Kickstarter’s CEO Perry Chen and How Ideas Can Be Funded

In an era of global austerity there are still ways to fund your creative ideas. When it comes to funding, the paradigms are shifting. I’ve mentioned Kickstarter before, the site that uses the crowd funding model and draws on your fans to fund your visions and work.

Perry Chan the founder of Kickstarter recently gave a talk at DoLectures about the ethos and some of the projects behind Kickstarter. As usual my notes are below.



At a basic level, Kickstarter’s model is not new. 100 years ago it was common place for creatives to have the concept of subscribers. Much like magazine subscribers today, a creative’s fans would be subscribers, making a commitment up front that funded the ongoing body of work. In exchange for that commitment, subscribers would get first, or often exclusive, access to the work being funded. Kickstarter reignites that philosophy and fund raising model.

Th most common amount donated on Kickstarter is surprisingly small. $25 is the most common donation, but it only takes small amounts like these to allow us to do disruptive work and enable more people to have the opportunity to create. Generally because of the economics of investment, needing to satisfy the investors expected financial returns, investment has only been available to larger, risk free projects. Kickstarter changes this by bringing together many small investments. When the investment is small we can be more personal. We are happier to take the risk based on whether we like the person, whether we like what they say or what they are creating.

A unique effect of this is this is that Kickstarter allows projects with no ambition to generate a profit, find funding. In theory, this leads to more innovative work and the fruition of ideas that may never have traditionally seen the light of day. As long as the project has a following that is happy to fund the idea, it can have legs.

Multiplied together, many of these small investments can have huge value and finance fairly large projects. Over last 3 years:

  • 1 million people $95m pledged on kickstarter
  • $35m film and video
  • $20m music
  • 8 design
  • 6 art
  • 5 publishing
  • 3 food, tech and photography
  • 1 games. theatre, fashion, comics and dance

In addition to the financial gains of using Kickstarter, a byproduct of the crowd funding approach is that many of these projects have gained new followers.

Kickstarter is by no means a garanteed funding route. You need to have an established following that is will ing to support and promote your ideas, for your Kickstarter project to gain traction. In this day and age when traditional funding streams are disappearing, sites like Kickstarter are an exciting and obvious alternative path to realise your ideas.

You can find out more about Kickstarter here.

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Why you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one social network’s basket

If you are promoting your work, business or brand online then you probably already have a Facebook page, Twitter account, Flickr profile, etc. I do, and use them all regularly. I use them as a communication channel, to update users on each particular network, interested in my work. What I don’t do is use them as a home or base for my work or brand.

We need to see our social network profiles as business premises we can trade from but don’t own. In most cases these outlets are free to use, which means we get cosy, feel at home, decorate and quickly forget they don’t belong to us. We invest time increasing the number of followers our twitter account has, or promoting our Facebook page to get more likes. This is good, more people to hear our message but we have to be careful investing too much time with any one network and making it our home, as sooner or later the landlord may come along and put up the rent.

Take Facebook for instant, they recently announced that they were investigating charging page owners to make their status updates more visible. In a way, this is a helpful service to businesses to ensure their messages are visible in the crowd. There is an issue however, I have already noticed that I don’t see all the updates that my friends post on Facebook. It is not that I miss them, they are simply not on my timeline. There are already rumours that Facebook pages will not now be seen by all of the page’s likers unless your pay for the update. I don’t personally think this is true yet as all the pages I like are still all showing up in my timeline, but this isn’t the point. Many people I follow online have made one or other of their social network profiles their home, driving traffic from the other networks, even their own website, to this one profile motivated by the follower or liker number. I am worried this is a mistake.

For me my home is my blog, a website that I have 100% control over. I decide the layout, the design and how my work and message is presented, I choose what is and isn’t visible. I see it like this; my blog is the hub of all my online activities and social networks are the spokes that hopefully channel visitors back to this site. That is the goal, the only metric I am concerned about is whether I am creating content that is of value and easy to find for those that want to see it.

I would love to know your thoughts on this, so feel free to comment below.

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How the internet is changing art

I often blog about how the internet is changing how we create and experience art works. I came across an interesting video the other day by PBS Arts: Off Book that takes a look at how three Internet based companies (KickstarterCreative Commons, and The Creators Project) are helping artists fund their project and gain recognition and audience for their work.

The key messages from the video are:

  • Kickstarter is a distinct project that helps artists find funding and build an audience. Projects have gone on to get book deals, be displayed in Whitney Museum, receive Oscar nominations, be selected for the Sundance Festival and SXSW. Work funded on Kickstarter is not just limited to novelty internet creations but work that has gone on to have cultural significance.
  • Creative Commons is a non profit corporation that makes it simple for artists to choose the freedoms that their creativity can carry. In a digital world many are not looking to profit from their work and don’t care about copyright. Creative Commons tries to bridge the gap between copyrighted and public domain so that those that create art for the love of it, can still gain value through attribution.
  • The Creators Project aims to enable artists that create physical art works and art experiences to digitise and share that work online with the internet community. Brining together the original creator’s content with fan submitted images, stories and remixed/inspired work, it allows these art pieces to live on beyond the original event.

(via Laughing Squid)

You can visit the featured sites here:

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Simon Sinek’s inspiring TED talk on why certain people inspire

It has been a while since I shared an inspiring TED talk. There are plenty of them on there, but I watch this one the other day by Simon Sineck and it really inspired me to to think more about why I do things. It also inspired me to buy his book and the last one that did that was Ken Robinson’s excellent talk on how schools kill creativity.

The premise of Simon’s message is that leaders and those that inspire start with why they are doing it. Sounds simple and common sense, but surprising few people have the ability to think this way. Simon puts it far better than I do, so over to him:

Side notes

I know I only recently changed the design of my website but it was a temporary move. I uses an off the shelf template rom the excellent, to get me by until I got around to designing a new one. I’ll be updating the site in the next few days but the improvements will be mobile browser support as well as project pages, which the current theme lacks. For the techies amongst you I am using the Skeleton framework as the core for the layout so that is scales based on the device width.

Oh, I am now also on Pinterest, which is a great way for me to classify things that inspire me, so feel free to join me on there.

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Artists that have the Midas touch and strippers underwear

I just read an interesting article on Carrie Brummer’s blog about how art is defined by a few elite gatekeepers. Carrie argues that we are all to blame, as we allow this elite to dictate what is art. Instead, we should engage in that arts and make these decision ourselves. Carrie makes a good point and certainly if we are to look at other sectors such as publishing and the music industry, the internet has allowed the social collective to promote talent that may have otherwise have been overlooked by the talent scouts.

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When is the right time to exhibit your art online?

“I had a very strong belief — I still do — that the act of going public is a very important decision. Everything you do from the point when you go public is part of the public record and is out there and you cannot get it back. Anything before the time when you go public is nobody’s business, and you don’t have to talk about it, you don’t have to show it, you’re not responsible, you can destroy it all, or whatever.”-Chuck Close

Chuck raises an excellent point here. In this day and age, where sharing our work is not only easy, but practically free, we are encouraged to expose our work while still learning or in art school. Could we actually be stifling our own innovation? It is an interesting point of view to consider. If you gain a little success now, could you be forced to find a personal style too early and in the long run miss out on developing into a greater artist?

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You can’t build an online business on Ad revenue… or can you?

One of the biggest things that would-be internet entrepreneurs seem to neglect, when hatching their master plans to conquer the online world, is how their business will make money. The fact that thay have more chance of winning the national lottery than becoming the next Facebook always seems to be a mere technicality in their plans. I really admire this determination but when I have probed a little deeper it seems the default response to the big “How will you make any money?” question seems to be “Advertising!” with no further thought given.

As anyone who has ever installed Google Adwords on their site will know, you get very little money from it. To put this into context at the time I tried out Google Adwords on my old blog back in 2007 I had on average roughly 400-500 unique visitors a day which may not sound a lot but is a fair bit of traffic for a blog made up of nothing but random bits of program code. And the average payout from Google was…

… a measly $2 a month! I certainly didn’t head for the nearest bar and splash the cash on a bottle of Cristal! No, the time you convert that to good old british sterling, I was lucky to buy a McDonalds Hamburger [That’s right, not even a BigMac]. I would actually need to be generating 10x the traffic to earn enough for Google to make a monthly payout, 100x the traffic for me to think “Wow, this advertising on my blog malarky is worth it” and 1000x the traffic for me to think “Hey! Now I can give up my day job!”

But… you can make good money from advertising, can’t you?

Well yes, if you can build your traffic, you can. In fact, as your site grows, you will find that your traffic will open doors to greater yielding advertising networks. Back towards the end of 2007 I switched from Adwords to ValueClick Media and that proved to pay out 3-4 times more that Google Adwords. Not only were the costs-per-click higher but because of the quality of the adverts were better, the click through rates were also better.

There is a better way. While you are still small, there is a way to make money from advertising and that is to build your own advertiser portfolio. However, building your own portfolio of advertisers takes time and effort and is best suited to sites with a well defined or niche subject. It involves researching potential advertisers whose own target market are your website visitors. Then by approaching them directly, you can cut out the middle man and sell advertising space on your site directly to them; negotiating a much higher fee per month per advertiser than you would otherwise get a year for all advertisers.

When building a web application, the advertising revenue business model is still an option but it is not the best option if you want to build a livelihood from it. I originally based Stubmatic (when it was originally launched as Tkt It in 2007) around an advertising business model but the figures didn’t stack up (and if I was ever going to give up my day job) I needed to rethink potential revenue streams. I was offering a service that people were willing to pay for and finally settled on the monthly subscription plans we still have today.

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