Crowdfunding: is it still all that?

It’s been ten years and hundreds of thousands of campaigns since Kickstarter launched, but is it still the promised land of funding for creative ventures? CR investigates

When Kickstarter launched in 2009, it promised to revolutionise creativity. Anyone with a good idea – but not the money to make it a reality – could launch a campaign, get funding, and quit their day job to pursue their dreams. In the early days, the platform leaned more towards ideas of patronage than business. A 2009 NY Times article described the site as a place that would “match aspiring Da Vincis and Spielbergs with mini-Medicis”. People used it to fund EPs, publish graphic novels and, in one especially meta example, create a giant crowd painting featuring everyone who’d supported the project. Although many of these asked for relatively modest amounts, as Kickstarter grew so did the amount being pledged – and the ambitions of campaigners. In 2010, designer Scott Wilson raised nearly $1m for a kit that turned iPod Nanos into watches, and then a year later supporters committed $67k to get a life-size monument of RoboCop built in Detroit.

The press praised the platform for helping raise funds for – RoboCop aside – projects of worth, supporting creativity and giving a chance to artists, designers and entrepreneurs that might otherwise go unnoticed. Ten years later, and Kickstarter has become an enormous endeavour. Hundreds of thousands of projects have been launched on the platform since its inception, and millions of dollars are pledged every year. Stories of grossly overfunded projects are a regular occurrence, and it’s developed a reputation for singlehandedly launching businesses – such as tech company Kano, which started out on Kickstarter in 2013.

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