Kickstarter was one of those services that faced the typical chicken and egg problem of Internet start ups. As a crowd funding platform its success was born out of the exposure it could bring to potential projects and in the beginning that was essentially nothing. As time went on and crowdfunding became more mainstream Kickstarter then became the portal to get projects funded online and since then we’ve seen the projects transform from being mostly single guys in garages to mutli-discplinary teams looking to launch disruptive technology. Whilst I still believe that Kickstarter doesn’t fundamentally change the rules of the funding game the shift of the value judgement from the entity to the wider world is a big one and one that has seen many products come to life that might not have done otherwise.
Of course as the service and the number of projects has grown over the years it was statistically inevitable that things would start to go wrong. Thankfully the majority of the problems faced by Kickstarter campaigns are usually overly ambitious product designers who under estimate the time it will take to get their product to market leading to delays to their initial time frames. There haven’t been that many outright problems either with failed projects never getting any money (and still being publicly accessible after the fact) and there’s only a handful of projects that vanished into the ether, all apparently due to copyright claims.
Still there were a couple high profile cases of projects being showcased that were little more than a concept that someone wanted to create. Now this is the reason why Kickstarter exists, to get projects like that the funding they need to get over that initial hump, however for physical goods having nothing but a couple product renderings can lead to some serious down the road and there were numerous projects that suffered major delays because of this. There were even notable projects that had a prototype but struggled to scale to meet the demand created by their Kickstarter campaign.
Kickstarter, to its credit, has recognised this problem and recently changed the rules, putting it rather bluntly that Kicksater is not a store.
Looking at the changes the first thing you’d notice is the number of projects that were previously funded that would no longer fly under the new rules. Personally I think its a good thing as requiring an actual prototype means that a project creator will have to have gone through many of the initial hurdles to bring the product to reality and thus won’t be using the Kickstarter funds to do this. It does mean that the barrier to entry for product and hardware categories just went up a few notches but it also means that there’s a much higher likelihood that such products will actually come into existence. The change that puts an end to multiple items is done to ensure another Pen Type-A/Pebble situation doesn’t occur again, although there’s still the potential for that to happen.
I think the changes are overwhelmingly positive and whilst there might be some projects excluded from using Kickstarter as a funding platform there’s still many other crowd funding alternatives that still support projects of that nature. It also helps to make sure people understand the (usually low) risks of using Kickstarter as there’s every chance in the world that the product/service will not be viable and neither Kickstarter nor the project founders are under any obligation to issue refunds for projects that fail after funding. This might be spelt out in no uncertain terms in the fine print when you sign up but anything to make people more aware of what they’re getting themselves into to is a good thing and does wonders for Kickstarter’s reputation.
It hasn’t turned me off the idea, that’s for sure.
I’m a stickler for solving problems, much to the dismay of my better half. I’d blame it wholly on the fact that I’m male and an engineer so anything that comes to me in the form of a gripe or whine instantly sets itself up as a problem, just waiting for the right solution to come along and fix it. It’s gotten to the point of many people not wanting to discuss any kind of problem with me, lest they get a volley of solutions when realistically all they wanted was a sympathetic ear and 10 minutes of my time. This became quite obvious last night when I spent a great deal of time working on another project of mine which was created out of one of my own problems: my incredibly disorganised media collection.
Far be it from me to actually spend a day or so rifling through the hard drive cleaning everything up and instituting a filing system (that would be the easy way out!). No instead I decided to build an application that would do that and 100 more things for me, neglecting the fact that I really should be dedicating my time to other, more mature projects. Still I’ve managed to come up with yet another project that has the possibility of being something rather cool and useful to a select bunch of people (HTPC nerds currently) and subsequently felt another chunk of spare time disappear into the ether.
The easy solution would be to just not do anything and take the easy option out (either doing nothing or just organising my damn files). Being the egotistical person I am though I can’t really let this slide since I’m always telling people to act on their ambitions rather than putting them off for another day. I can’t stand feeling like a hypocrite and the second I start talking to people about an idea I have I feel compelled to start working towards its realisation. It’s quite disasterous for my work ethic since I always feel like my time would be better spent on my own projects, rather than fixing someone else’s problems. It all comes back to that idea of scratching your own itch, since the reward for solving your own problem is infinitely higher than solving someone else’s problem.
Taking a step back for a second I could also reclassify this as a function of time. Right now I spend 40 of my prime time hours working for someone else mostly so I can pay the bills and keep enjoying the lifestyle that I’m accustomed to. The last 6 months have seen me attempt to put into motion several plans to try and alleviate this requirement with the hope to spend a solid 3+ months on developing and marketing my own ideas. That would’ve worked to, save for my desire to travel to the US to see the last shuttle launch (budgeting is a bitch when you forget to account for something like that!). Putting this all together it becomes rather obvious that I’ve managed to get myself tangled up in a web of inspiration, workaholism and my own ego.
Some say that for all the problems I could myself tanlged up into this one is probably one of the best. I’d have to agree with them as I’m never starved for something to do (unless I’m at work, of course ;)) and when people are interested in what you’re doing there’s a real sense of achievement. I’m still a long way from the dream of working in my own startup but as I said over beers with a group of friends recently “Shit’s starting to get real”, as the roots of everything are starting to take hold. The rest of this year is going to be interesting to say the least and I can’t wait to see how everything pans out.