Kickstarter – Crowd-sourcing our way to a better tomorrow

Kickstarter is a company that allows entrepreneurs, start-ups, and artistic (and unwashed) hippies to reach out to the masses to fund the research and development for their products. This also then allows the funders to act as early adopters of the products. Kickstarter is one of many crowd funding sites but is arguably the biggest, the most diverse, and the most successful; Wikipedia has a list of other similar sites.

Starting Projects

To get a project on Kickstarter, there are a couple guidelines to fulfill before getting the publicity that the site brings. First, the project must have a clearly defined goal and a well described end. This insures when people pledge money to a project, they know exactly what they are getting at the end of it.

The next guideline, and probably most important step, is the creator must have a marketing component advertising the final product. Almost every Kickstarter project does this with an introductory video or series of videos. Usually these videos follow a generic script where the project leader is introduced and gives some background on why he/she is creating this project. Then some renderings & prototype images are shown to give an idea of what the finished product is going to look like.

Funding Projects

Every project has a target amount of money it is trying to raise, which the project originators set for themselves, along with a deadline for when they want to reach their goals. Typically, the deadline is around 30 days, and most projects will get most of their funding during the last several days of the campaign.

Kickstarter uses an “all or nothing” funding approach; if the project reaches its target amount of money raised then the money is actually taken from the Backers, a person who pledges money towards a project. Conversely, if the financial target is not met, then no one is charged, and the project is closed.

Generally, there are different reward tiers based on how much money is pledged. These “Backer Rewards” vary by project, starting at a couple of dollars for basic rewards like the Backer’s name in the credits,to single or multiples of the product being produced, and up to Kickstarter maximum pledge of $10,000 for something exotic like flying out to meeting the design/production team (or them flying to you). This encourages Backers to spend a little extra for additional rewards and can help a project get funded faster

Sample Campaign video from Tex Murphy: Project Fedora during their “Tex Murphy has been kidnapped” promotion.

During projects, the companies can release updates showing new details of the project or new backer rewards to get more out of their current Backers and attract new ones. There have also been cases where there are promotions or drawings to go up in the Backer Rewards for winning games or completing tasks.

If a project gets fully funded before the deadline is reached, then the developer can go for “Stretch Goals”. These let the project owners expand the scope of what is supposed to be delivered from the initial project outline and can include hiring professionals to help, new content, and other bonuses.

Discovering Projects

Kickstarter gives lots of ways of finding projects, from categorically searching for popular projects, projects recently funded, and recently created projects; to searching for projects based on their geographical proximity to seekers.

It can be tough to find projects worth funding, as there are lots of projects that are recycled junk. As crowd sourcing projects become more popular, the increase in useless projects has greatly increased. There are still plenty of worthy projects out there, but it takes longer to find them. You only need so many iPod docks and cases.

The Plan

Over the next couple weeks, I will be reviewing some projects I have funded or have been following and posting reviews of their Kickstarter project, their current status, and my review of the product thus far. I will also include any now active or future Kickstarter projects that look interesting.

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