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Kickstarter and failure

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2015

From James Grimmelmann, a short smart piece on the nature of Kickstarter, riffing off the recent piece in the NY Times about a high-profile failed KS project. He argues that “Kickstarter is a tool for managing risk”, for shifting part of the inevitable risk of creative projects from the creator to the backers.

The Kickstarter model shifts some of this creative risk onto backers. By fronting the money, they climb in the boat with the creator. Ideally, they make a rational calculation about how much they’re willing to lose if sinks. (Kickstarter’s required disclosures are supposed to help backers make this decision.) And ideally also, the unique personal appeal of the project gives them a good reason to take on that risk. (Kickstarter’s required video and other personalizing touches are supposed to help create this solidarity.)

Grimmelmann’s is the most useful description of Kickstarter I’ve ever heard. Without risk (i.e. a real possibility of failure), creative projects aren’t creative enough. This is part of the reason that Kickstarter is not a store.