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- Date Established
- Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY
- Most popular business/creative crowdfunding site
- Suited for large businesses
- Industry-standard fees
- Excellent media outreach
- Limited customer support
- Not all project proposals are accepted
- All-or-nothing funding
Ever since the World Wide Web was foisted upon a grunge-ridden populace in the early-to-mid 90s, there have been attempts to use the internet’s attention-aggregation power to solicit funds for people, projects, and institutions that otherwise would struggle for funding. However, it wasn’t until April 28th, 2009 that Kickstarter — a company whose name has become a byword for crowdfunding in general — was launched.
Based in part on monetizing the internet generation’s social identification with the ethos of the creative class, Kickstarter is dedicated to the crowdfunding of creative projects, not charity or personal use. Unlike such services as Indiegogo or GoFundMe, your project must meet its fundraising goals within a set period of time before you receive any funding. Furthermore, if and when your project comes to fruition, you are obligated to provide “rewards” for your backers. These rewards must be of your own creation.
According to their website, Kickstarter has seen over 3.7 billion dollars pledged to its projects, over 144,000 successfully funded projects, and over 14 million total backers. While Kickstarter is not without its critics, it occupies a commanding position in the crowdfunding field in terms of the amount of media attention it receives. In an effort to demonstrate its commitment to social responsibility, Kickstarter reincorporated as a Benefit Corporation in 2015, creating a legal obligation for them to consider societal benefits, not just shareholders, when making corporate decisions.
Let’s take a closer look at this popular crowdfunding platform.
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Table of Contents
Kickstarter provides a platform for users to raise funds from individual backers for creative projects. When you start a Kickstarter project, you must choose from the following categories:
- Film & Video
You can launch a Kickstarter campaign from the U.S., most of Western Europe, Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Singapore. Backers can support a Kickstarter project from anywhere in the world.
Kickstarter lays out five rules that all projects must follow in order to qualify for crowdfunding:
- Projects must create something to share with others
- Projects must be honest and clearly presented
- Projects can’t fundraise for charity
- Projects can’t offer equity
- Projects can’t involve prohibited items
All projects must be approved by Kickstarter before they can go live. Approval can take up to three days.
Terms and Fees
These are the terms and fees for Kickstarter’s fundraising campaigns:
|Funding duration:||Up to 60 days|
|Payment processing fee:||3% + $0.20 per pledge|
|Payment processing fee for pledges under $10:||5% + $0.05 per pledge|
Stripe is Kickstarter’s payment processor, so they’ll be getting a cut of each pledge to a successful funding campaign. I say “successful,” because if a project’s funding period ends without the funding goal being met, no money is collected (and no fees are applied). Therefore, when considering how much funding you’ll need to realize your vision, take into account the chunk of your fundraising haul that will be gobbled up by fees.
Note that while you can set a funding period of up to 60 days, Kickstarter recommends a funding period of 30 days or less, citing internal data that showed projects lasting 30 days or fewer having a greater shot at meeting their goals.
As I said, part of the terms of launching a Kickstarter project and accepting support from backers is that you provide physical rewards for your backers upon completion of the project. The rewards you offer can depend on the level of support pledged — for instance, you could offer trading cards to those who make $10 pledges, a copy of your board game project for $100, and a special edition of your board game complete with posters and expansion packs for $500.
I use the example of a board game because such games are one of Kickstarter’s most popular categories of project, helping to fuel the current “golden era” of strategy-based art-heavy tabletop games.
If you’re a permanent resident of any of the countries listed in the Services Offered section, you can apply to launch a Kickstarter project, provided the following qualifications are met:
- You are 18 or older
- You are creating a project in your own name, or on behalf of a registered legal entity with which you are affiliated
- You have an address, bank account, and government-issued ID based in the country in which you’re creating a project
- If running your project as an individual, the linked bank account must belong to you
- You have a major credit or debit card
Starting a project is quite straightforward. You begin the process on the website, where you choose a category and verify your eligibility. You can then enter some basic information about your campaign, set your rewards and shipping costs, add a video and a detailed project description to establish your story, add some profile information with links to your social accounts, and confirm your identity.
Once you’ve submitted your project for review, you’ll either pass the automated check and be able to launch your campaign immediately, or you’ll be flagged for additional scrutiny and have to wait up to three days to launch. Kickstarter estimates that about 80% of the projects submitted are accepted.
Sales & Advertising Transparency
Every step of the crowdfunding process, from the initial application to completion, is detailed on Kickstarter’s website in a very straightforward manner. Nothing feels sales-y or deceptive. As Kickstarter only earns fees on successfully completed fundraising campaigns, they have little incentive to rope people into trying their platform who don’t already have a serious project in mind.
Customer Service & Technical Support
Kickstarter may be the 800-pound gorilla of the crowdfunding industry, but their level of customer support doesn’t really reflect that. The only way to get in touch with Kickstarter is to submit a support ticket and wait to be contacted via email. This doesn’t give project creators (or backers, for that matter) access to the quick support they may need in the event of a mishap.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Some Kickstarter users have grown disillusioned at the direction the company has taken over recent years. A Huffpost article by Nathan Resnick titled “Why Kickstarter Is Corrupted” highlights the effect that paid advertising, investor-backed campaigns, and crowdfunding agencies have had in sucking the air out of the room, giving an advantage to big players and moneyed interests in the crowdfunding process and leaving smaller creators and outfits — Kickstarter’s original target audience — at a distinct disadvantage.
Beyond these trends, complaints abound from both creators and backers over a variety of issues. Kickstarter currently has a 1.9 out of 10 rating on Trustpilot, where you’ll find a number of complaints regarding poor customer service, unreliable campaigns that fail to deliver on their promises even when fully funded, and lousy support for creators — even those with a track record of successful projects. Others report finding unexplained credit card charges that Kickstarter failed to explain or rectify.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials
In a field like crowdfunding, there is always going to be a significant element of risk. Most professional reviewers still give Kickstarter high marks, however, praising the fact that Kickstarter is more discerning than its competitors in determining which projects it allows, as well as the fact that backers will be refunded in the event that a campaign doesn’t reach its fundraising goals. Others note that Kickstarter attracts many more unique site visitors than the competition and that Kickstarter’s media outreach is second-to-none. In short, your project (if substantial enough) is more likely to accumulate both press attention and backers on Kickstarter than it would if you launched your campaign on another crowdfunding site.
Kickstarter sits atop the crowdfunding world, and the ways in which Kickstarter takes advantage of its position have led many to question its usefulness to the same small-time inventors and creatives that crowdfunding was supposed to benefit in the first place. Nevertheless, it remains an excellent place to look if you have a dream you want to involve the creative community in, particularly if your project involves art, films, or games. Kickstarter is certainly an avenue worth pursuing if you have a project you think may pique the interest of hobbyists, geeks, and other creative types looking to involve themselves in the next big thing. Sure beats trying to get a bank loan!
To those naysayers who doubt the power of Kickstarter’s crowdfunding to change our lives for the better and give us all a vision of a more just, prosperous, and beautiful world, I present unto you the RompHim.
We are all blessed to bear witness to this era of history.
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