You’ve got a great idea for an R2-D2 statue or a belt buckle that turns a smartphone into a digital billboard you can wear, but you can’t get any further than a few sketches and maybe a prototype without generous financial support from some kind soul. If only someone would believe in your project.
If this is you, you may have heard of Kickstarter, the crowd-funding site for creative projects that need financial support to really get off the ground. Figuring you could never pull off a successful fundraiser yourself, Kickstarter lets you solicit donations to fund your project. Interested backers make pledges, and pay up only if the goal you set is reached. Now, Don Steinberg, a local journalist who has covered business for The Wall Street Journal and The Philadelphia Inquirer, has written The Kickstarter Handbook: Real-Life Crowdfunding Success Stories. It is the ultimate guide to using Kickstarter to make your creative dream a reality. One of the coolest parts of Kickstarter, Steinberg says, is “that you can actually raise money from all over the world.”
As long as you’re not trying to fund Cousin Mindy’s drive to college or gather money for your local library (since Kickstarter prohibits fundraising for charities), “any idea is conceivable,” Steinberg says. Among some of the biggest projects he’s seen are things like watches, which he takes as proof that Kickstarter is a great resource for funding quirky projects that wouldn’t have mass-market appeal. (And, apparently, watches no longer have mass-market appeal.) “A lot of the stuff is stuff people don’t need but they think is cool,” he says, citing watches as one of the things he’s seen do very well but that no one really needs anymore.
So what does it take to run a successful Kickstarter campaign? “The key is not underestimating the amount of time that goes into this,” Steinberg says. “You can’t just set it and forget it. People I talked to have been overwhelmed by the amount of work that goes into a successful campaign.”
And given how awkward it can be asking your family and friends as well as strangers to support your project, “you really have to be passionate,” he adds.
Here are five Philly-based Kickstarter projects that Steinberg has been kind enough to weigh in on for us. Click on the titles to look for yourself!
What Is It: A convertible garment made of a rectangle of a piece of rectangular, brightly patterned fabric and a belt. The pictures of the Velo, which uses something Tyris is calling her “patented loop technology,” will have you imagining all the compliments you’ll get on your fabulous fashion sense.
Who’s Behind It: Sophia Tyris
The Amount to Be Raised: $12,500
Steinberg’s Take: “A previous multifunction garment for women on Kickstarter called the Versalette raised $64,000, so there is precedent for success! Fashion is so subjective, you never know. I wonder if bold prints like that limit or expand the audience?”
What Is It: A 48-page anthology of comic-style artwork and five stories. There’s something about black-and-white artwork and a good collection of stories that just gets the creative juices flowing.
Who’s Behind It: Jacob Mazer
The Amount to Be Raised: $2,000
Steinberg’s Take: “With a modest funding goal, it has a chance. The big comics-related Kickstarter campaigns have tapped into artists’ existing, enthusiastic fan bases. Those fans will pay for prints and need to be persuaded to chip in.”
What Is It: A short film noir about a Philadelphia detective who gets dosed with LSD while trying to identify a serial killer. Project founder Karl Weimar has the necessary equipment and is raising money to feed his cast and crew as well as to secure rights to the song “I Found a Star on the Ground” by the Flaming Lips.
Who’s Behind It: Karl Weimar