Top 4 Alternatives to Kickstarter
Over the course of the past decade, crowdfunding has come to play a key role in raising business capital. If you’re considering going the crowdfunding route in launching a startup business or securing funds to launch a new product, chances are high that you’ve looked into Kickstarter. They’re arguably the biggest name in the industry, and for good reason. At latest count, Kickstarter has seen $3 billion pledged to projects on their site, over 13 million total backers, and over 127 thousand successfully funded projects. As I said in my Kickstarter review, they’ve earned their position at the top and are particularly well-suited to creative projects involving such things as films, tech, and tabletop games.
However, other companies and entrepreneurs may find Kickstarter to be ill-suited to their purposes. For one thing, Kickstarter requires every campaign on their site to offer remuneration to their backers in the form of physical rewards — rewards that must be of your own creation. One of Kickstarter’s five rules campaigners must follow to use their site is “Projects must create something to share with others.” Obviously, not every entrepreneur or business project is involved in the creation of physical widgets, so providing physical rewards to backers isn’t going to be practical for everyone. What’s more, Kickstarter is one of the more selective crowdfunding platforms, so your project may well have potential and yet be found lacking by Kickstarter in their pre-screening process (a process many crowdfunders lack).
Another limiting factor with Kickstarter is that one can launch a campaign only from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, most of Western Europe, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. This leaves out some rather large portions of the world.
Beyond this, some users of Kickstarter have felt burned by the platform’s practices, a phenomenon which contributes to Kickstarter’s relatively weak score on Trustpilot. Still others have noted worrying trends in Kickstarter’s practices. A HuffPost article by Nathan Resnick titled “Why Kickstarter Is Corrupted” details some of the concerns long-time users have had with the platform over the years, including the rise of paid advertising, investor-backed campaigns, and crowdfunding agencies. In short, it’s getting tougher for the little guy to get a Kickstarter project funded as moneyed interests tilt the playing field.
Let’s take a look at some alternative crowdfunding platforms and their suitability to entrepreneurs and small-to-medium-sized businesses.
Indiegogo (see our review) was launched in 2008 at the Sundance Film Festival. As the name suggests, it was originally intended to be a crowdfunding platform devoted to supporting independent films. However, it didn’t take long for them to broaden their reach. Indiegogo now hosts crowdfunding campaigns for both business and charitable campaigns. Unlike Kickstarter, Indiegogo is a truly global crowdfunding platform; you can launch a crowdfunding campaign from pretty much any country on the planet.
I should note that along with Indiegogo’s standard crowdfunding platform, they offer an equity crowdfunding platform (through a partnership with MicroVentures) called First Democracy VC. These equity crowdfunding campaigns must be U.S.-based and face a fairly stringent approval process before they can go live. I’m focusing more on Indiegogo’s standard crowdfunding site here.
Indiegogo differentiates itself from Kickstarter in a number of ways. First of all, while Kickstarter’s crowdfunding campaigns are all-or-nothing — meaning you only get to keep what you raise if you meet your funding goal — Indiegogo gives you the choice of launching either an all-or-nothing campaign OR a keep-what-you-raise campaign, where you keep whatever people contribute regardless of whether or not you meet your funding goal. While there are merits to either campaign approach — a keep-what-you-raise campaign may seem safer, but an all-or-nothing campaign may be more likely to see you raise enough to meet your funding goal (as potential backers often want the security of knowing they’ll be refunded if the campaign falls flat) — it’s good to see both approaches supported by Indiegogo.
Another point of departure with Kickstarter is that with Indiegogo, the rewards you offer don’t have to be physical products of your own creation. In fact, you don’t have to offer rewards to your backers at all. Of course, Indiegogo recommends that you do, as offering rewards increases your likelihood of success. But, again, it’s good that Indiegogo gives you the flexibility to make the choice yourself.
A non-charitable Indiegogo campaign can fall under one of three primary categories: Tech & Innovation, Creative Works, or Community Projects. From there, you have numerous sub-categories to choose from. Indiegogo takes a 5% cut of what you raise during your campaign, and the payment processor takes an additional 3%-5% cut. It’s pretty much exactly what Kickstarter charges campaigners on their site. Note that with an Indiegogo charitable campaign, the 5% platform fee is waived.
For the small-time creator, one big advantage of the Indiegogo platform is the fact that you don’t have to wait for approval before taking your project live on Indiegogo. You’ll face problems later on in the process if your project transgresses Indiegogo’s terms and conditions, but unlike with Kickstarter, there’s no bouncer at the door. Indiegogo is generally a more relaxed site than Kickstarter in terms of what they’ll allow on their platform — I found a number of user comments online from people who successfully took their campaign to Indiegogo after being rejected by Kickstarter. People also generally report more satisfaction with Indiegogo’s customer service than with that of Kickstarter.
If you’re interested, read my full Indiegogo review.
GoFundMe (see our review) was launched in May 2010 by Brad Damphousse and Andrew Ballester in San Diego. It has since grown to become the only crowdfunding platform to have facilitated the raising of roughly as much money as has Kickstarter — more than $3 billion. GoFundMe has a very different brand image than Kickstarter, however, as it is most closely associated with the medical fundraisers and other charitable/personal causes that comprise a majority of its campaigns. However, GoFundMe’s platform can be used for crowdfunding startups and other business projects as well.
In order to launch a GoFundMe campaign, you must be a citizen of the U.S., Canada, Australia, or a Western European country. Unfortunately, GoFundMe’s geographic reach is a bit smaller than that of Kickstarter.
GoFundMe’s policies towards its campaigners are considerably laxer than those of Kickstarter. GoFundMe crowdfunding campaigns follow the keep-what-you-raise model — you won’t have to worry about not getting the funds you’ve raised if you don’t meet your funding goal. Another way GoFundMe differentiates itself from the competition — not just Kickstarter but Indiegogo and others — is that there’s no limit to the length of time your funding period can remain open. You can raise funds indefinitely with a GoFundMe campaign. Much of the competition restricts your funding period to 60 days.
Searching through the available categories when setting up a GoFundMe campaign, you’ll find a category for just about everything under the sun. So long as you don’t contravene GoFundMe’s rules, you should be good to go. And unlike Kickstarter, there is no pre-screening process—your project will go live immediately. As for fees, they’re very similar to those of Kickstarter and Indiegogo. GoFundMe takes a 5% cut while the payment processor takes another 2.9% + 30¢ of each transaction.
Read our GoFundMe review to get the full story on this popular crowdfunding platform.
While other big crowdfunding sites have attracted a lot of attention for medical or charitable campaigns (often linked to personal trauma), Fundable (see our review) resembles Kickstarter in one key way: it’s only for business fundraising. Founded by Wil Schroter and Eric Corl in 2012 and launched in Ohio, Fundable is strictly for businesses looking to raise capital. As of this writing, Fundable has facilitated $319 million in funding for its campaigners.
Fundable allows you to choose what sort of crowdfunding campaign you’d like to embark on. You can launch either a rewards-based campaign, a la Kickstarter, or you can launch an equity-based campaign. In such a campaign, your backers — who must be accredited investors — receive a share of your company in exchange for their financial support. While you can’t launch the two kinds of Fundable campaign simultaneously, the flexibility Fundable allows in facilitating both types of crowdfunding is to be applauded.
Be warned that Fundable does, in fact, pre-screen campaigns to determine their suitability for the platform before allowing them to raise funds. It’s not a platform for dreamers with little more than an idea and some gumption. Rather, Fundable is set up for startups and companies that have done the legwork necessary to develop a plan for success.
Fundable crowdfunding campaigns, like those of Kickstarter, are all-or-nothing: you only receive the funds if you meet your funding goal. Unlike Kickstarter, however, there is no time limit for your funding period. Another factor that separates Fundable from most of the competition — not just Kickstarter — is that Fundable doesn’t take a percentage cut of what you earn. Instead, they charge a flat fee of $179 for use of their platform. This is bad if your campaign fails — you’ll be stuck paying the monthly fee despite not raising any money — but it’s great if you manage to raise a significant sum of money and meet your funding goal. Most crowdfunders take 5% of what you raise, and if you raise $500K, $179 is a lot less than 5 percent of $500K! (Math majors, back me up on this.)
Before you get too excited, keep in mind that the payment processor will still take 3.5% + 30¢ per transaction in a Fundable rewards campaign. (Equity campaigns operate under different rules.)
One cool thing about Fundable is their extensive customer support. They provide a toll-free phone number, email, and live chat on their website. Most other crowdfunding sites just give you email support.
Check out our full Fundable review for more information.
Founded in Alexandria, Virginia in 2006, Razoo isn’t one of the big names of the crowdfunding field, yet they’ve facilitated $550 million in donations in their time, so you know the platform has some pull. As an alternative to Kickstarter, it’s certainly worth consideration.
Razoo (see our review) hosts crowdfunding campaigns for absolutely any cause or goal, and while they don’t emphasize business fundraising as much as their charity/nonprofit campaigns, Razoo can certainly be used to fund a business project.
Razoo’s fees are comparable to those of Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe. Razoo takes 5% of what you raise, and the payment processor takes 2.90% + 30¢ of each transaction. It’s pretty much the standard rate of fees for the crowdfunding industry.
One advantage Razoo offers over Kickstarter is a more comprehensive customer support system. Razoo offers both phone support and email support. (Kickstarter only offers email support.) Other features unique to Razoo include a Facebook donation widget and the ability to donate to campaigns using PayPal. Furthermore, when you set up a crowdfunding campaign on Razoo, you can launch it immediately without waiting for approval. And unlike with Kickstarter, there’s no maximum campaign length—you can fundraise indefinitely.
Here’s our full Razoo review.
With a formidable backer base and a considerable marketing/PR effort, Kickstarter has become so synonymous with crowdfunding that the average person might assume that crowdfunding is Kickstarter and Kickstarter is crowdfunding. However, it’s just not so. As you can see, there are a number of advantages to using other crowdfunding platforms, depending on your circumstances and the nature of your funding campaign. This isn’t to say Kickstarter stinks. By all means, investigate all these crowdfunding sites to see which platform best suits what you’re trying to accomplish.
Remember, while your venture may not carry with it the urgency, importance, and supreme cultural significance of the RompHim, your dreams are still worth pursuing. Crowdfunding, while not without its issues and risks, is one of the less painful ways of pursuing your dreams (as anybody who’s applied for a back loan can attest). Now get out there and crowdfund!