Ubuntu (or, some division of Canonical) is trying to raise $32 million to produce a phone. This is a wonderfully audacious goal, and yet makes a number of classic mistakes in fund raising. As we’ve seen, to sell me something you need a plausible story about how your product or service is going to get me laid or make me money.

I want the Edge to succeed, it looks like a cool product. It’s just such a shame that, time and again, crowdfunding pitches are so wrapped up in their product they don’t even tell you what it is. Canonical probably has a great team of people building this thing, they’re 99% of the way there. But the last 1%, arguably the most important, is the sales pitch. With more spit and polish this thing could sell itself.

The campaign begins with these bullet points. When reading these, remember, this is the very first thing a random Joe will read. You have about 10-20 seconds to get me interested:

Exclusive to Indiegogo backers. The Edge will NOT be available to buy at launch.

Okay, exclusivity is something lots of people will care about, this is interesting. Exclusivity will get me laid. Would be nice to know what this Edge thing is though. Note, again, we have no idea what an Edge is yet.

Specs to be finalised as late as possible to ensure the best available components.

This is neutral to bad. I either don’t care about the specs (nobody buys an iPhone knowing the speed of the processor) or this looks like it’s too early and the product isn’t near finalized. Still, I don’t know what an Edge is.

Dual-boots into Ubuntu mobile OS and Android; converts into a full desktop PC.

As an average consumer, I have no idea what Ubuntu is. We can put that aside and pretend we are only targeting Ubuntu users. You know, Ubuntu users, those spendy, trendy and highly monetizable Freedom ideologists. I’ve heard of Android, my friends use it so that sounds good. This desktop PC thing is kind of confusing but potentially interesting. I already have a laptop or iPad though. Ok, starting to get a hint about this Edge thing.

Works with LTE and GSM networks, including Verizon and Sprint.

Consumer doesn’t care. Still playing the “guess what Edge is” game.

Perks include all charges for US and UK, including VAT and delivery.

I’m getting what I pay for, no additional fees. I’d hope most reputable businesses do that anyway. What is Edge?

Standard manufacturer warranty will apply once manufacturer is selected.

As above. Why even mention this?

Zero cost to backers if the campaign is unsuccessful.

I have no idea what this even means. And I still don’t know what Edge is.

So, that’s it. My 10+ seconds to get me hooked is gone and you lost me, Mr. Average Consumer.

Now, their opening paragraph:

What is Ubuntu Edge?

In the car industry, Formula 1 provides a commercial testbed for cutting-edge technologies. The Ubuntu Edge project aims to do the same for the mobile phone industry — to provide a low-volume, high-technology platform, crowdfunded by enthusiasts and mobile computing professionals. A pioneering project that accelerates the adoption of new technologies and drives them down into the mainstream.

Instead of taking that apart right now, let’s rewrite it in to something that would sell to a consumer, noting that we’d push this paragraph to the top and remove the bullet points above.

What is Ubuntu Edge?

Edge is the best phone money can buy, crowdfunded by people like you. Edge is the sleekest, most powerful and best designed Android phone and it’s only available for a limited time here to our early backers. More than Android, Edge also runs the cutting-edge Ubuntu operating system and when plugged in to a monitor turns in to a fully-fledged PC.

Okay, step-by-step:

Edge is the best phone money can buy, crowdfunded by people like you.

We start by answering the title question, what the fuck is this thing? It’s a phone! Note their paragraph has some strange analogy about Formula 1 (who knows what that is, maybe it’s like the Indy 500?) and doesn’t even come out and say it’s a phone. We make a big claim, followed by some basic psychology of influence. Tell me it’s bought by people like me, and I’m much more likely to buy it.

Edge is the sleekest, most powerful and best designed Android phone and it’s only available for a limited time here to our early backers.

Next we make some grand claims about how this thing is the best on every metric possible. Then we spice it up by noting this deal is going away (buy soon!) while hinting again at how exclusive and amazing you are, as an early backer. We anchor the device on Android. Consumers know what Android is, they don’t have a clue about Ubuntu or magical phones-that-turn-in-to-PCs. Hardcore Ubuntu fans can be placated later in the page with tech specs and Ubuntu screenshots.

More than Android, Edge also runs the cutting-edge Ubuntu operating system and when plugged in to a monitor turns in to a fully-fledged PC.

Now we use that Android anchor to hint at all the other cool shit this phone can do. The hypothetical Ubuntu OS and PC stuff, which might be usable, to someone, one day in the future. Maybe, we don’t have data to support that yet. We turn around these strange features from the core of the product, to “it’s better than your friends’ Android, plus it does this other stuff“.

The economics of this are kind of painful. For $830 (maybe a little less) I might get a phone next year. Compare that to walking in to any store and buying a phone today which does everything I think I need for maybe a quarter of the price. Thus, three-quarters of the price of the Edge has to represent the value I get from exclusivity, Ubuntu OS, transforms-in-to-PC, pretty design… and all the other features. That’s a tough sell, and the indiegogo landing page doesn’t do it the justice it deserves.

tl; dr; hire some sales guys and copy writers.