Anatomy of a $5M Week

It’s been a wild ride in the last seven days - since we launched Glowforge at Makerfaire, we’ve had more than $5M in pre-orders. To put that in perspective, the most-backed 3D printer in history (as best we can tell) raised $3.5M, and that took 30 days. If we were a Kickstarter, we’d be nipping at Levar Burton’s heels. And we still have three more to go.
I love numbers, and I’m somewhat embarrassed that, in all the fuss, we didn’t properly instrument conversion tracking on We know visitors, but not buyers. My bad. I’m going to share as much as I’ve got, regardless.
I’ll start with the stat that blew me away the most: top referrers. Knock me over with a feather. After direct and facebook, the number one referrer - by a huge margin - was Hacker News ( Not only did it deliver the numbers, but when compared to the averages, it killed in pages/session and bounce rate. I’m actually a little puzzled by the bounce rate one - how could 97% of people have not bounced? It boggles the mind. Something’s odd there.
I did miss something interesting there though: mobile facebook beat desktop. I don’t have an explanation for that at all; most of our traffic is desktop, so that doesn’t make sense. Another mystery. But it’s a good thing the site design is responsive.
In any case, twitter was next, then boingboing. Uncrate, producthunt, did an epic 22 minute hands on video so those all make sense. Then… Yonkis? I’ll save you an oops-click: Yonkis is quite NSFW, and entirely in Spanish. I’m just not sure what we’re doing there. Maybe someone who speaks Spanish (and isn’t at work) can tell me.
It’s cute to see Bing and Yahoo waving from the back of the bus. I was surprised Techcrunch punched so low. sent us some really engaged traffic (4.15 pages average, and look at the huge time on site!) and there were some solid contributions from articles in xconomy, geekwire, an old Wired article, and of course our board member Brad Feld. It’s good to have a board member who can drive $60k in revenue overnight with a blog post.
Moving on to actual orders, we had some internal bets about what % of total orders would come from overseas. At first I thought I was going down - I guessed 20%, but it was coming in at 10%. We knew it was going to be low because it’s stupidly expensive to ship a 46" x 29" x 16" box halfway around the world. I’ve investigated cheaper international shipping options before, but the time it would have taken to make this happen would have just come out of the logistics work that we needed to do to ship to the rest of our customers in a timely fashion.
But here’s the funny thing: the international percentages crept up, and are now nearly 20%. I think I know why. But to explain, I have to jump over to another set of analytics: customer support.
We’ve had 4,000 trouble tickets pour in since we launched. And that’s not counting the questions on Twitter, comment threads on articles, and the conversation on our own Discourse-powered board (for backers only) at As soon as we went live, we convened a war room in our hotel, and the entire company shuttled between booth duty doing demos (like this) and answering tickets. Our backlog exploded as thousands of tickets went unanswered.
We’ve got things under control now and are clearing out the last 800 or so backlogged tickets, but what we found was that international customers had a disproportionate number of questions. As we answered them, they started buying. That was unexpected, but cool - we unlocked a ton of revenue by ceasing to suck at support.
Finally, the sales breakdown. We got a lot of stuff wrong, but this was probably the biggest. We offer three models: basic, basic with air filter, and pro with air filter. Everything seen on our site can be made with the basic, and it’s priced at about a fifth of the most popular lasers from companies like Epilog and Trotec. We figured people were going to flood to it, then maybe upgrade to the air filter. The air filter is another steal because similar hardware goes for $2,500, but it’s just $500 additional. But our favorite offering was the Pro model. We almost didn’t make it available - paradox of choice and all - and we thought people might not want it. It’s meaningfully more expensive at $3,995. But it’s the one all of us are getting. It’s faster (upgraded optics and tube). It can run all day (upgraded cooling). And it has a passthrough, coupled with software to optically track the material as it goes through - so you can cut material that’s 20" x 8 feet long. Laser furniture!
The Pro has a big drawback though: while the Basic is a Class 1 laser device (like a blu-ray player), the passthrough makes the Pro a Class IV device. It requires safety precautions like warning signs and safety goggles. Anyway, our rough guess was something like 50% basic, 40% basic + air, 10% pro.
Knock me over with a feather: the mix turned out to be 23% basic, 29% basic + air, 48% pro. Everyone wants the Glowforge Pro. Which is awesome, because we know Pro users are going to have the best possible Glowforge experience, and we really want as many people as possible to have that. (Safely though! Make sure you don’t have little ones around if you’re buying the Pro, and read up on laser safety).
That’s what we’ve got for data so far - hope it proves interesting!


Some of those conversion stats look amazing; it’d be great to see the sort of traffic you got on the first day vs the traffic over the last 7 days. As an international user I’ve been going back and forth on the Pro while asking questions and checking out the Q&A’s people have been posting both here and on Reddit, but it’s been really difficult.

On one hand; this is a 1st generation product and I’ll probably be thinking “why didn’t I just get the Pro?” when I have the basic in my hands; on the other, the difference in price is huge and it’s not just because it’s twice the price; but because I then have to pay $1383USD to ship it here (Australia) + then I’ll still have to pay an additional 10% tax on import.

So I can buy a Basic at around $2937 ($1995 + $675 shipping + 10% GST) but the jump to Pro is an additional $2978! (total is $3995 + $1383 shipping + 10% GST) … all up this works out to $4178AUD for just the basic; or $8415AUD for the Pro.

On that note; does the price take into account local US taxes and are those dropped from the international buyers cost?

Another question from what you’ve said above; you mentioned all of you are getting the Pro due to it being faster / the passthrough etc, but then you say

Is there a cooling period required between jobs for the Basic? Because I’m going to need to know this something we must watch out for if we’re planning on running it 8 hours a day for the first week …cutting up any usable material we can get our hands on… :smiley:

In regards to your question about taxes, the US does not have a VAT and our excise taxes only cover alcohol, tobacco, hunting & fishing equipment and medical devices (which are exempt if shipped outside the US or to a veterinarian) so you shouldn’t be paying our Uncle Sam anything extra. For customers having the unit shipped to an address in Washington state I would expect glowforge to collect WA sales tax. To those of us who live in another US state or territory we’re on the honor system for paying sales tax (the equivalent to your 10% GST.)

@dan I bought the Pro because of the 20" by infinity length of material and the filter. I live near the frozen tundra so venting outside means allowing freezing air inside most of the year if you’re not careful aka not worth the hassle for $500. Since you were expecting only a 10% Pro mix does that imply Basics will be shipping earlier? Assuming your funding ticker on the website is near real time I’m close to the top of the list (was at $88k when I started buying, was at $103k when I finished), but it would be nice to know if the Pros will be shipping concurrent with the first Basics or if they’ll be delayed say a quarter as the team finishes stuff. And finally, I added myself to your email list the day the original Wired story was published.

I’m simply amazed when I check the glowforge homepage every morning to see where the funding level is at. I wish I would have purchased my pro on launch day (i was a little hesitant) when funding levels were in the low hundreds of percent when I finally ordered the next morning funding had skyrocketed to over 2000% well done guys! I just hope I get mine before the end of 2016 :smile:

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Congrats on your first full week. I too am wishing that I had just pulled the trigger on Day one, but fiscal responsibility took hold, and I had to make sure it was the right thing to do first :slight_smile: So that being said and I am sure it is too early to give specifics, but in the Tested interview you mention “shipping over the next few quarters”… given that I didnt get in until Monday, am I looking at waiting until Q2 of 2016 before this ships, or will you be getting all the pre-orders out in December (fingers crossed). I already have co-workers lining up outside my cube to get stuff cut or engraved.

Thanks for the great questions!
@krusher: We haven’t finished thermal profiles of the systems yet but it depends strongly on ambient temperature. If you’re running it in 80 degrees, you’re going to want Pro. At room temperature, depending on what you’re doing (cutting takes more heat than engraving, continuous cuts more than discontinuous lines, etc), Basic will need to cool after a typical job while Pro won’t.

We haven’t decided whether we’re producing one or the other model first. We’ll let everyone know if there’s a time advantage to ordering Pro or Basic before we lock that down so you can change model if they want (without losing their place in line).


@dan I would be pretty disappointed if the Glowforge that I pre-ordered a couple of hours into the pre-order campaign was pushed back to first or second quarter 2016 (or later) while orders placed now or even later this month might come through in December or early first quarter 2016. That steals a lot of the joy of following you guys for months and getting involved early… :frowning:

First, we are very excited about our Glowforge! And very happy to see how successful your initial sales have been. That said,

It would be terribly disappointing to have to wait even longer to receive my glowforge merely because I ordered the basic. We ordered within hours of pre-orders being opened, and purchased a basic because it is the safest and most affordable option in a household with small children, and because we don’t require pass-through (if the bed depth were deeper we would have purchased the pro). I would hate to be punished merely because I made an informed decision based upon need and the safety of my family. I hope you will keep all of your supporters in mind as you begin production and not just those who purchased a pro.

Ultimately the factory production process is going to determine which units to produce first, of course. We’ll keep everyone fully informed of the results of that decision so they have time to adjust their plans accordingly, and we’ll continue to allow you to do that without losing your reservation time.

Now that would be a good marketing ploy, tell everyone that the pro will deliver first so people are motivated to upgrade. I ordered a basic on the first day of the campaign so I could get one of the first models off the line. Now I find I may have to wait longer than expected for a basic or pay twice the price to get a pro earlier? not cool!

No, that’s not what you’re finding at all. Please don’t drum up drama about a decision that hasn’t even been made.

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And you have inside information on this?

There’s no inside information to be had, simply because nothing was stated one way or the other.

@diegomonzon: We don’t have numbers yet, but we’re designing Basic to function in 70 degrees and likely won’t be doing much testing at higher ambient temperatures. If you’re running in a hot area, I would recommend Pro. I’ll see if we can make that more clear.

I tend to run my AC around 76°F, I would hope that the basic model could still operate properly in that climate. $1500 on top of the basic unit with filter is a hefty price increase just to allow me to use it year round.

Any chance of offering a chiller/cooler for the basic model? For my needs I do not need the higher camera options, 45 watt laser, or the pass through.

After 9 days, you’re up to $6M so I’m wondering what the chance of two production lines would be? Pro and Basic, being assembled at the same time? I can definitely see a LOT of people being upset here when the Pro is announced as the one that will be delivered first (just guessing, but it DOES sound like the Pro may be first and I guess there’s a 50/50 shot). I was an early bird (Day 1 when funding was less than 800k) and I cannot afford the Pro. But I don’t need it. The Basic will handle my needs. Obviously my vote is for Basics first, especially if they are the higher number of units sold. I cannot upgrade to Pro, so I will be anxiously watching (as will many Basic backers) the news here – I can’t float you $2500 if my GF won’t arrive until Dec 2016. Even June/July 2016 is pushing it. You’ve got us excited, Dan… so please do your best to get us some estimated delivery times as soon as you can do so. I’d hate to cancel, but I can use that $2500 to purchase other equipment in 2016.


Yeah…You’ve got to at least come close to the delivery expectation you’ve already set at launch. You said December of 2016 for pre-orders. I don’t mind if it’s put off a month or two, but certainly not a half year or more later. I’ve maxed out my referrals inside one week, and imo…if there weren’t a limit on how many I could get, I’d probably upgrade to a pro, and continue to push the free marketing.

I too have no need for a pro, and with an added fan on the exhaust, I can’t believe there will be a need for the basic to have to cool down. I have a 400 cfm squirrel cage I’ll be attaching to the exhaust, and with that much movement, the entire thing should be practically under vacuum. LOL

You should write this up as a blog post and post it to hacker news, twitter et al, you’ll probably get an uptick in traffic and maybe more sales with a compelling CTA. Maybe have the post interspersed with things that were being made at maker faire?


Just to comment on the Pro vs Standard. I honestly believe the only real selling feature on the Pro is the pass through slot.

If you had offered a basic with the pass through feature even has a upgrade $$$ like the filter you would have sold fewer Pro units.

I bought the Pro for this feature alone.

  1. I don’t want the filter
  2. The Pro tube doesn’t help with cutting thicker materials
  3. No one could quantify the optics
  4. I keep hearing “unsafe” the pro unit laser is.

If you guys change your minds and offer the pass through on the basic unit or even leave the feature enabled in the firmware, so I could tweak the enclosure I’d definitly buy the basic. Heck I’d buy 2!

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I would have considered the basic if it had had the cooling of the pro for the tube.