The first project I supported on Kickstarter blew up, received a staggering 9,200 orders, and then failed to send out anything at all.
It was fun to be part of what seemed like a tremendous success – nothing like email updates from elated creators -- and I personally didn’t mind never receiving my reward.
Supporting my next few projects worked out even better. We were a small community of backers, each and every one of us bringing the project a little closer to funding and reality, and you could actually feel a smile spreading on the creator’s face when they read and replied to our comments. And those entrepreneurs fulfilled their orders beautifully!
In case you aren’t familiar with reward crowdfunding, platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo enable creators of films, tech gadgets, books, designs and pretty much anything creative to get funded by the general public. In return, backers receive a reward, which is usually the fruit of that creation.
Whenever I despair of the downsides of our fast-paced, distracted, screen addicted times – I seriously think the affliction caused by scrolling down feeds and going through the rabbit hole of hyperlinks will be defined eventually as a medical condition, complete with staging of disease severity, treatment modalities and prognosis, which will not always be bright; some brains have been irreversibly ADHDed – I think of the applications that make me optimistic about humankind. Airbnb is one of them. Kickstarter is another. Complete strangers, coming together in the spirit of trust.
And so I set out to try the other side of Kickstarter. I set out to create a project of my own.
Creators go on Kickstarter for many different reasons. For me, it was first of all to create a new project with a community of early testers. The goal is to get feedback early on, further perfect the product and packaging, and to also provide proof of the concept. When it comes to an innovative product, you really need to demonstrate demand in order to get retailers to place it on shelf.
As an entrepreneur engrossed in bringing a project to life, one can become quite isolated, and the thought of a community of early adopters with different, fresh points of view, is especially appealing.
And so, after years of making this product in my own kitchen, and months of prep for the campaign, I pressed the “Launch Now” button.
What happens when you launch a Kickstarter
The media reports on Kickstarter projects that are enormously overfunded, which propagates even more backer support, and spreads the false notion that Kickstarter fame is common.
It’s actually exceedingly rare.
Most projects fail to reach their funding goal, and since Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing kind of thing, the backers' credit card aren’t charged and the creator gets no funding. The projects that do reach their goal usually do so with the help of tens, sometimes a few hundred backers. There are thousands of live projects on Kickstarter, so directing attention to any one project isn’t easy.
If you’re lucky to have friends and family, and you let them know you’re doing something new and interesting, they’ll cheer you along and give you the first boost.
But one thing’s for sure: the moment you press that button, you’ll start getting tons of offers for “services”. Some of them clever, some spammy, some outright fraudulent, some actually may be helpful – I’ll devote another post and share my experience to help future project creators to sort through this pile of proposals.
And then, after the initial flurry of activity, it might quiet down. And you might feel like not enough people showed up to your party. Or no people at all.
One of the secrets of crowdfunding is that the crowd isn’t already there, waiting for your beautiful creation. You need to bring the crowd. And without a crowd there’s no crowdfunding.
A cheery thing to do during a mid campaign lull
I set out a few hours to work on my campaign. After I swore that I won’t spend another penny on Facebook boosts – others may have a different conclusion, but I find Facebook to be a money (and time) pit; lots and lots of empty likes and that’s just about it – I thought to myself, let’s look around and spend that small budget with fellow creators.
It was that Friday morning that I completely fell in love with Kickstarter yet again.
I met Sarah Bee, a hilarious author from London, who’s writing Will Of The People: A Brexit Bedtime Story, the tragicomic picture book that “48 percent of Brexit Britain deserves”.
I met Todd Platzer, of Zero Deodorant, a deodorant for dudes, with zero bad stuff (and that includes underarm ugly stains). I need that for my men!
I met John Rap, whose dream it is to stuff a pepperoni pizza in a red pepper. I backed him with just $1 even though I’m vegetarian (making his $10 goal that much closer), because receiving his updates – videos, experiments with controls, and a hungry dog lurking by -- are funny, lighthearted, and make my day!
I chatted with many creators in a span of a few hours. They are not famous for crushing it on Kickstarter. They are creative people making something they're passionate about, and sharing it with the world.
And if passion and creativity inspire you, a tour of the lesser-known projects on Kickstarter will encourage you.
In case you’re wondering how my project is faring, here it is. I, like all the other project creators I’ve interacted with, would love to hear your comments, opinions, and questions.