctor and she has been … I mean, I remember when I was a kid, she was working and starting all the time, so she definitely was my first example.


Roy: Excellent. If you could meet any entrepreneur throughout history, who would you meet with?


Elena: Okay, so I guess right now I would like to meet with Bill Gates.


Roy: What would be your first question?


Elena: My first question would probably be what are you working on?


Roy: Trying to get a leg up on everyone, huh? What book besides Good Night Stories potentially is on your nightstand today?


Elena: Today I’m actually reading a book, which is called … It’s a very beautiful book. I don’t remember the title right now. Just give me one second. It’s Everything You Ever Wanted, yes, and it’s a memoir by Jillian Lauren. It’s a beautiful book about the experience of a woman who really wants to have a child and who ends up adopting a child from Ethiopia. It’s a great, great book.


Roy: Excellent. We’ll make sure to include that link. Where do you see yourself in five years?


Elena: I hope to be still with Timbuktu, and I hope that at that point, Timbuktu will have grown in a much bigger children’s media company.


Roy: Excellent. Final question: What does the future of crowdfunding look like?


Elena: Amazing. I think we’re still at the very beginning of it and we will see amazing stuff coming out of it. It’s really like a true revolution in how you can approach the funding of anything basically, so I think this is just the beginning of it.


Roy: We agree with you whole-heartedly. Elena, you did great. Please give our audience your pitch. Tell us what you’re all about and where people should go to go and buy the Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.


Elena: Yes, sure. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a children’s book. It’s an illustrated children’s book featuring 100 stories of extraordinary women, from Elizabeth the First to Serena Williams, so women from the present and the past who have achieved incredible results in any field. You can pre-order it on Kickstarter, and if you do it now, you will get it time for Christmas.


Roy: Awesome. Elena, you have been great. Everyone, thank you so much for tuning in. Make sure to visit for all of the show notes, links and a full transcript. Elena, thank you so much.


Elena: Thank you, thank you.


Roy: Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a better business, world, and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, be sure to visit and tell us about it. There you’ll find additional information about past episodes, and our Kickstarter guide to crushing it. If you’ve loved this episode, leave us a review at It helps more inventors and entrepreneurs find the show and helps us get better guests on here to help build your business. If you need a more hands-on crowdfunding strategy, please feel free to request a quote on Thanks again for tuning in. We’ll see you soon.