Creative idea? Kickstarter connects artists with online funding.
Kickstarter.com points online patrons toward worthy projects they didn't know existed.
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As an encouragement to donate, many Kickstarter projects offer incentives – think of them as the equivalent of the coffee mug you get for donating to public television.Skip to next paragraph
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For example, a $25 donation might get your name in the credits of an independent film, while $200 would get you a private dinner with the director. Or in the case of a more tangible item, such as the iPhone camera mount (which raised $137,000 after asking for just $10,000), a $25 donation would earn you the final product once it's ready, while $50 would get both the finished unit and a working prototype immediately.
In some cases, it can become hard to tell the difference between a Kickstarter proposal and a product being offered for sale. A recent Kickstarter project advertised a collection of custom computer icons. Give a little money to support the designer, the website said, and the icons would be yours to keep. Each "donation," in effect, was merely the purchase price for a copy of the icons. (Chen says that as long as projects are focused on creative efforts, Kickstarter will refrain from dictating how people should use the site.)
On the other hand, sometimes what seems like a simple – almost retail – posting on Kickstarter can actually be the launchpad for a budding business.
In the case of the iPhone tripod mount, because the start-up cost for commercial-grade molding dies is very expensive, the project founders used Kickstarter to ensure that there would be enough demand to warrant the effort. Also, by using the pledge model, they essentially got a loan to raise the initial capital investment without having to go through a bank.
Prominent "angel investor" Ron Conway, who was an early player in such Internet successes as Google, Twitter, and Facebook, believes that Kickstarter represents a viable way for new companies to find the start-up funding.
"Kickstarter is another very creative way for companies to get funded," he says. "And in my opinion, the more companies that get funded, the more innovation there is out there and, hence, technology advances and the USA continues to create jobs in technology. I think it could become a category that's a meaningful way for companies to raise money."
In the meanwhile, Musopen's Dunn is happy and a little shocked by the success that Kickstarter brought to his project. He believes that the intimate relationship that Kickstarter forms between donors and projects has value beyond the money raised.
"I tried to extract value from the project beyond just the funds given, requesting volunteers and other support," he says. "I would like to see more emphasis on how people can support beyond funds. Most projects don't get the exposure Musopen did for ours, but 1,000 people donating means 1,000 or more people learning about a project, which for some is enough to be valuable for the exposure."
And if you have an orchestra available, he's hiring.