A Personal Look at Kickstarter

Lots of noise around the interwebs these days about crowdsourcing, especially in the subcategory of crowdfunding. It isn’t exactly a new thing, in fact it is an extremely old (For American values of old anyway.) way of getting things done. Barn raisings are an age old form of crowdsourcing, that is still practiced today. The only thing that has really changed is what is being worked on and the number of people that can contribute.

Kickstarter is of course the big name in crowdfunding, with literally millions of dollars being pledged there daily. They are not the only game in town by any means. IndieGoGo is probably their best known competitor, with two big differences: Allowing projects from all over the world (Kickstarter is US and UK only) and the option of flexible funding (The creator can elect to take any funds raised even if the goal is not met, rather than Kickstarter’s all or nothing approach.) There is also RocketHub, which also has flexible funding and worldwide access. And I have heard of several other sites that are more specialized, focusing on science projects or non-profits, but I have not directly experienced
any of them yet.

My first encounter with Kickstarter was in July of 2011, following a link from Twitter to a project for a system to hold an SLR camera safely, out of the way, but easily accessible, the Capture Camera Clip System, by Peak Design. It turned out to be a very nice system, and I am certainly glad I got it, but other things were happening in my life at the time, so I didn’t spend any more time on Kickstarter, so it faded from my awareness.

Until January of 2012 anyway. That is when I found out about the Order of the Stick kickstarter Reprint Drive that was attempting to raise enough money to get the dead tree editions of The Order of the Stick web comic back in print. (Side note: If you are into RPGs, especially D&D, and you haven’t been reading The Order of the Stick, then stop reading this and go start at the beginning. This will still be here when you are done in a couple of days.) I had been wanting the paper collections, but they were out of print, so I was having to wait. I quickly jumped on the chance to get all four of the main books (I already had the prequels) more cheaply than I could have through a store. Plus the other odds and ends that got added as stretch goals. It was a very successful project, the only comics project to raise over $1 million dollars as I write this.

And then I was hooked. It seemed like every time I turned around, there was another neat project being mentioned on Twitter, or on a forum I was reading, or in a news article. Pretty soon I had pledges out on a lot of projects. and I knew of a few coming up that I was determined to pledge to. And I was having a hard time keeping track of what I had pledged to whom, and what rewards I was supposed to get when. So I started an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of them all. I like playing around with it, adding things to determine various percentages and totals. All of these numbers are as of this writing. They will change.

  • Total projects backed                161
  • Kickstart Projects backed         155
  • Unsuccessful Projects backed    19
  • Rewards received                        58
  • Past Due rewards                        30
  • # of 2012 project pledges           133
  • # of 2013 projects pledges           27

I have backed 5 projects on IndieGoGo (all in 2012) and 1 on RocketHub (2013). Neither of those sites appeals to me the way Kickstarter does. Possible the interface or maybe the flexible funding. It is purely a personal reaction, I don’t think there is anything wrong with either site, or the projects on them, and I am certain there are plenty of people that feel just the opposite of what I do. I have more information then this of course. Average pledge amount per project, total pledged, projects backed in each category, etc.

While I knew I was backing a lot of projects, I didn’t realize quite how unusual I was. According to Kickstarter’s data for 2012, out of over 2.2 million backers last year, only 452 backed 100 projects or more. I guess that is one way to make it into the 0.1%.

Looking at all of these projects, plus the ones that I didn’t back, has lead me to form some opinions about what does and doesn’t work for successful Kickstarter projects. I have even been asked just that by a Kickstarter creator. But that will have to wait for my next post, because this one is already a bit long, and I will probably be quite long-winded. But don’t worry, I won’t wait as long before the next post as I did since my last one.

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