My latest story for the the U-T San Diego is about crowd funding, where people with an idea ask friends, family and strangers to help fund it. I started the story with the mindset of writing about what happens after the crowds go away. After all, the biggies Indiegogo and Kickstarter have been around since 2008 and 2009.
But after interviewing success stories and crowd-funding sites, I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I did (ya, surprise). For one, the sites themselves do little publicity for creators — it’s all up to you. Or that Kickstarter doesn’t accept charity (unlike Indiegogo, which is open to just about anything including a lady trying to raise money to get her mom a new sofa). The resulting story is more of a trend update, which happened to coincide with the passing of the JOBS Act that paves the way for regular people to get more out of crowd-funding than a simple thank you or tschotske.
I love the idea. As a journalist, I’ve never been very interested in investing my hard-earned money in companies in exchange for ownership, a dividend or even a huge loss. But that’s mostly because of potential conflicts of interest and journalism ethics policies. This way, I get a cool product and the satisfaction that I helped someone get an idea off the ground, which is more than I’ve ever done. During my research, I ended up backing two Kickstarter projects — and wishing I had started this story earlier because I missed so many cool products. It’s addicting!
What I learned on how to be successful? Rely on your own family & friends network and beg them to get the word out. Strangers tend to back projects if the project creator has proof of experience and know how and be connected with industry professionals. A working prototype helps. And definitely include a video. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get picked up by major blogs and media outlets so you will go above and beyond your goal.
A lot of my research didn’t make it into my story including an interview with game developer Brian Fargo, whose project is currently at $1.9 million to build Wasteland 2 and he’s still got 13 days to go. (Funny video too — Fargo says these interactions really happened to him, although I’m sure the publisher wasn’t a kid). I used to talk to him back in Orange County when I covered the local game industry. Maybe I’ll write more on him later.
I also liked this amusing video by filmmaker Jocelyn Towne for the “I Am I” film (she’s also pretty connected). And, of course, the Double Fine video, which helped the game developer collect a record $3.3 million on Kickstarter.
But the funniest video about this was actually a spoof, done by the fine actors in Portlandia. Nicely done!