Kickstarter is a web-based platform designed to help fund projects and endeavors of all stripes. Users post their ideas and ambitions, a graduated list of rewards, and a funding goal, and then encourage friends, fans, and strangers to chip in. If you meet your goal, the money is yours; if not, no one is charged a dime.
The site is the brainchild of former Flavorpill editor Yancey Strickler, who conceived of Kickstarter as a new way for creative people to harness the support of an online community. We caught up with him to chat about the kindness of strangers, some recent success stories, his own pet project, and readers like you.
Want in? Email Kickstarter for a free invite to join the community.
Flavorpill: Crowdsourced funding relies, in part, on the kindness (or whims) of strangers. Do you tend to be trusting of strangers in your offline life?
Yancey Strickler: No more than anyone else. Like anyone, I trust a familiar experience, a shared interaction, a predictable unfolding of events. That’s the framework that our day-to-day depends on. But the really memorable moments are the surprise interactions, the times when a stranger is especially kind or generous, those simple encounters that give the world a nice warm glow.
It’s the same with Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects. It uses crowdsourcing – a lot of people contributing a little bit to a single goal – to build support and momentum around an idea. And if you are a project creator, someone raising money to, say, make a record or buy art supplies or cover a story that everyone else is ignoring, it’s your immediate network that will be most responsive. Your mom will contribute and your Facebook friends and your Twitter followers, too.
But nearly every project creator has told us the same thing: the first time someone they didn’t know personally contributed was a special moment for them. Even if it’s just one stranger, it’s an enormous personal and creative validation.
FP: Kickstarter has already catalyzed a few great success stories. What are your favorites so far?
YS: There are too many. But things like 365 Postcards, where for $5 you get a handmade postcard from this girl Emily, who is doing this as a personal, interactive art project. And there’s Allison Weiss, who raised the $2,000 she needed to make an EP in just ten hours; so far she’s raised almost $6,000, all of it from hustling and being really open and honest. It’s refreshing.
I could literally go on all day about the stories that have come through Kickstarter so far – and I often do. But if I had to pinpoint one thing that we’re particularly excited about, it’s the variety and types of projects that have come through. The record label Polyvinyl (they have Of Montreal and Asobi Seksou) has raised over $14,000 doing essentially straight commerce; the SF photo zine Hamburger Eyes has raised over $4,000 to publish a new, triple-sized issue; and there’s even a 20-minute documentary on ice cream trucks by Chris Schlarb (he records for Sufjan Stevens’ Asthmatic Kitty label) that’s been funded.
FP: A few sites are experimenting with somewhat of a similar model. What makes Kickstarter better?
YS: Our goal was to build something that we would want to use. We wanted to emphasize clean design and create a space where people would feel comfortable bringing their audience.
FP: Do you have a project or two of your own that you’re hoping to Kickstart?
Absolutely. It’s called New York Makes a Book, and the basic idea was that we would make a 100-page book with 100 authors. For $30 – the cost of one high-quality, self-published 100-page book – you got a page that you could do whatever you wanted with, and a copy of the finished book to be given out high school-yearbook style at a party to be thrown later this summer. We were looking for $3,000 in roughly two weeks, and we actually exceeded that goal. Pretty awesome.
We all have things we daydream about while we punch the clock, secret talents or incredible ideas big and small that we’ve been conditioned to not even consider as possibilities anymore. We’ve come to believe it’s more important to live practically than passionately, that an unfulfilling life is just kinda the deal.
I’m not saying Kickstarter magically fixes those things. Obviously it doesn’t. But what it does speak to is possibility, and that’s something none of us have enough of. And so we’d love to encourage Flavorpill readers to get in touch about things they might want to do. If you believe in your idea passionately and are willing to work for it, you’ve got a good shot at success. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!