Crowdfunding is one of the most rapidly growing trends globally today. We have been seeing a gradual emergence of the trend across Africa and even locally also. There is, however, still a low number of crowdfunding sites with most African countries having none at all. I remember pointing this out during the aftermath of Cyclone Idai. The most popular crowdfunding site used was GoFundMe which is foreign. I even recall that there were some hurdles encountered in trying to get the raised funds across to Zimbabwe. Locally we have Keith Mlauzi who is working on Funded and Webdev have also hinted on developing a crowdfunding site. So at least there is some local activity towards the development of home-grown crowdfunding sites. Anyways, my focus today is Kickstarter so as to draw some insights and also some inspirations.
What Is Kickstarter?
This is a public benefit corporation that runs a global crowdfunding platform. It was officially launched on the 28th of April in 2009. I will briefly explain later why it is labelled a public benefit corporation. So far more than 170 000 projects have been funded on the platform. Kickstarter basically helps bring creative projects to life as encapsulated in their mission. The range of projects is infinite spanning from tech, art, music and design to films, games and art amongst plenty more.
Businesses tend to sway more towards considering the implications on shareholders of any decisions they make. A benefit corporation does that but considering more the implications on society. Thus, the overall impact on communities is what informs a benefit corporation’s decisions.
How it all works is quite simple. If you have a project that you need to source funding for you post it on the site including things like goals and deadlines. Then those interested in helping you (backers) will pledge amounts. You can offer rewards as ways to incentivise people to make pledges. Only when your project reaches its initial goal will it be funded. For every project successfully funded Kickstarter gets 5% of the funds. So let us look at some interesting projects that have been successfully funded on Kickstarter.
Potato Salad Project
There was someone who posted a project looking for funding to simply make a potato salad. Simple as that seemed this guy managed to attract funding that was more than US$55 000. The guy later on even did a potato party for a charitable initiative. He did not stop there; he also authored a book detailing 24 different recipes for making potato salad. This example shows that virtually anything can get crowdfunding no matter how simple it might sound.
The Veronica Mars Movie
Some of you might know this teen detective movie. If you do then you might not know that its producers used Kickstarter to raise funding for its production. They pitched their project on the platform 6 years ago and funds close to US$5.8 million were raised. The movie ultimately grossed close to US$3.5 million globally. It is interesting to note that funding for movie productions is usually done by other means but this was an example of how successful crowdfunding for the film industry can be.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 TV Series
Not many of you might know this TV series by Joel Hodgson. The series was themed in such a way that he had a team of robots and they would basically make fun of poorly done movies. He took to Kickstarter to try and raise funding for the production of season 11. His gamble paid off and close to US$5.8 million was successfully raised. That season was so good that 2 years ago it was featured on Netflix along with 20 other monumental episodes from other seasons.
The Rebel Girls Book
This is a children’s book whose funding was raised using the Kickstarter platform. The book is about fairy tale stories based on 100 iconic real-life characters e.g. Serena Williams. I mention it here because it has an accolade of its own – the fastest and most funded project in the publishing domain on Kickstarter. Barely 3 hours after the project had been uploaded on Kickstarter US$100 000 had already been reached. By the time the funding deadline was reached the total had reached just over US$675 000 against an initial goal of US$40 000. This is proof-positive that even publishing projects stand a good chance of being funded on Kickstarter.
You might be interested to know that you can also use the platform to raise funding for your projects using Kickstarter. There are local Zimbabweans who are actually trying out the platform for their various projects. You can go to the Kickstarter site to see how you can go about that. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app from the app stores. I highlighted those 4 examples deliberately with a bias towards Zimbabwe. I know there are many talented people with film projects, writing projects and business ideas that are top-notch. However, most of them struggle to get funding and I thought citing these examples would serve to inspire them that crowdfunding could be worth a shot.
On Kickstarter, you would be amazed at some of the weird projects that have gotten funding on the platform. One of them was about a meat soap project – as in, creating aromatic meat soap. The project actually surpassed its funding goal by 27%. The other funny one was an edible cups project – cups that you can eat. The project easily managed to reach its funding goal of US$10 000. This is to show you that virtually anything can be funded on Kickstarter if you pitch it well. My other intention is to inspire more people to consider developing home-grown crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter. That would really be helpful to a lot of Zimbabwean folk who are looking for funding. I am hoping Keith Mlauzi’s Funded crowdfunding business idea will take off because that can be a game-changer for Zimbabwe.