Supporting Research Through Online Funding

online funding

You may have noticed that we have really upped our online commercial presence. We’ve had an online store since the mid 80’s however it has only been a minor part of the funding model. With the pandemic our tradition business of high altitude payloads and TV production has tanked. No funding  = no research.

What to do?

As the saying goes, “Go where the money is”.  The online economy is booming.

The internet is gushing with news stories, posts and blogs about folks bringing in millions of dollars via ecommerce. The hype to reality ratio seems pretty steep, however enough real information is out there indicating it has potential.

We’ve jumped completely in.  We are all across twitter, linkedin, Facebook and Instagram. We have several online stores and are working YouTube. Twitch and TikTok are not far behind.

I get a lot feedback (even from our own team) that it is not dignified. We want to be NASA. Not some guy in a tee shirt saying “Hi, click to subscribe” on a YouTube video.  I hate to say it but aerospace tends to be a bit arrogant finance wise and having the humbling experience of acknowledging that we are a business and need to pitch and sell may not be a bad thing.

Can it be done it? Is it worth it? The answer is I don’t know. We are going to find out.

Make no mistake, this is work. You hear a lot about passive income, but I’ve yet to find it. For this to work, you need to put in the time.

As a space professional be prepared to be appalled. The red wire is not always power. There are no standards, each site calls the same thing something different. The market is not a logical creature. It’s moody Godzilla. An action that is absolutely vital in one online community will be the death nail for another. The good news is elementary school rules apply. Read the instruction. This is a very instruction rich environment.

This is what we’re doing so far.

Shopify

https://dark-sky-market.myshopify.com/

This is where our store is. This is where the shirts, books and patches are sold. The old days of having your store on your own website are gone. Store providers like Shopify eliminate the need for your own site. We use “Print on Demand” for a lot of the products. This means you don’t have the upfront production costs. It also eliminates most of the issues of getting the product to your customer. You pay a price for the service, however the fulfillment services can usually do it cheaper then you could. We’ve also put our traditional products on the store. You can now buy flights to 100,000 feet there.

YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/user/johnmpowell/videos

YouTube is a great driver for your store and can generate its own income. It’s simple; when YouTube runs an ad on your video they pay you a small (very) part of the revenue.  The catch is that you need 1000 people to subscribe to your YouTube channel to qualify.

Etsy

https://www.etsy.com/shop/SpaceStationBazaar

This is where our other store is. One store or outlet is not enough. Etsy had the advantage that it brings its own traffic (somewhat).

Red Bubble

https://www.redbubble.com/people/spacefleamarket/shop

This is an odd one. You both have no products and millions of products. You upload your images and customers can put them on shirts, sticks, mugs, literally thousands of things.

Patreon

https://www.patreon.com/jpaerospace

Did you want to be your own public Television station? Patreon is a bit like that. Folks sign up for monthly reoccurring donations to support your work.

Social Media

Social media is the secret sauce that makes all this work. People need to go to your store. Social media is what sends them there. The great part about social media is that forces you to get your act together and explain yourself. It makes you perfect a new 30 second elevator pitch every day. Focus on the big ones, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram.

Raising money is not all about raising money. It may seem odd to say ‘don’t do it just for the money’ in an article about fundraising, but it’s true. This is only worth it if it builds to your existing image/brand/reputation. In this world exposure is critical whether you are a company or a research group. All these things that bring in money also bring in exposure. Done right online funding folds directly into your long term marketing. Plan for that at the start.

I am skeptical by nature. I don’t believe this is the end all funding source for research projects. However, I do think it can be a meaningful part of the mix. Do you think an investor or grant provider would be impressed if you could say that your facilities costs are already taken care of?

We’re just starting out with this. Currently it’s working well enough to pay the power bill. We’re hopeful we will have successes and for sure we’ll make some mistakes. We are figuring this out as we go. I’ll post what we find, good and bad. Check back here for the blow by blow.

JP

Comments are closed.