GraFighters: How a Failed Kickstarter Project Became a $200,000 Investment

Kickstarter was designed to help users find non-professional funding for their creative projects. But in an amusing twist, the duo behind GraFighter totally flopped with the crowdsourced model. Luckily a professional investor noticed their failed Kickstarter page, and offered them a $200,000 angel investment instead.

Eric Cleckner and Dave Chenell are best friends and graduates of Syracus Univertsity’s iSchool, where they became one of the first members of the Student Sandbox, an incubator for student ventures.

GraFighters was a project they dreamed up in class after they had each doodled a monster and then argued about which one would emerge victorious in a one on one combat.

They decided to create a web game where anyone could submit a drawing and have it engage in combat with other users. GraFighters went up on Kickstarter last fall, but raised only $3,049 dollars of its proposed $20,000 before time expired.

“We weren’t very smart about it,” says Chenell. “I think we kind of assumed if we put it on Kickstarter people would magically flock to the project. We didn’t really offer an tangible rewards, just dumb stuff like virtual high fives. What works best on Kickstarter is if you have a real product and use the platform as a kind of pre-sale.”

The pair wasn’t ready to give up yet, and continued pitching the project around to investors and at business competition. “People upstate are like four or five years behind the times, and nobody seemed to get our vision,” says Chenell.

So when he got a call on Christmas day from an investor in Germany, “I just assumed it was one of my friends trying to prank me.” Turned out the offer from X.Million Venture Capital was legit, and it opened the door to additional interest. “Once there was one investor who seemed committed, a bunch more just started joining in,” says Chenell.

The pair ended up closing on a $200,000 round and will be moving into an office at General Assembly next week in the heart of New York’s tech district. “They have a great emphasis on design there, which is a big part of our background and one of the General Assembly founders, Brad Hargreaves, runs the NY Gaming Meetup, so we feel super excited,” says Chenell.

As Fred Wilson wrote, the notion that investors are trolling the site for potential projects is an interesting development that should spur even more interest in the fast growing service.

graFighters- The Story from Grafighters on Vimeo.

GraFighters: How a Failed Kickstarter Project Became a $200,000 Investment