Crowdfunds and You

You’ve probably heard of Kickstarter, and how it’s a great platform for creators to get projects funded. There are a lot of interesting ideas and success stories that have come from the site, and according to this article, there’s only a 9% failure rate for projects that have met or exceeded their target for donations.

It’s good for some of them to fail – some of the ideas are flawed or too niche, not only for brick and mortar retailers but even for ‘long-tail’ shoppers on the web. However, some of the ones that do get funded make me appreciate the role that critical eyes play in the private equity market (when startups approach a venture capital firm).

Trying to get V.C. funding is famously difficult, as they are looking for a hole-in-one product or service that will yield an abnormally great return on investment to justify the risk they are taking. On a platform like Kickstarter, there’s certainly an argument presented for a product, and why it’s clever and marketable. The platform is a huge boon for creators, especially ones who might not need or want to scale into a huge, $100 million dollar company later. However, projects can become an echo chamber of enthusiasm without first going through a reductive, reformative, V.C.-like stage of candid critique.

I want to point to three examples.

First is ‘No Man’s Sky’, which is a case where the developers intentionally misled supporters about the content that would appear in the final game. Creators with a faulty moral compass can exploit the democratization of funding on Kickstarter. Most users were able to get a refund, but what could prevent this situation from repeating itself?

Second, ‘The Fidget Cube’. I actually love this product. It’s sort of a pointless little thing, and I suppose that’s what I enjoy about it. It looks like it would provide a steady trickle of textural data, as a kind of white-noise that would clear my mental cache and prepare me to shift attention between tasks. However, there’s a delay in production arising from a Q.C. finding, and it’s going to be $25 USD. Meanwhile, take a look at eBay (also, a shout-out to this article.)

As a third example, I went to Kickstarter’s main page and found this project featured. I used a mountain bike each winter during college in lieu of a car, and to protect my investment I bought a really beefy, heavy U-lock for when I couldn’t be by its side. The used of textiles to make a light-weight lock looks cool! It doesn’t damage your bike, and I am still trying to wrap my head around why the bolt-cutters didn’t defeat it in their video. All of that looks great – but what happens when you attack the padlock with the bolt-cutters instead? Is that not what a determined bicycle thief would try after about 15 seconds? It would only take a bit more test footage to assuage that worry, and frankly, I fear the worst. I don’t think this can or should supplant a thick, drill-resistant U-lock as my accessory of choice to delay would-be criminals.

Crowdfunding is a great thing overall, but don’t forget to hold up each and every project to a critical lens before throwing your own money behind an idea, even if it has already drummed up a fanbase.

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