Why Kickstarter “Sucks” and Crowds are Wiseasses

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November 16, 2012; Source: The New Republic

Amid all the glowing encomiums about crowdfunding, Noreen Malone ripped off a searing critique of Kickstarter, headlined “The False Promise of Kickstarter: Fund me, I’m useless.” Malone concedes that Kickstarter “has done crowdfunding better than anyone else,” may distribute more than twice as much money than the National Endowment of the Arts, and has witnessed $1 million pledged on its site each day.

Fast Company has named Kickstarter as one of the 50 most innovative companies, and a former editor of Wired told Malone, “Kickstarter is the financial engine for the entrepreneurship that’s driving the maker movement…turn(ing) people from [just] customers into evangelists for the project.”

In her critique, Malone starts by noting a problem of Kickstarter’s (and maybe many crowdfunding sites’) demographics: “ … as James Surowiecki put it in The Wisdom of Crowds, the conditions necessary for a crowd to be ‘wise’ include ‘diversity, independence, and decentralization’—all of which are more or less the opposite of the conditions necessary for a successful Kickstarter campaign.” Kickstarter, she says, “naturally favors groups with strong social-media followings and the capability to make a captivating video pitch, offering quirky perks for those who chip in.” Kickstarter isn’t the only one of these now increasingly popular crowdfunding sites, prompting Gawker to describe the proliferation of pleas as “online panhandling.”

Malone cites the predominance of “geek-culture offering” such as a “zombie-based” school curriculum that raised $11,000 or the “ostrich pillow” for taking power naps in the office, which raised twice what its sponsors hoped for. She also notes the lunacy of the more than $67,000 raised for a statue of Robocop in Detroit, perhaps not Mayor Dave Bing’s highest priority for the all but bankrupt metropolis. In that case, Malone observes, “Sometimes crowds aren’t wise; crowds are wiseasses.”

She nicely references the “Your Kickstarter Sucks” page on Tumblr which has enough lunatic projects drawn from Tumblr to embarrass anyone but the cast of “Jackass.”

There are some good crowdfunded projects, but Malone’s analysis suggests that the nutty ideas that really aren’t worthwhile investments (and may never be completed) are swamping the good ones. Is the nation’s recent unbridled enthusiasm for crowdfunding less an example of finding a new, great idea for fundraising than simply a new chapter to be written for Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds?—Rick Cohen

  • Andrew P Schettino

    I tried Kickstarter and got nothing. (My brother, fiancee’, and creative editor for my book each pledged a few hundred dollars!) Kickstarter.com is a toy for bored rich people to pick winners and losers with their “playtime” extra money. I had trouble producing a video and Denise Leary wasn’t featured in it once I finally got it uploaded!

  • Ben Lamson

    I think the biggest misconception about crowdfunding platforms like kickstarter is that all you need is a decent video and a decent idea and people will get behind it. The truth is: 85% of people who donate on Kickstarter only donate one time and never come back. There isn’t not a large community of people surfing Kickstarter; looking to stumble across your campaign and donate to it. Crowdfunding success is made in the 30 days before a campaign is even launched. In order to reach your crowdfunding goals you need to have a very specific plan on how you’re going to reach your target audience. Do you have a large social media network to tap into? If not, is your idea or project unique enough that it will catch the attention of blogs and media outlets? If you can’t answer yes to either of these questions then you’re going to need to get creative in order to reach fundraising success. The campaigns on Kickstarter that go “viral” are the ones that receive exposure in outside media channels. Whether that be through taste makers who have large Facebook or Twitter followings or social influencers such as blogs like Mashable or TechCrunch. Moral of the story, Kickstarter is a great platform for hosting crowdfunding campaigns but it’s not an out of the box solution.

  • jake mann
  • Extablisment

    Kickstarter is so broken it has been rendered useless by mercenaries and clowns. What it boils down to is this… if you have the money and the support you can use those to go on Kickstarter and be a success. So the only problem is… if you have the money and the support already why would you need kickstarter? You essentially use them as a giant pre-order machine. Why pay them anything? Set up your own pre-order site and cut out the middle man. Meanwhile, clowns get more play than real artists. So… be a success already and you can be a kickstarter success. Other than that, its pretty useless. We write more about it at http://www.ideasmilliondollar.com