Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Kickstarting a Craze

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Kickstarting a Craze

Article excerpt

Kickstarter is fast becoming a metaphor for a new kind of economy. The website's crowdfunding model--allowing hundreds of individual users to donate money to fund creative works--has won praise everywhere from the US Congress to the Financial Times. Its cheerleaders cite the success of projects such as the Pebble watch (a Bluetooth timekeeper that syncs with your smartphone; total raised: $10,266,845), the 3Doodler pen (which writes in the air using extruded plastic; total raised: $2,344,134) and the Ouya (an open-source games console; total raised: $8,596,474). They even view it as a way to escape the global economic turmoil.

Yet while the financial press sees the potential for a new wave of self-made millionaires, Kickstarter has been changing its rules to prevent just that. Overly commercial proposals are now blocked because, in the website's view, backing a project is like donating money to a struggling artist: a patron may get something in return but shouldn't expect it to be equal in value to their gift, and they certainly should not expect that mere money guarantees the artist will complete the creative work. You win some, you lose some. For every musician who scrapes through a funding target and produces an album of beauty, there will be a photographer who gets ten times what he asked for but fails to develop a single image.

That spirit of creative endeavour vanishes when people feel as if they're preordering a product. The ZionEyez (total raised: $343,415) was a set of HD recording glasses that was due to ship in "winter 2011". …

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