Have you heard of Kickstarter? It bills itself as “the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.” Kickstarter claims that every week, tens of thousands of people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields. The more I’ve delved into researching Kickstarter to see what it’s all about, the more I’ve seen that Kickstarter is really helping tech start-ups to produce creative gadgets and software. These companies’ projects are dependent upon convincing the audience – the same one that is willing to donate through Kickstarter – that the project will be a success. This model certainly makes user opinions a powerful force.
The original intention of Kickstarter was to provide funding for the creative arts but it soon became a logical place for technology funding, as well. After all, technology can easily fall into the creative category.
The consumerization of IT is dependent upon how users feel about technology. Through Kickstarter, a tech start-up has direct access to what users want.
This month, two Kickstarter projects passed the one million dollar mark on the same day. The first was Elevation Dock, which is an iPhone dock that stays put and fits iPhones with and without a case. It greatly improves on Apple’s original design and addresses some of the issues that users had with other iPhone docks. In its Kickstarter video, Elevation Dock shows multiple iPhone docks that don’t fit iPhones with cases, and that come off the desk when you try to take the iPhone out. Elevation Dock got started with Kickstarter in December of last year by Elevation Lab of Portland. Elevation Lab originally asked for a pledge of $75,000 from the Kickstarter community to make its state of the art iPhone dock. As of this writing, they’ve received nearly $1.5 million dollars from more than 12 thousand backers.
And then there’s Double Fine Adventure that astoundingly crossed the one million dollar mark in just one day. Double Fine’s project is a new game from Tim Schafer and 2 Player Productions. How did Double Fine Adventure become the golden child of Kickstarter? For starters, they had a very engaging video for their project. Maybe the fact that there will be a documentary of the process, whether they fail or succeed, was a big selling point for backers, too. There’s been some criticism of Kickstarter that backers could be funding projects that don’t get to see the light of day. With the documentary, there will be something to show for the project regardless of the outcome. But probably the biggest selling point for Double Fine Adventure is that they’re making a game that most publishers are not willing to produce. Double Fine Adventure clearly represents users dictating what they want the market to be, rather than game publishers having the final word.
Kickstarter gives power to the users by having an all or nothing policy with funding. If a project fails to get their minimum funding requested, the project does not go through, Kickstarter takes nothing, and backers are not charged. Only 44% of Kickstarter projects receive enough funding to go through. Kickstarter allows for many projects that probably would never see the light of day to harness the power of public opinion. Instead of being dependent on venture capitalists, Kickstarter gives technology start-ups another avenue of funding.
I could have used Kickstarter when I started my company back in 1996. I had no money, no partners and none of the venture capital firms were interested in giving me any money. But I got creative and we made it work. Now many of the companies that the VCs did believe are dead and gone and we’re thriving. Sweet redemption.
If projects are funded via Kickstarter, you’re pretty well guaranteed that there are future buyers. Many of these Kickstarter tech projects are successfully funded because they take what’s already working in the industry and combine it with original ideas. For example, take the mobile app Zombies, Run! This app combines gamification with story telling to create an engaging exercise mobile app.
Have you ever participated in funding a project on Kickstarter? Or tried to have one funded yourself? Tell me about it!