The story of how Evan Katz co-founded Charty Party, the adult card game of absurdly funny charts, and raised over $150k between Kickstarter and Indiegogo!
I’m Evan Katz, co-founder of Charty Party. Charty Party, often called “Cards Against Humanity for nerds,” is an adult party game centered around making ridiculous charts and graphs. My friend Josh Roberts and I had the idea for the game mid-November of 2018, and launched our Kickstarter mid-January of 2018.
Charty Party has been a great fit for those looking for a party game that involves a bit of thinking and enjoy some absurdist humor. Each round centers around a “chart card,” which will present a graph — a graph of age with a trendline that peaks at age 13, for example. Players play their funniest card to name the Y-axis of the graph. So, what peaks when you’re 13 — “Legitimate fear of receiving a wedgie?” “Willingness to use a swimsuit as underwear?” “Fear of bees?”
At the moment, Charty Party is our only product, but we’re working on expansion packs and a brand new party game that will launch this winter.
Both Josh and I work for a small business strategy consulting firm, so we have some experience helping other companies launch products. This is our first board game, however. We initially designed the game on sticky notes to test proof of concept, and then slowly increased the product quality with each playtest, moving to cards on Google Slides and then eventually printing a test version from TheGameCrafter.com. We worked with a local designer to help us create the final design.
We used some forum posts to help determine manufacturer options, but initially only expected to sell about 300 copies, so we were planning to print them individually from TheGameCrafter.com. As our Kickstarter grew, we looked at PrintNinja as a manufacturer, but eventually ended up using LongPack as our provider once we knew we’d be manufacturing games in the thousands.
We moved pretty quickly once we had the idea, not because we had any particular deadline, but because we knew how often founders fall into the trap of working on their concepts for months (years) and then having it fall flat. We didn’t know if we’d be successful, so we wanted to get the concept into the world as quickly as possible. We made a simple landing page on Squarespace to collect email addresses.
We did some initial posting about our concept on Reddit in subreddits focused on funny charts, and were able to get about 400 email pre-signups to our website. We didn’t do any Facebook ad pre-marketing (though in hindsight, we should have.)
Once we launched, we shared as much as we could on our social platforms, but despite lots of shares from friends this all lost momentum after about $2,500 raised. All other backers came from Facebook ads.
It’s now quite obvious to us that if we hadn’t figured out the power of Facebook ads on the third day of our campaign, we wouldn’t have even come close to reaching our $10,000 goal. Luckily, we were able to use Kickstarter’s link tracking function to track the success of our Facebook ads, and realized that running pictures of funny card combinations were a great way to show off our game concept. Once we started to see a 3x-5x return on ads, we felt comfortable pouring our own money into the campaign. We ended up spending $5,000 in ad spend during the campaign (to raise $50,000). Looking back, we should have spent more — Kickstarter tends to bring in about 25% of whatever you raise in organic traffic, and we should have taken more advantage of that.
We didn’t get any press during the campaign, but have gotten some since. Depending on the platform, we’ve seen an article bring in up to 50 additional copies the day of publication. But, PR is hard to bank on and doesn’t last long. Facebook ads continue to be the backbone of how we acquire customers, and we’re spending a significant amount on them every day. But, we’re constantly watching and tracking to make sure our ad spend is profitable — you don’t want to be spending more than your profit margin!
I’ve spoken with a handful of people trying to launch their own Kickstarter products, and here’s the step-by-step advice I give (it’s the process we plan to follow when we launch our next game, too). Pretty much all of it centers around reducing the chances that you spend a bunch of time/money and your product still fails.
1) Talk to people about your concept, and try to genuinely listen if they want it or not. If you really have to sales pitch them to get them interested, consider changing your idea.
2) Create a basic landing page with some mocked-up images of your product, and run a few Facebook ads (spend about $20). Are people clicking on these ads, sharing them, and/or putting their email in for more info on your site? If not, consider changing your idea.
3) Create a better prototype, have a few people use it in real life, and gather feedback/tweak as needed.
4) Test some more Facebook ads with your better prototype, post about it on Reddit — are people still clicking on your ads, signing up, etc? If you can’t get people to sign up pre-Kickstarter, it’s unlikely this will change once you launch your campaign.
5) If you pass all of the above steps, launch your Kickstarter. Use Kickstarter’s link tracking function to see which ads are getting people to pledge. If you’re getting a profitable result from your ads (don’t forget to account for the production/shipping costs of your product), then you can start pouring more money into your ads.
6) Success! Now the fun part… actually turning this into a viable business. But, if your Kickstarter succeeded, you’re off to a great start.
We can’t share monthly revenue at the moment, but we’re very pleased with how our business has grown over the past year. The majority of our sales currently come from Amazon, but we’re working on getting into more retail locations and working with distributors. To date, we’ve sold about 11,000 copies of Charty Party, and just received our second print run of 10,000 copies.
We’re working on a new party card game (sneak preview: it involves puns) that we’re planning to launch January 2020.