Redefining “success” for the Kickstarter bubble crowd, and why you shouldn’t.

So, this article has gone around and gotten attention. It’s an interesting topic, understanding the factors that contribute to a project raising its startup funding from “the crowd” successfully, but I want to take a moment to divert on to a tangent for a bit, and take issue with their definition of “Kickstarter success”.

This is important, because if Kickstarter is to succeed at changing the world, we need to make sure we don’t mistake “funding success” with “project success”.

Seriously, this is really, really important.

Funding success is, like, maybe the third or fourth step in a project — far from the final one. Project success is what really counts. You have to do the work. You have to deliver your product. Only then can we decide whether the project was a success.

Yeah, it’s really cool that people liked your idea enough and in such numbers that you got to raise enough money to hit your goal and actually collect that money. Don’t you dare think of the Kickstarter as “successful” at this point! The project is only beginning. When you deliver the product that you promised, then you can make a claim to success.

But finishing isn’t even success. Not really. If you completed the project, but went way over budget, or delivered so late that no one cared and everyone now hates you, your Kickstarter won’t be remembered as successful. If the end results are of poor quality, no one will call that successful. If you don’t set yourself up for your next successful project by building on the success of the last successful project, whatever success you do attain will be quickly forgotten.

It’s only natural for people to celebrate reaching an important milestone, but don’t confuse your funding milestone with the finish line. Stop calling funded Kickstarter projects “successful” until they are.

If you don’t? Well, you’ll be deluded. And the project owners will be deluded people with a big pile of money. And big, probably fragile egos.

You’ll feel like you had the meal when you merely looked at the menu. Getting your money up front, I’m sure, feels wonderful. But don’t let it go to your head. You need to show us results. I worry the exuberance everyone feels from a project getting successfully funded will make people forget about delivering the results and making a successful product. The focus will be on the run up and the party that happens when the “success” of reaching the funding target happens. There’s a long, not very sexy period of working your ass off that comes after this point, and if you allow yourself to get too high on the “success” of having all that money you said you needed to attain your dream, you might just forget about the dream.

And then we’ll have scandals and repercussions. And the good will of the crowd will dry up. You don’t want to ruin that trust, because once it is ruined, regaining it will not be easy. Please don’t diarrhea into that swimming pool full of money.


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  1. Wading around in the crowd-funding shallow end myself, “success” is something that definitely concerned me, and ultimately made me decide on IGG.

    It was no fast decision. I spent many hours across several days perusing reviews, terms of service, etc. etc. for MANY of the relevant options at then finally chose IGG’s flex-funding matched by my own clearly defined milestones. For my own purpose, some is infinitely better than none, but I can see how the all-or-none payment scheme is great for projects that really do need all-or-none.

    As to Kickstarter and other all-or-none campaigns on plenty of other sites, I can’t count how many I’ve seen that are trying to raise a bunch of money, but really don’t explain the breakdown of why so much money is needed or even state [for the proverbial full grocery list – just ask].

    I need $5million to complete Project Xyz BECAUSE I SAY SO!

    They also don’t clearly indicate how low level contributors (the ones that aren’t getting any TANGIBLE perks beyond the aethyrial Big Thanks!) can actually keep track of what’s being accomplished, when, how, etc. I think many more people would be willing to part with their $5 or $10 if there was some easy way to track activity. With mine – it can’t get any more simple — if my campaign hits at least $600 and I’m still walking around with all of my hair for more than a week after August 6th (can’t just drop in to see my stylist unannounced) — people are going to be nagging me. That’s not so cut and dry (in the case of hair – dry and cut) with game development, music recording, video editing, etc. that obviously takes a lot longer than 30 minutes to deliver the [if you pay $$$, I will do XYZ]. Of course, now that my sockets are healed enough for new work to start – posting videos of new dental work as it gets done will also prove that I’m using the money as intended.

    Surfing other campaigns on IGG to see what helps / hurts — over and over I see: the more painstakingly defined a campaign is and the simpler it is to prove what the money is accomplishing, what milestones to expect, etc. etc., the better it fares.

    No scraping or fancy algorithms needed (but the pretty colored tables are kinda groovy!)


  2. I agree, when you’re raising funds, saying what (precisely) you intend to do with them, and then following through and showing that it’s actually being done is pretty important. Some kickstarters that I’ve followed have done this better than others. Usually there’s a period of time wherein the people don’t update for a while, then come back and apologize and say they’ve been really busy working on (something). But it’s always good, in my view, to post updates regularly — they keep you going, and they keep your followers interested.


    1. Perhaps working an automated update reminder into the platform itself would be a workaround — nudge campaigners who have received their funding to regularly publish updates to all of their funders eagerly champing at the bit — until whatever point the project is 100% completed and delivered.

      That TOO requires honesty, but at least people can’t completely fall asleep at the switchboard when the proverbial snooze keeps going off on the email alarm.


      1. I haven’t been on that side of a kickstarter yet, but I believe they do monitor projects that get approved and offer guidance. Not sure how much follow up happens once funds are released.


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