Why Kickstarter sucks

I funded a board game 7 months ago.

It achieved funded status 6 months ago.

As of last week, it has not yet begun printing.

To be fair, it’s a delightful game. It’s Magic: The Gathering meets Victorian England, written by Adam Reed. I told my friends about it. I consumed all of the hilarious updates. I rejoiced when it overshot its goal 5X. And I watched as the estimated delivery date of January 2014 came and went (read: delivery, as in proofed, printed, packaged, and delivered to my door).

The creator checks in with semi-regular updates on the progress and numerous setbacks that are humorous and satisfying.

But it’s got to stop.

I know Kickstarter is not an e-commerce site for finished products. By and large, you’re funding an idea. An idea (or dream) that someone had and needed a little help to realize. There’s no guarantee that that dream will be realized, even with your money.

The problem is that sometimes, a modest dream turns into a GIGANTIC one. In my poor board game maker’s case, he estimated X orders, and had a plan lined up for that. What he got was 5X orders. His plans fell through. His printer said, “We can’t handle that.” The logistics company said, “We can’t handle that.” And so what to do? He spends valuable time and money looking for other printers and shippers, a cost that was unforeseen. He doesn’t have as much bargaining power with these vendors, plus he’s on a time crunch, now that people have given money to the cause.

This is what I’m afraid of with my dear board game, that 10X overfunded campaigns are HALF AS LIKELY to succeed than just-barely funded campaigns. And it’s what might be Kickstarter’s undoing.

I wrote about how the Internet is coming around to its initial mission of connecting the world. Etsy connects people who make amazing things, but who can’t afford advertising, to people who want to buy. Twitter connects people whose stories are not being told with people who NEED to see them (link to Twitters being used for buried stories). Airbnb connects people who want to go on vacation minus exorbitant hotel costs with people who have need for a little extra cash and a spare bedroom. The Internet, instead of being a clearinghouse for porn, cats, and memes, is now connecting people who previously would never ever meet each other otherwise.

I think that it would behoove Kickstarter to do more in terms of connecting.

Here’s how: don’t just connect dreamers with backers. Connect dreamers with doers.

That means connect board game makers with printers, packagers, and shippers. Connect camera makers with machinists, lens makers, and people who are damn good at shipping with packing peanuts.

In short, connect people who are thinking of delivery numbers in the hundreds with people who think in the hundreds of thousands.

I would propose a program that helps to mentor makers with extraordinarily successful Kickstarter campaigns. Call it Jolt, or Nudge, since Jumpstart is sort of taken by the name. It would suggest a number of pre-vetted vendors who have proven themselves capable of delivering numbers you’ll see in the most lauded Kickstarters.

How it helps the maker

75% of tech and design-related Kickstarters fail to meet delivery. Having such a program would help them to realize their dream. Remember that the main draw of Kickstarter is for extraordinarily passionate people who need a small-time loan. Apart from the rare con-artist who takes the money and runs (research), I honestly believe that the biggest regret from most failed Kickstarters is that they couldn’t share their dream with the world.

How it helps the vendor

Easy peasy: show me the money. If you can prove yourself, you can secure runs of products in the tens or hundreds of thousands, and the money for all of that. Realize that these clients are people who might never have heard of you otherwise.

How it helps Kickstarter

Every failed, delayed, or mismanaged Kickstarter is a *pox on your name (look this phrase up)*. If people begin to believe that there’s even a 50-50 chance that they won’t get what they believe in, they won’t give at all. Even your language on the site speaks to that. This will help you build 1) trust and 2) credibility.

How it helps backers

It helps to ensure on-time delivery of the idea they believed in.

TL;DR: Backer trust is paramount to Kickstarter’s success. But backer enthusiasm can lead to more Kickstarter failures, as production runs can quickly dwarf original plans, especially in the case of campaigns that go viral. The more failures there are, the less trust backers have in the service. Kickstarter might want to explore a program that mentors and guides successful campaigners in negotiating large-than-anticipated production runs. A network of trusted vendors helps to ensure on-time, as-promised delivery, which helps everyone: backers, makers, vendors, and Kickstarter.


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