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.