From the I Thought Everyone Knew About This But Apparently It's Not As Common Knowledge As I'd Assumed" Department*, a brief introduction to Kickstarter rewards!
Kickstarter is a crowdsourcing platform for potential businesses to raise funds. Some intrepid entrepreneur creates a campaign such as, "I want to produce and sell this new lawn sprinkler gizmo, and it'll take me $20,000 to get up and running." For the next 30 days backers can pledge amounts -- if at least the $20k goal is raised the entrepreneur gets the money, minus Kickstarter's cut. If $19,999 was raised, the campaign fails. If $120,000 was raised, the campaigner gets $120,000.
The most common misconception I hear about KS and similar platforms is that the backers are either making an investment or a loan. They're not. The backers don't own any piece of the business, and their backing isn't going to be repaid as a loan. People back Kickstarter campaigns for two reasons: the social/personal pride of being a patron of an art or business, and to get rewards.**
The reward system brings backers to Kickstarter. Rewards are organized by tier. If you pledge $20 or more you get Reward 1. Pledge $35 or more and get Reward 2, which often includes Reward 1. For example, I backed a campaign for someone who needed to buy a specialized tool for spinning yarn from alpaca fur.*** For my pledge I received two skeins of alpaca yarn. If I'd contributed more I would have gotten more skeins.
What if the campaign doesn't reach its goal? The backers aren't charged, and they don't receive any rewards. I.e., nothing happens, except that our intrepid entrepreneur moves on for another try or goes another direction.
Here are two of my favorite campaigns from the past year. First, I backed a game called Nothing To Declare. Concept is great; you have see what you can smuggle through customs at an airport. (It's a card game, don't play this live-action, please.) The basic rewards started with copies of the game, but I pledged at a level where I got to design a contraband card, which is now included in the game. I provided two suggestions -- a live praying mantis or a copy of the script from Casablanca. The awesome game designer, Paul Spencer, said "why not both?" So, my movie-loving mantis is now immortalized as a card in the game. (You can visit Apauling Games to get a copy, btw, if you missed out on the Kickstarter campaign!)
And another favorite: a western steampunk graphic novel! The Legend of Everett Forge seemed like the kind of story that would make me want to read comics****, so...sign me up. The KS campaign funded successfully and the first issue was fantastic, so I'm watching eagerly for the next one. And like Nothing To Declare I chose a reward tier which allowed me to contribute something creative (and totally vain) to the finished product. I won't go into a lot of detail on my part -- suffice to say that my reward is part of a special issue coming out later, and my friends will easily recognize it. You should follow the Everett Forge Facebook page and watch for Scott Wilke's updates on his next campaigns; I'd love to see this series keep going.
That's your brief introduction to Kickstarter. Tomorrow I'll be back on a brief run of 3D printing blogs, but I'll get back to crowdsourcing and start soliciting the hell out of my friends and family as my Film Tycoons Kickstarter campaign gets closer. Stay tuned.
* That's right, you're probably more familiar with this organization under their more simple moniker, ITEKAT BAITACKAIAD. Sure, it takes some practice to pronounce and still takes up a lot of space on a business card, but TANSTAAFL.
** Face it, the majority of KS backers are there for rewards. Some aren't -- I backed the development of a science and learning center in a city far from me just because I thought it was a great service to a community, and I'm sure many of the other backers didn't get a tangible reward either. But compare the number of people make a $2 contribution for "our heartfelt thanks" versus those who make a $20 contribution for "a discounted copy of the product." More of them want the product.
*** Fur or hair, I never remember which alpacas have. I'm confident they don't have scales, though.
**** Similar to fur or hair, I've never been a stickler about "graphic novel" versus "comic book." Apparently "comic book" isn't politically correct, or is diminishing, or some other such negative. I could care less. I love Starry Night, and I love dogs playing poker.