Harry Slater looks at crowd-sourced funding
and questions how influential it's likely to be in the future
The internet is constantly changing the way
the modern world works. It's moved commerce away from the high street and into
the comfortable surroundings of our own homes, treated us to personalised
recommendations at every turn, and even found ways to circumnavigate currency
and international borders.
What it's also built is a platform for
distribution that allows creators to sidestep the publisher and take a product
straight to its target audience. There's nothing stopping you from writing a
book and releasing it on one of the various e-publishing platforms out there,
or recording some music and finding a home for it on the web.
One of the most interesting changes that
this shift in the relationship between consumers, creators and delivery
platforms has produced is a new way of finding funding for creative endeavours.
This crowd sourcing is all the rage at the moment, with everything from
children's books to videogames to documentaries searching for money before a
single word has been written, a pixel placed or a scene filmed. In one way,
this is internet democracy at its finest, a reverse engineering of the
traditional entertainment paradigm, which lets the audience offer a leg-up to
the media they want to see created. But is this move towards people-funded creations
really the revolution it seems, or is it merely one out of a myriad of ways
that people can make some money from selling their wares online.
A KickStart Primer
As long as the internet has been available
to the general public, it's been used for commerce, and in spite of growing
security fears, that looks like a trend that's going to continue unabated. An
online store front is far cheaper than its real life alternative, and has a
much wider reach than even the largest chain of shops. Putting a product online
is essentially sending it around the world, opening up your business to the
whims of search engines, social networking and a public the likes of which a
hundred shops couldn't hope to fit in.
That's not to say success is guaranteed.
There are enough businesses around that have failed in their online push to
fill the pages of this magazine many times over, be it due to misunderstanding
the basics of the internet, or offering services that no one wanted in the
Fads come and go, and last week's brilliant
idea is this week's no one cares, but the one constant that drives the web is
its ubiquity. Right now you're probably within reach of a gadget that you can
use to buy things online - you might even be reading these words on the screen
of your iOS device. It's that instant accessibility that the web offers that
makes it such an enticing prospect for retailers and consumers. And it's
accessibility that's key to the crowd sourcing drive. With a few taps on a
screen or clicks of a mouse, you can have pledged money to a product that you
want to see made. In some cases, it's even simpler than buying the completed
product when it's released.
Crowd sourcing large amounts of funding is
possible because of the interconnected nature of the online sphere. It doesn't
take long for an idea to gain momentum, and once it has that momentum, it can
spread through social networks and forums like wildfire. Perhaps the most
famous platform for this crowd sourcing is KickStarter. Founded in 2008, the
site gives creators a place to pitch their ideas to an audience. Each pitch is
accompanied by an amount of money the person or company would like to earn, and
a time limit dictating how long they have to make that amount. If the pitch
hasn't made all the money it's asked for by the time limit, then it doesn't get
In the four years since its inception,
KickStarter has seen more than $125 million dollars pledged and successfully
funded more than 15,000 projects.