Kickstarting a many-media adventure

FOR INQUISITIVE MINDS ONLY: many-media adventure story seeks funding

Steve Hardy still likes getting stuff in the mail.

That’s perhaps why he was struck by his business partner’s 5-year-old son being completely perplexed by the concept of mail — when his father said they’d received some letters, the child corrected him by saying, “It’s email, not mail.”

If the notion that future generations won’t receive actual mail doesn’t freak you out and/or make you feel really old, know you’re not alone.

As the 35-year-old creator of Warms, an online gift-giving service, Hardy recognizes that online gestures are not always appreciated.

“Just sending an e-card is seen as shallow; an email or Facebook wall post is seen as kind of empty, even when your wishes are quite genuine,” he says.

That’s part of the reason he created the concept of Whenabouts, a many-media adventure he describes as a part-subscription, part-book, part-game and part-video series aimed at kids aged 8–13.

The thought that “This is very ambitious. We should start with something simpler” crossed his mind, but he and his team decided to go whole-hog.

They launched a Kickstarter drive nearly a month ago looking for a very lofty $200,000 to fund the project, which consists of many moving parts: a wooden box containing an incomplete journal and another 11 pieces of snail mail that reference different eras. For example, kids would get a floppy disk (1990s), a VHS sleeve (1980s), computer punch card (1970s) — and then their parents would snicker to themselves while watching their kids attempt to understand them and how to use them in their corresponding virtual experience, of which there are 12.

Hardy knows that tangible goods — particularly those that arrive in the mail — are seen to have greater value than comparable online products.

“It becomes disproportionately high because it becomes more meaningful,” he says. “There’s still value in having a genuine and authentic object.” That’s why he chose a vintage book format for the journal and real wood for the mystery boxes.

Unfortunately, though, with only three days remaining in their Kickstarter campaign, they look unlikely to hit their $200,000 goal. With 83 backers so far, Whenabouts has gathered just under $8,000 — not bad for a new and complicated concept, but nowhere near what they need to create all the products, ship them and also put food on the table.

If he had to go back and change one thing, Hardy says he would’ve considered planning the campaign closer to Christmas, when people were in gift-buying mode, despite one major catch-22: In order to have it done by Christmas so people could buy it as a gift, they’d have to start now.

Still, Hardy is considering other ways of getting Whenabouts out to the public. It may not be in Santa’s sleigh this December, but a many-media adventure story will surely find its way into children’s hands — and mailboxes — soon enough.

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