Mind the Gap: Kickstarter Funding Trends

Every crowd funding project is a unique and beautiful snowflake, full of the creator’s ardent belief that they will buck the odds, triumph, and succeed in their dream. Every project creator has different assets, skill sets, and experience to assist them in making the most of their short funding window. Some have wonderful art assets to dazzle potential backers, others have social networks that are both wide and deep or an idea that was born to go viral, and a few even have the money necessary to buy advertising, hoping to turn a small investment into a big idea.

But if every creator is so different, then why do the funding curves for so many projects look so similar. If possibilities are limitless, then why are are the results cast in so few molds?

Allow me to preface this part by telling you about the helpful Kickstarter analytics site: Kicktraq and their associated widget (it’s where I get all the graphs I show below.) It tracks a variety of daily metrics (backers, pledges, trends) from every active project, and displays them in an intuitive format to allow a deeper understanding of any given project, and it’s trajectory at a glance. I have found it to be an invaluable resource.

Using these tools, combined with the mighty power of too much free time, I have had a chance to comb through dozens or hundreds of projects in search of patterns. Results on that search, and my conclusions are listed below:

Typical Pattern

The above graph is what I would say is the most typical kind of progress for a normal project. A great deal of progress is made at the beginning and the end, but the middle of the project is flat or nearly so. Just as Kickstarter says, the longer a project is, the more the lack of enthusiasm can threaten it’s success. The majority of the money in so many projects is made in a week or ten days; in this case 70% of the funding is achieved in 30% of the days – practically a textbook example of the Pareto principle.

Unsuccessful Pattern

In both of these patterns, you can see many of the same characteristics, though to a lesser degree. I find that this more uniform flatness, or an effort to catch up when it is too late is a common characteristic. You will however notice that the final spike in the case occurs at the 48 hour point. One feature built into Kickstarter is the ability to click “Remind me.” So anyone that was interested enough in your project to sign themselves up for a one time notification will have the opportunity to come give you their money. 48 hour spikes are not at all uncommon for this reason.

Constant Pattern

On the other hand, in cases where the project is wildly successful, the money never seems to stop. Each day one happy backer tells another friend that might be interested, and the result is a near constant upward trajectory. Notice in this particular example how significantly the trend line trounced the goal line. Many of the high-profile successes are examples of this pattern, but not all. The 3.5 million dollar reaper campaign, even with the very large numbers involved, still adhered to a much more typical funding pattern, gaining half of its total haul in the final week of the campaign.

What do you think? What is the best way to eliminate the dead zone that plagues so many projects?

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This entry was posted by David Winchester.

10 thoughts on “Mind the Gap: Kickstarter Funding Trends

  1. How do you plan to use this information with your own kickstarter? Do you think being aware of these trends gives you an edge?

    • This particular trend will function as a good indicator of organic interest for our project, and to some extent – an early warning system. Lack of velocity in the first few days, as indicated by say – less than 30% funding in the first week would give us the signal we need to spend money on during the middle period to try to raise awareness and increase the amount of backers for the project. A 50% funding level at the end of the same week would indicate that ad buys were not necessary, and that the network of organic supporters would likely be sufficient.

      This information will also do two things at the back end of the project: it will keep us from panicking (by understanding how powerful the last few days so often are,) and it will tell us how hard we need to work contacts and connections to get the word out.

      Mostly I just think information like this allows us to make informed decisions by understanding what the ‘normal’ data set looks like. Can you think of any other uses I missed?

      • That’s certainly a prudent use of the data. Have you considered inflating your numbers with your own money if the initial first week percentage is low? You said in an earlier blog that success breeds success with kickstarter campaigns and that bump may increase visibility.

      • I certainly plan to use our resources in a way that could better be described as blitzkrieg than evenly distributed, because you’re right – the more successful you are, the more likely you are to be successful.

    • David – great find on that spike. I have long hypothesized that such a phenomena would occur in the presence of free money, but have never seen such a clear example until that link.

      It is my belief, that person running that project was unable to let $25k in free money escape, and added 25k from surrogates to ensure the project got funded. Sure, at the end of the day after Amazon’s and Kickstarter’s cut, he only got 20k out of the deal, but that is still 20k more than he had when he started. Though it would be hard for us to prove, we can see from the data that 351 out of 470 contributed $50 or less, and only 16 contributed more than the average pledge of $109 so obviously something doesn’t add up.

      You should do a post on the subject and ask Leviathan Interactive, LLC for an interview. Turn your bitter wit upon someone that deserves it for once!

      • Ha! It is rather tempting. And I very much agree with your suspicion. But as you said, it would be very hard to prove – if not impossible. And I don’t see them admitting to fraud because some angry blogger questioned them. ;)

        However, I had already planned on continuing to follow Leviathan, if for no other reason than to witness the backlash when people realize what they actually paid for. Perhaps Leviathan will get theirs, eventually.

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