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Kickstarter at 3: ‘We’re Still Learning How to Use It’

Three years into the web’s most popular crowdfunding experiment, Kickstarter is still learning the ropes.

Kickstarter
Source: kickstarter.com
Kickstarter

The Lower East Side-based startup celebrated its third birthday on April 28 in with some impressive stats. More than 2 million people have shelled a combined $200 million to back 22,000 projects running the gamut from smartwatches and tin-can microphones to videogames and feature films.

But at the Wired Business Conference 2012 Tuesday, co-founder Yancey Strickler explained that the company is still learning how to run itself with the help of a dedicated community of users.

“We didn’t have many instructions on the site because we didn’t know how it was going to work,” Strickler said. “We still don’t even know the best way to use it.”

Strickler noted the explosive growth in individual projects. The point-and-click adventure game Double Fine Adventure, for example, raised more than $1 million on the day of its launch in February 2012.

“There hadn’t been a project that raised a million dollars before that day, and that day there were two projects that did it. But there have been six million-dollar projects in the past six weeks,” Strickler said, noting that kind of six-figure funding — at least outside of Kickstarter’s world — is normally only seen for developing gadgets.

Strickler joked that gadgets and other technology projects on Kickstarter get about “99 percent” of media attention, yet they comprise about only about 5 percent of the total projects out there.

Films, he said, make up 25 percent of successful projects but rake in 30 percent of the site’s total pledges.

“Ten percent of the films at the most prestigious film festivals were Kickstarter projects,” Strickler said. “If Quentin Tarantino wanted to launch a project, he could probably raise $20 million.”

Kickstarter inevitably faces a growing problem with trust as its popularity expands. This week, for example, the creators of a videogame project called Mythic: The Story of Gods and Men shut down under scrutiny from the Internet. (Users across several websites noticed artwork and other materials on their page were pulled from other sites.)

Wired senior editor Jason Tanz asked Strickler how Kickstarter polices its projects. It’s more than relying on his staff to filter applications with four guidelines, Strickler said. The company turns to its dedicated user community.

“What you rely on is the millions of people on the web. Fifty-six percent of projects don’t meet their goal. There’s a policing that happens there,” Strickler said. “We don’t want to get more involved than that because then you become another barrier [to creativity].”

Strickler said he’s not sure what the next three years of Kickstarter hold. But if anything is certain, it’s in the hands of the crowdfunders.

“A lot of these projects are very ambitious. If we are judging these from the angle of a bank loan officer or a venture capitalist then a lot of these ideas would be ridiculous,” he said. “We like being that opportunity for people, being a place for creativity and opportunity and where people can have their big chance.”

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