Potato salad for the soul: On Kickstarter success

In one of my favorite folk stories, a traveler arrives in a small village with nothing but an empty cooking pot. The traveler fills the pot with water, drops in a small stone and places the pot over a flame in the center of town. Confused villagers wander by to ask him what he's doing. "I'm making stone soup," he tells them. "Where I'm from, it is a delicacy."

Curious, one villager asks how she might get to taste a bite of stone soup. "Well," the traveler responds, "stone soup is much better with a few carrots. If you can spare a few, I will share the soup with you."

A month ago, I started making my own stone soup. On the popular crowdfunding website Kickstarter I made the Internet an offer, "I'm making a potato salad, and for a few bucks, I'll give you a bite." And bite they did. Thirty days later, my potato salad Kickstarter has raised more than $55,000 from nearly 7,000 backers.

Courtesy Zack Brown

Why did people give money to a guy to make potato salad? Why does anyone give to any crowdfunding campaign?

Ultimately, whether you're making a virtual reality headset, a digital music player, stone soup or potato salad, people are looking for you to provide them value. The Internet isn't an ATM. It isn't a bottomless pit of cash. The Internet is a big village. You can't go door-to-door saying, "I'm hungry and would love a few carrots." Instead, think about what you have to offer the world.

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From the beginning, my backers were interested in the idea of using this Kickstarter project to do something for the greater good. After the campaign is over (it ends Saturday), I will be contributing a significant portion of my project's profits to a fund that I have set up at the Columbus Foundation. This will create a permanent fund to help Central Ohio's nonprofits end hunger and homelessness. These types of funds gain interest every year and grow over time.

So, while our little Internet joke about potato salad will one day be forgotten, the impact will be felt forever.

"The biggest mistake that failed Kickstarter projects make is forgetting the crowd in crowdfunding." -Zack Brown, Kickstarter's 'Potato Salad Guy'

People want to be included. We are social. We crave community. The stone soup story ends with the entire village coming together to create a soup that no individual could have made on their own.

The biggest mistake that failed Kickstarter projects make is forgetting the crowd in crowdfunding. They forget to include people, to foster a community and to give back. They forget that, when you include your backers in the conversation, you get the opportunity to create something that you could have never created on your own.

This is my advice to prospective crowdfunders. Go to that big village. Set your flame and fill your pot. Fill it with what makes you uniquely you. Figure out what you can make that will pique people's curiosity and how you will provide them with the most value.

When the first villager wanders over from their stoop and asks you what you are doing, you'll smile and say, "I'm making stone soup. Where I'm from it's a delicacy."

Make sure that you share, and be sure to give back. Best of luck, traveler!

By Zack Brown, a programmer, small-business owner and Kickstarter's "potato salad guy"

Brown founded Base Two in 2011. In 2013, he started as the interim CTO at Sqrl and helped the start-up secure $650,000 in seed-round funding. Zack has appeared on "Good Morning America," Al Jazeera, Fox Business and CNBC. The Kickstarter campaign was covered in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, Gizmodo and Buzzfeed and was shared nearly a half million times on Facebook.