A Kickstarter Quandary


It was inevitable — and in hindsight it’s surprising that it hadn’t happened before — but earlier this week I received my first email solicitation to back a Kickstarter project.

“We notice and applaud you for helping so many people with their aspirations,” the email begins, which suggests that the project creators looked through some similar projects and found people who both (a) had backed a number of projects and (b) had public contact information.

An interesting situation. In the abstract I really like the idea that project creators can reach out to me: the main difficulty I have with Kickstarter at the moment is that I miss out on too many projects that I’d love to back. (Yes, I know, the tiny little violins are playing for me as I type this.) [Edit: since writing this post I’ve put together a partial fix for this problem with Kisttr, a Kickstarter backer tracker.]

The problem, however, is that this doesn’t scale. Maybe I’ll back this particular project and maybe not, but what happens when it’s not one creator contacting me, but ten, or a hundred? It pains me to admit it, but that’s a hundred deleted emails right there.

Because I’m a lazy man I want creators reaching out to pitch me, but I don’t want more crap in my inbox. What I want is some kind of structure to handle this stuff within Kickstarter.

So here’s where we are right now:

  1. I would love to hear from creators that think their project would be of interest to me, but I don’t want to get snowed under by email, @replies, and whatever else (though the first creator to send a handwritten note pitching their project is pretty much guaranteed to get some cash).
  2. The creator who contacted me had to do a fair amount of work to identify me as a prospect, track down my email address, and contact me, and they probably had other things they’d rather have been doing with that time.

It’s probably inevitable that some project creators will see spam of one form or another as the way to go. That said, if they have a way to contact potential/likely backers that’s easier than manually going through project backer lists, many creators will probably go with the easy approach — even if it doesn’t get them in front of as many people as the manual process.

What if project creators had the ability to “submit” projects to a limited number of Kickstarter users? In addition to the “backed projects” and “starred projects” tabs that already exist, I’d have a “submitted projects” tab that lists the projects that creators have submitted to me.

Yes, you’d need to work out a lot of checks and balances:

  • Do users opt in to accepting submissions?
  • Can creators submit to anyone, or are they limited based on what the user has backed before (or similar)?
  • Is there a hard limit on how many people a creator can submit their project to, or is that number magically derived?
  • If I’m accepting submissions, can I limit submissions by category, location, or other criteria, or do I get anything and everything? Can I “advertise” the kinds of projects that tend to be most interesting to me?

And, of course, the list goes on like that for quite a while.

Still, I think it’s an interesting formulation: it helps creators promote their projects to an audience already within the Kickstarter fold, and also helps backers find projects they might otherwise miss. And (I suspect, anyway) it helps Kickstarter by creating a controlled environment for solicitation of potential backers, which makes the potentially problematic ad hoc “backer harvesting” a less appealing approach.

There may be flaws here that I don’t immediately see, but I’d love to have some mechanism like this within Kickstarter: yes, I absolutely want more and different ways to find projects, but it would be incredible if projects could also find me.