I’m a big fan of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding services, but I think it’s time the internet started to enforce some real-world economics on the idea. Yes, raising a five-figure sum to make potato salad is a great story, but that’s not a sustainable event. Too many people see crowdfunding as an internet-powered money machine. Here are some lessons Kickstarter wannabes have to learn, from a backer’s point of view:
- If you’re making a product, my pledge should allow me to buy that product. Asking me for $50 with the promise that one day, I’ll have the opportunity to give you even more money doesn’t fly.
- Downloads are all well and good, but they will always inherently have less value than a physical item. In money terms, CDs are worth more than mp3s, BluRays are worth more than mp4s, and books are worth more than PDFs. You can run your trap all you want about “the all-digital future”, I’m not giving you $100 for a download. Offer me a real product for a reasonable price.
- If you take my money, I do expect you to deliver. Kickstarter might have a hands-off approach to dead-end projects, but I don’t have a hands-off approach to my money. If your project is funded, you better deliver. That said, I think Kickstarter needs some form of “return policy” for projects that go so far past their target date with no results.
- That said, I think most people get that delays DO happen. When they do, you NEED to communicate. Tell people what’s going wrong, and why. I can think of a number of high-profile projects that “go dark” when things get tough, and the backers are convinced it’s a scam. Remember, they are both your customers and your investors… you owe them.
- Finally, and arguably most importantly, don’t go to Kickstarter until you absolutely have to. Wait until you’re at the point in your project when you absolutely cannot do one more thing until you get money. If you’re inventing something, have a pre-production prototype ready. If you’re writing something, have your final draft ready. Video games should be coded and in the late debugging stages. If the product is done before anyone knows about it, most of the previous complaints would never have been issues at all.
I can hear a lot of Kickstarter newbies saying “Yeah, but…” No, I don’t want to hear about the brave new internet world, or that your project is a special snowflake. Contrary to popular belief, crowdfunding is still bound by basic economics. You still need to offer something substantial, at a reasonable price, and deliver.
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