03 Mar History of Kickstarter – Everything You Need to Know
We are all familiar with Kickstarter and the amazing things that get funded up there. However, have you ever thought about how it all started? This is a pretty big platform, but it didn’t become overnight. So, let’s see how it all started for Kickstarter and it how it got to be so successful.
Kickstarter is an American corporation for the public benefit and it is based in Brooklyn, NY. It is a platform for global crowdfunding that mainly focuses on creativity and merchandising. The main mission of Kickstarter is to “help bring creative projects to life” and that is exactly what they have been doing for years. This platform has more than 15.5 million backers that fund hundreds of thousands of projects, including films, comics, music, video games, food projects and many many more.
The history of Kickstarter begins on April 28th, 2009 when it was launched by three amazing people – Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler, and Charles Adler. Since then, it has become a globally renowned and recognized public-benefit corporation that has raised over $10 million from various investors, including the VC firm Union Square Ventures based in New York.
In 2010, The New York Times called this platform “the people’s NEA” and named it to be one of the best investors of that year and the best website of 2011. Later, in October 2012, Kickstarter expanded to the UK and then followed the expansion in 2013 to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Next year in February, Kickstarter launched its Apple app to allow their users to follow their projects and people who are backing them with their investments. And in 2014, they have expanded their operations to other European countries, including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Spain. And since 2015 up until today, Kickstarter has expanded into many other countries, such as France, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Hong Kong and Singapore, Mexico and Japan.
Perry Chen is currently the chairman of Kickstarter who came up with the idea for it in 2001. He is an American artist and entrepreneur who had a vision of people working together for the creative and useful projects to be realized, thus creating the Kickstarter. Before that, in 2001, he co-founded the Southfirst gallery in Brooklyn, became a TED Fellow in 2010, he was also a resident of Laboratorio para la Ciudad in Mexico City in 2014 and he was a Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab in 2016. What is more, in 2017 he was appointed to the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and American Democracy – a commission of leaders across technology, media and public policy with the aim to guide the public discourse to rebuild trust in American democratic institutions.
Yancey Strickler is the second co-founder of Kickstarter and he is a writer and a speaker. Unfortunately, in July 2017 he resigned and left Kickstarter, but today he runs his own blog and a book for Viking Press.
Charles Adler has been a designer and technologist for much of his life and he directed his work toward accelerating the work of others. That is why he co-founded the Kickstarter with Strickler and Perry, but he left in in 2013. Since then he has been exploring new ideas and empowering individual creators. He participated in creating of Lost Arts – a new format of workspace for ambitious and hardworking creators.
The entire Kickstarter history is based on a very unique business model. The model includes providing services to connect the creative projects and their makers with a potential investor, which are mainly consisted of the general public. This actually helps the seekers get investments faster and realize their projects successfully. The makers of the projects choose a minimum funding goal and the deadline for their projects, all of which runs on the assurance contract which allows payments only if both the deadline and the goal are met.
Unlike many similar platforms and forums for fundraising, Kickstarter claims no ownership over the work project-makers produce or their projects. They, however, apply 5% fee on the total amount of the raised funds. What makes Kickstarter different from and better than other crowdfunding platforms is that they focus on the middle ground between the patronage and commerce. Perry Chan also said that “People are offering cool stuff and experiences in exchange for the support of their ideas. People are creating these mini-economies around their project ideas. So, you aren’t coming to the site to get something for nothing; you are trying to create value for the people who support you. We focus on creative projects—music, film, technology, art, design, food and publishing—and within the category of crowdfunding of the arts, we are probably ten times the size of all of the others combined.”
Projects and Categories
In 2012, Kickstarter began publishing statistics on projects people posted and their success rate. So, for instance, in 2015, there were 207,135 projects launched and the success rate was 40%, and the total amount pledged was over $1.5.
Additionally, in the same year, Kickstarter hit some important milestones. Casey Hopkins made a dock for the iPhone and it was the first project to exceed a million dollars in pledges. A couple of hours after that, Double Fine Productions reached the same figure with their new adventure game, making them the first ones to reach over a million dollars in pledges in a single day.
After that, in 2014, the “Coolest Cooler”, created by Ryan Grepper, became the most funded project in the history of Kickstarter, raising $13.28 million in funding.
As far as categories on Kickstarter are concerned, there are 13 of them and 36 subcategories. The categories that project-makers can use for their projects include:
- Film and Video
- Technology and
In order to maintain its focus and make every project count, the Kickstarter has made three guidelines that all project-makers have to follow:
- Creators can fund projects only
- Projects must fit into one of the 13 creative categories and
- Creators must abide by the website’s prohibited uses (includes charity and awareness campaigns).
However, there are some additional rules they have set up for hardware and product design projects:
- It is banned to use photorealistic renderings and simulations for demonstrating a product
- It is banned to upload projects for genetically modified organisms
- Awards to limited to single items or “sensible sets” of items relevant to the project
- They are required to have a physical prototype
- They are required to have a manufacturing plan.
There you have it; a brief history of Kickstarter and their main guidelines. They certainly have changed how crowdfunding works and many projects have seen success on their platform. It is safe to say that with a great idea and well-designed goal and plan, you are bound to reach success with the help of the public. Not to mention becoming visible to some of the greatest VCs.