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How I Crowdfunded The Biggest Project in Australia and Why you Need to be Smart About Your Co-founders : Part 2

2012-07-20 12.36.24

So we started building the guns, Dave had a contact who was an film armorer, A fellow Called Scott Warwick who was a gun at this (no pun intended) and a great guy to boot, so I went to talk to him about how to build them. He gave us a look at real M4 machine guns (pictured above) and their attachments, so I could start planning where we would put the parts to the tech.


The gallery below will give you an idea on how they were put together. It was a very long process and one that had zero testing, we did what we thought would work and just went for it. We had no time to make any test versions, and revise, it was plan and build straight to production versions and man that was a freaking nightmare. The triggers were hand made, the barrels were solid steel rods (making the guns very heavy – and we didn’t know at the time, until they started to break in half, but the rod had been cut in half to fit the electronics).

They were hardened rubber casts taken from the real thing, with the electronics moulded in… Let’s not start on how stupid an idea that was, but we were pressed for time and needed a solution right away.



We were building the guns, and it was the tech as well, mother boards, chips, and software to power them, the Wi-Fi infrastructure that they would connect to. The mother boards were designed by one of the friends of the lead tech, and we again went straight into production level with the boards, totally untested (we didn’t actually get to test the boards till only a few weeks before the launch of the game, Also, how were the zombies going to actually know they were hit? So they also needed their own tech, and sensors… We also needed to hire staff…. How many though?

Dave and Drew had found a venue, a 12,000 meter warehouse complex… It was massive… And they were planning out the actual event, where players play, what it would look like and so on. We needed more management, as I was knee deep in building websites, managing all customer service and online marketing, managing the guys who were building the tech, the outsourced gun maker, payroll and book keeping and on and on.

2012-07-19 13.41.44

By this time, we had an office and the campaign had finished at $260k, we were able to get Pozible to work with us to open the campaign as an ongoing sales portal and it kept selling… It went on to make about $310k in total from Pozible.

We had hired a few people now, a graphic designer to work with myself and the builders making collateral, a casting manager to hire the 200 actors needed. Yes, two hundred and also set designers, developers, builders, painters, costume makers and an few other hard working peeps.

I think you can tell that by this time we were going insane… So much work, so much pressure to deliver, and no idea of how to do it.

I finally got the booking engine up and running, and launched it (we were running low on cash by this point and needed more momentum) so it went live, and 10 min later it was broken. It just didn’t work very well, teams were booking times without having fully paid, It was confusing to navigate the purchase process, and it was slow, but, some of the time it worked and we started making an income again.

One thing you may see here is that we were building the project, technology and all, on the pre-sold tickets and something that we didn’t seem to be thinking about was how the hell would this event run for the months that we were selling tickets for? The event needed to run after tickets had been sold, but we needed the tickets to build the event.

No one really put a thought to how we were going to pay wages during the whole season.

So the site is live, the backstory sites are live, we had a webshop open and were selling shirts and so on, $50k in merchandise sitting in the back room.

The warehouse now had 20 people working 10 hours a day getting it ready, blacking out windows, putting up false walls, splattering red paint on the floors, building props and dead bodies…

Casting had run auditions and had hired all the actors and was training them on how to fall, scare people and so on…

We hit a bit of a problem (understatement) with the guns though, we needed to import a few things from the U.S. such as triggers, barrels for grenade launcher part (which is where we were housing the lazer tag components) and all the other little extra bits to make the guns look authentic, and Australian customs decided that we couldn’t have them… So we had to start building more pieces in house… It was getting stressful, but we kept going.

I am spending 16 hours a day by now, trying to deal with the broken booking engine (had to make the decision to rebuild it in ruby to deal with the issues, which cost again, what was paid to build the site in the first place) and we finally got that working and now we’re a month away from launch.. Still answering every email, tweet, Facebook message, YouTube comment, forum post and commenting on every random article that I found that spoke about us. We were posting a few videos on YouTube about the progress and going to conventions to promote the event… It’s getting a heap of attention now, and surprisingly, we wound up having big spikes in sales after a print newspaper ran a story, more than any online story. So maybe print isn’t as dead as we would imagine!

2012-10-06 17.52.32Ok, now it’s getting close, we have the sites, the venue the staff but still no tech… The guns had problem after problem, the main software developer I hired to build the tech was skilled, but totally unable to deliver, so we managed to find another guy to work with him. This kid was amazing, he worked around the clock, slept in the office more times than I can remember and just wouldn’t stop… Without Tim (pictured), that event would have died there and then. Massive props to him.

It’s getting close to launch, and I haven’t seen Dave or Drew for days, they are out on set, building the venue, and honestly, I don’t know what else…

Then we launch. On Halloween…

To be continued

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Benjamin S Powell

CEO & founder at DSA global
A Digital Marketing expert and CEO & founder of DSA Global. Ben has over 10 years experience solving complex business problems in both client and agency-side roles.

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