The Statistics of Crowd Funding
As regular readers know, I keep an eye out for the ever-elusive “statistics on Kickstarter.” More often than not Kickstarter stats come from data mined infographics cobbled together by clever citizens of the Internet. But sometimes–like today–they come from Kickstarter’s own blog.
Whatever their source, these numbers provide a valuable insight into the nature of this near billion dollar website–that is, once you get past the spin they are trying to sell you. Lets dig into this latest nugget, shall we?
Earlier this week Kickstarter celebrated it’s 5th anniversary by posting a blog that trumpets their success. It talks about all they have accomplished over the last 5 years ($848.7 million), about how many people have backed projects (over 5 million,) and how many projects have been funded (50.7K with a success rate of 43%.)
These are all impressive numbers. Every sign Kickstarter posts points to the ascendance of a new kind of fund raising for creators, one that may be every bit as lucrative as advertising/marketing in the long run. Maybe they’ll get so big that Google will try to buy them out. Unfortunately for Kickstarter (and fortunately for the rest of us), Kickstarter gives us a vital bit of data necessary to disprove some of their earlier self serving statements. As Kickstarter has trumpeted here, here, and here, big projects help everyone. A rising tide raises all ships, as they say.
If that is the case though, then why does the graph shown above show only 1,473,393 of the 5,041,067 backers they were so proudly trumpeting earlier in this blog post? The answer: the other 3.5 million backers only backed a single project. Now I’m sure that many of those are friends and family supporting a loved one’s project, without any real interest in crowd funding as a broader phenomenon. About 5% of the backers of The Wardenclyffe Horror had never backed another project. Most of those contributors will probably never back another unless Chris and I launch another project. They are supporting the creator, not the cause.
I find it unlikely that those sorts of backers are limited solely to the small projects. After all, celebrity, by it’s very nature, is an adoration of the creator–sometimes to the exclusion of the kind of work they do. That is an assumption on my part, it’s true, but assumptions are all we have: Kickstarter could provide more detailed information on the amount of sole-project backers that throw money in for Spike Lee or Zach Braff, but they won’t because they are in this for the money. That is the point of business, after all.
So while there are a few starry eyed dreamers out there (less than 3% of Kickstarter backers back more than 10 projects) who want to dive into this new financial ecosystem head first, the vast majority of them are here to support the ones they love, be that a close friend or a favorite actor. There is nothing wrong with that, I just wish Kickstarter would stop trying to obscure that fact. They should shout it proudly. Just think of all the money that could be made off the skim if they published an article in Rolling Stone, letting all the well-to-do know that Kickstarter is the most effective way ever invented for turning good will and popularity into cold hard cash by simply doing exactly what you were going to do anyway.