Kickstarting an Idea

By Logan Bishop 
When asked to visualize one billion dollars, what comes to mind?  Perhaps the net worth of the Longhorn football brand? Or maybe the amount of money Facebook paid to acquire Instagram?  Have you considered the multitude of invented goods or projects developed by members of your local community?
 
Current news around the internet is that the crowd-sourcing website, Kickstarter, recently passed the billion dollar mark for funding raised.
For those uninitiated to the inner workings of crowd-sourcing, here is a quick breakdown:
·         Idea:A good idea is all you need. Whether it is marketable or just worthwhile, you can seek funding for the project by posting it on Kickstarter. Here, a minimum amount of money is set and must be reached before the project can continue.
·         The Funding Period: Kickstarter hosts a webpage for the creator to advertise and post planning and development of their project. Anyone with access to the internet can stop at www.kickstarter.com, explore the multitude of ideas and choose to “buy-in” to a project.  A buy-in is often rewarded with a premium gift, such as being among the first to receive the final product or receiving bonus content. For those who buy-in at the highest levels, there may be an opportunity to meet with the creator.
·         Post-Production:If the project successfully reaches the funding limit, the backers (those who have chosen to invest in the project) are then charged for their pledge.  It is now up to the creators to deliver on their commitments to the backers.
Crowd-sourcing funding is best represented by the adage “vote with your dollar” and is an internet-minded business model which has been extremely successful since Kickstarter went online in 2009.  Before Kickstarter, a creator had few options for funding a project. Outside of asking for donations from a small group of friends and neighbors or pitching their ideas in front of a room of investors, there was little recourse for funding a new idea. Now, a project can move quickly from idea to reality without the need for large corporate backers or an insane number of bake sales.
Those familiar with the cult hit Psychonauts and its creator Tim Schafer may not know the funding was generated on Kickstarter. Tim Schafer recently released the game, Broken Age, with help from Kickstarter. With an initial funding limit of $2,000,000, the project’s final amount of money raised totaled $3,300,000, making it the second most successful project in the history of Kickstarter. (For those interested Schafer’s game, the Broken Age is now available on Steam.)
Another popular project that I purchased myself is the 3Doodler.  Among the many do-it-yourself, (DIY) 3D printers available on Kickstarter, the 3Doodler garnered massive attention because it is a pen that allows the user to write in 3D.  Marketed for the casual artist, the 3Doodler community is well known for handmade sculptures of the Eiffel Tower, usable desktop catapults, and wearable masquerade masks.

Technology and games (areas I frequent) are only two of the many categories for funding projects. Some represent community initiatives to repair local landmarks, open new cafes, or purchase new equipment for classrooms. The ultimate advantage of crowd sourcing is that anyone can put forth an idea and see their idea come to fruition. The only limitation is the ability of the creator to deliver their project. This inherently represents the wrinkle in crowd sourcing a project. 
The most notable instances of project non-fulfillment are Anita Sarkeesan’s video series and John Campbell’s Sad Pictures for Children debacle. Anita Sarkeesan has long been lambasted for failing to account for funding spent and under-delivering on the quality of her video series “Female Tropes in Gaming”.  More recently, John Campbell became infamous after posting a video of a flaming inferno fueled by the books his backers had helped fund. Accompanying the video was a lengthy manifesto decrying the sins of capitalistic endeavors and chastising his supporters for their anger in watching their product burn away. Both the video and the manifesto can be found here. Unfortunately, the only recourse for project backers is to deal directly with the creator, as Kickstarter does not guarantee fulfillment of projects. 
While such incidents do occur, the majority of projects reach their goals. With their ideas ‘kick started’ they begin production and fulfill their commitments. Several of these exist in our own community here in Austin, such as Bearded Brothers vegan energy bars, Patrizi’s food cart, and Jumpshot
Kickstarter represents a unique outlet for both creator and consumer. They provide innovators with an audience for potential funding and consumers the opportunity to actively invest in an emerging project. So why not invest in a community project or look at posting your own? You might just kickstart the next million dollar idea!

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