Kickstarter: fund amazing creativity

Anyone can help make creative projects a reality, reports Joseph Wang.

The Pebble Watch

Kickstarter is a ‘crowdfunding’ website that allows anyone to sign-up and pitch almost any sort of creative endeavor and collect money, called ‘pledges’, from individuals who are interested in seeing that vision come to fruition. These creative projects cover a wide range of hobbies and interests, such as the $1.4 million raised for a ‘Elevation iPhone Dock’ or the $3600 raised last month for an ‘Birds of Finland’ art project, painting the native birds of Finland.

The donations each user makes toward a project are split into tiers based on amount contributed. The project creator can specify various perks for various levels of contribution. In most cases there is a tier where you can pre-order the actual product; other benefits can range from limited editions to ridiculously exclusive experiences, such as VIP passes, personal performances, and lunch with the creators.

The site works on an all-or-nothing funding model, meaning a project must meet its funding targets within the 90 day limit, or no money from the pledges is charged. This helps to take a little of the risk out of giving money to some random stranger on the internet, or having to follow through with a half-funded project.

Kickstarter, despite having launched in 2008, has only recently managed to gain notable mainstream traction. Last week, dark cabaret performer Amanda Palmer (of the Dresden Dolls) used Kickstarter to raise over $1 million for her upcoming solo album, after splitting from her record label. Earlier in the year, game developer Double Fine raised $1 million in a single day (finishing funding at $3.3 million) for a new point-and-click adventure game. Design company Pebble Technology gathered over $10 million for their e-ink “smartwatch” that will be able to display messages from a smartphone.

Birds of Finland artwork

Other Kickstarter projects have now become major commercial successes. The Olloclip 3-in-1 fisheye/wide-angle/macro lens for the iPhone started off with 1300 backers on Kickstarter, and is now sold in the Apple Store. ‘Cards Against Humanity’, the politically incorrect, self-dubbed “party game for horrible people”, had 758 backers, and is now consistently defeating the likes of Lego and Nerf guns near the top of Amazon’s best-seller list.

It is not always a case of lofty ambitions though – most projects are small, in the realms of music and film. Almost half (46 per cent) of all projects make their targets, raising about $1000 to $5000 each.

However, there is a risk that the makers of a successfully funded project won’t follow through, or are unable to complete their brief. In July 2011, Seattle-based ZionEyez raised around $300,000 for a pair of video recording glasses, but ultimately underestimated the costs, and could not deliver. As Kickstarter doesn’t enforce refunds, the backers of this project were left seething and out of pocket. In another bizarre example, a project was cancelled before the funding due to inappropriate content; it was a satirical Japanese ‘tentacle rape comic’ card game.

Despite these seemingly small dangers, Kickstarter remains one of the most exciting places to be discovered as a project creator, and discover new and exciting projects to support. From pseudo-cyberpunk action comedy films to mocha-flavour coffee cubes, there’s really no end to weird and wacky things that are possible with people-power.

Urbanized’s director and photography; documentary funding through Kickstarter