What Is Kickstarter? (And Why You Should Care)


You may have heard recently, while watching the news or browsing the Interwebs, about something called "Kickstarter." If not, here's what a writeup of the company usually looks like: 

'Kickstarter is an innovative funding service that gives startups and entrepreneurs the chance to raise capital through crowd-sourcing. Investors have different tiers to choose from, and gain early product awareness and beta testing rights.'

Oh, okay. That wasn't exactly a crystal-clear explanation for most of us, and that's the problem-- "most of us" are exactly who should be on Kickstarter. Once you know what the heck is going on over there, you might not even be able to stop. Which is a good thing-- it happens to be one of the most innovative and helpful services out there for new and/or struggling entrepreneurs. So here, in a translated "human-speak" version, is what Kickstarter is all about:

  • Kickstarter is a website where visitors learn about upcoming new products and projects, and help get them off the ground by kicking in a few dollars (or a few thousand, if you're feeling generous). The more people there are who pledge some green, the better chance the project has of seeing the light of day. This idea is called "crowd-funding."
  • What you're helping to fund can be anything, from a play to a parks project to the next great iPhone app. Really, all categories are represented: products, services, electronics, events, designs, and more. Anything and everything that strikes your fancy, at this point, probably has a Kickstarter project that wants your love.
  • Once you find that one amazing idea that you want to see come to fruition, you are given a choice of how much to kick in, and what you'll be getting for your donation. That's right; there's always some sort of reward for forking over your hard-earned cash, so don't think of this as a charity service. The more you give, the more you get, and usually, you're purchasing the product/service itself, once it's funded and ready. If you can only spare a dollar, that's fine too-- perks usually include a mention by the company of your donation, or some small token of appreciation like a sticker or early notice of the product launch.
  • Kickstarter projects have a "funding date," or a deadline by which the project must be funded. If the fundraising goal isn't met in time, you don't pay the money you pledged; this helps to ensure that only quality, legitimate projects get your money. If the project meets its funding goals, you'll receive word from the company on release dates, event invites, and when you'll be receiving the goods you ponied up for.

So that's Kickstarter. Hopefully it makes a lot more sense now than it did five minutes ago; there isn't much left to say about it, except it's the most popular "crowd-funding" service out there, and with good reason: its simplicity and ingenuity has seen it garner some great press, mostly because of the projects themselves--just look at the astonishing success of the Pebble Smart Watch. Do yourself a favor and go check it out, but be warned: you may start to click faster than your bank account can keep up.

*For more information on some of the terms and concepts in this article, check out the Tech 101 Glossary*

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Posted on May 9, 2012 and filed under "crowdfunding", "kickstarter", "pebble watch".