Reflecting on Sunlight’s first Kickstarter

The "Save Sitegeist" Kickstarter campaign image.

Today marks the end of Sunlight’s first Kickstarter, an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to save our Sitegeist app. While we’re sad to retire this aging project, it was rewarding to connect with its many fans and even recruit new ones.

One month ago, we created a Kickstarter campaign to breathe new life into Sitegeist, an app we built in late 2012 to see data about an area visually. We were encouraged to revive this project due to sustained downloads and usage numbers for an app that was honestly a shell of its former glory. Even as the data aged and certain sources stopped working, there were regular users and ardent fans.

With these encouraging signs, we focused the campaign on small donations from the existing fan base. We sought to foster and reconnect with the engaged users. We individually emailed the 700+ users who contacted us with feedback over the years and sent newsletters to our mailing list. We did regular social media outreach, contacted those who tweeted about the project and even wrote to journalists who covered real estate, a new user base we had not expected when the app launched. The messaging behind the campaign was to save Sitegeist, not to build a new app called Sitegeist. It became clear as outreach continued, those who were not familiar with Sitegeist loved the idea. Unfortunately, it’s a harder pitch to fund an existing project than it is to fund a new project. New is sexy.

We attempted to pivot to the newer fans by putting Sitegeist back in the app stores and creating a new funding level aimed at real estate users. It didn’t work. We only received $6,366 towards the goal of $45,000. More than 5,000 people watched the video, but only 277 people pledged money. The average donation was $22.98, and being featured in the This Week in Kickstarter newsletter drove almost 30% of the pledges. In the end, more than 120,000 people downloaded the app, and in October a panel of real estate experts selected for Boston Agent Magazine’s Best In Real Estate Tech issue named Sitegeist the Best Neighborhood App and called it an “amazing little app that is easy to use and graphically beautiful.” Other accolades include winning a Core77 Design Award for Interaction, being a Webby Honoree in the categories of Best Use of GPS or Location Technology and Education and Reference.

It may seem disheartening to get this result, but throughout the campaign we found support well beyond financial pledges. People still love Sitegeist and were not afraid to tell us. It really means a lot to get emails that say “Hey I love your app!” and “Fantastic. Really, this app is wonderful” and “Oh My God. That is all that I can say. This application is absolutely the most amazing thing I’ve come across.”

Thank you!

The next steps for Sitegeist are to officially retire it by taking it out of the app store and deprecating the data seen to those who already have it. The code for the project is open source and available on Github (main code, iOS app, Android app). While we’re shuttering the app, it’s still an idea that resonated with a lot of people, so we don’t know what the future will hold.

Thank you to all the new and old fans of Sitegeist!