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A Swiftly Flowing River

It’s like the famous quote, credited to Heraclitus, “You could not step twice into the same rivers; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.” This statement about the transience of life is both true and profound, but it is also an excellent description of Kickstarter these days. Every day you step back into the stream of Kickstarter projects by clicking the ‘recently launched‘ button, you are presented with a list of brand new projects to flip through. Somewhere upstream the snows are melting or thunderstorms are pounding the landscape because the waters, they are a rising!

I’ve been a daily clicker for a while. I remember distinctly a day in early August – just before this blog got started, I was disappointed with the amount of new projects that had appeared on my tablet when I was doing some morning reading in bed. There were only 8 of them (though the average seemed to be 20 or 30), and none of them interested me. Now though? I would say that the site is averaging over a hundred projects a day for the last week.

As always, I have some theories. Interested?

I have previously commented on how the speed of crowd funding is increasing geometrically as measured by search traffic or in dollars. Though I lack data to be able to say precisely by how much, I feel the speed of this trend is further increasing. As of last night, there were 3,409 live projects on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, I had not thought to look up that number previously, and though it is updated daily, there is no way to look at the historical trend that I can find. Rest assured that I will be keeping an eye on this metric in the future.

So what changed? Why the spike?

One of the reasons I wrote the previous post about limiting throughput to increase quality on the site was because I saw this coming. There have been multi-million dollar projects on Kickstarter for a while now, but these success stories are growing more common, and recently we experienced a first: a project funded to more than a million dollars in a single day. Gold rush, anyone?

Humans are tricky beasts, prone to herding and stampeding. You can see this behavior most often in trends, fads, fashions, and the various investment bubbles throughout history. I don’t think, ironically, that this new trend (really an increase in an old one) spells doom for Kickstarter though. Far from it – it is a company that gets by on a percentage of the take; this is exactly what it needs to be successful. This trend is even good for project creators in general, and the biggest and best projects specifically.

The way I see it, each project works to find its audience, through social networking or advertising, and then lures them to the site to back the project. Many of those people go on to browse other projects, and throw a few more dollars around. Such cross-pollination is good for everybody, but most of the benefit will go to the best projects, the ones that catch everyone’s eye. This trend might bury the worst projects on the list, but I’m surprisingly okay with that.

On a slightly more cynical note, I can’t help but notice that Kickstarter projects are starting to lean away from iPhone accessories, and focus on bicycle lights and cards. Seriously, I have seen half a dozen bike lights projects, and just as many decks of custom cards. Though I personally think that adding the words “steampunk” or “cthulian” to a something does not automatically make it cool, it would seem I am in the minority.

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This entry was posted by David Winchester.

4 thoughts on “A Swiftly Flowing River

  1. Likely the way the market will trend (and had already done so) is that sites similar to Kickstarter will appear that are targeted towards a niche. It won’t cause Kickstarter to falter but will cause a lowered percentage of newer projects over time as people who know their respective audience will begin to shift projects where it well reach the people they need. That is just the way advertising and marketing work.

    As for tacking “steampunk” or “Cthulhu” to everything, that is a trend i hope to see end… Like when every video game, whether a FPS or action platformer, started adding the bullet point “RPG Elements” to sound better. H.P. Lovecraft had some amazing stories but shoving a shoggoth into your game doesn’t necessarily make it better. And just because you put a reference to airships and zeppelins won’t automatically make it “steampunk”.

  2. Well said, on all points. The exact phenomena you describe is already going on. There are crowd funding sites for charities, causes, and more recently a comic book only platform: http://comicsaccelerator.com/

    Opportunity creates competition in such a fluid and dynamic way that Darwin would be proud; the free market is the best part of capitalism. The rest – lets just say I have my doubts.

  3. You beat me to the cards comment! I was going to put up a post with links to all of them. It’s kind of ridiculous. I haven’t noticed the bike lights yet, and I think there are still a lot of device accessories out there – especially cases and docks.

  4. Daniel, I may have beaten you to the topic, but I think there is still room to explore, catalog, and mock the topic. Noticing them is really just the tip of the iceberg. Inquiring minds want to know, don’t abandon that article on my account, I know that I would love to read it!

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