"Working on something for many months without being able to share it with the world and then having everything riding on that fateful launch day has always been a bit nerve-wracking," Michael Flarup says.
Flarup, who co-founded Robocat with Willi Wu, is getting used to this particular stress, though. A couple weeks before launching Thermodo, Robocat unveiled Haze, an elegant and minimalist weather app that promises to "put some color on your forecast." Three years ago, they created Outside, an app that sends local forecasts with push notifications. You might say these guys are, um, a little obsessed with the weather.
They’re also good at creating technology around it. And yet, despite the wonderful feedback and publicity surrounding Robocat’s increasing stable of sun-and-rain reporting apps, Flarup was a little worried.
"We had very mixed feelings about how people would react to another weather-related Robocat announcement," he says. "We put a lot of work into the campaign, but I’m pretty sure everyone was trying not to get their hopes up."
No wonder, then, that the Robocat team was "simply floored" when Thermodo’s $35,000 goal was funded…in 7 hours. Not bad for their first crowdfunding experiment! By the time the Kickstarter ended, they’d raised nearly 10 times their goal: $336,018.
Robocat’s become a dependable incubator for gorgeous, forward-thinking apps over the past few years, but when they first started, email helped them get the word out.
"Our first app turned into an overnight success partly because we had built such a strong mailing list and executed the launch with an email campaign," Flarup says. "Ever since, we’ve used MailChimp to manage that side of our consumer interaction, and in each subsequent product launch, the Robocat newsletter has been an important part of the ritual. Email is a very central and crucial part of getting the word out."
But more than just making announcements, Robocat’s emails are actually funny. Check out how the (probably?) fictional "AngryReviewer04" helps tell Thermodo’s origin story:
That lighthearted, humorous approach to email marketing shows the human beings behind the campaign. It’s an approach that we obviously believe in, but it’s nice to see it work so well for others, too. In fact, to hear Flarup tell it, being human is pretty essential to Robocat’s core.
"We started as two guys working out of an apartment," he says. "We had fled the agency world, leaving behind its high-horse marketing speak, and we wanted nothing more than to make products people would like. Email is a very personal thing, most of check our inboxes many times daily—we carry them around in our pockets and they dictate a lot of what we do and how we work. When we send a message to someone, we are essentially asking them for a bit of their time, a bit of their privacy. It’s important that our readers are rewarded for that investment."