People who back Kickstarter projects are offered tangible rewards and special experiences in exchange for their pledges. This model traces its roots to subscription model of arts patronage, where artists would go directly to their audiences to fund their work.
Andy Baio served as the site's CTO until November 2010, when he joined Expert Labs. Lance Ivy has been Lead Developer since the website launched. On February 14, 2013, Kickstarter released an iOSapp called Kickstarter for the iPhone. The app is aimed at users who create and back projects and is the first time Kickstarter has had an official mobile presence.
On October 31, 2012, Kickstarter opened to projects based in United Kingdom.
On September 9, 2013, Kickstarter opened to projects based in Canada.
On November 13, 2013, Kickstarter opened to projects based in Australia and New Zealand.
Kickstarter is one of a number of crowd funding platforms for gathering money from the public, which circumvents traditional avenues of investment. Project creators choose a deadline and a minimum funding goal. If the goal is not met by the deadline, no funds are collected, a provision point mechanism. Money pledged by donors is collected using Amazon Payments. The platform is open to backers from anywhere in the world and to creators from the US or the UK. In June 2013, Kickstarter announced that it would open up to those looking to launch projects from Canada.
Kickstarter takes 5% of the funds raised. Amazon charges an additional 3–5%. Unlike many forums for fundraising or investment, Kickstarter claims no ownership over the projects and the work they produce. The web pages of projects launched on the site are permanently archived and accessible to the public. After funding is completed, projects and uploaded media cannot be edited or removed from the site.
There is no guarantee that people that post projects on Kickstarter will deliver on their projects, use the money to implement their projects, or that the completed projects will meet backers' expectations. Kickstarter advises backers to use their own judgment on supporting a project. They also warn project leaders that they could be liable for legal damages from backers for failure to deliver on promises. Projects might also fail even after a successful fund raise when creators underestimate the total costs required or technical difficulties to be overcome.
On June 21, 2012, Kickstarter began publishing statistics on its projects. As of July 24, 2013, there were 107,645 launched projects (3,990 in progress), with a success rate of 43.99%[clarification needed]. The total number of dollars pledged was $717 million.
The business has grown quickly in its early years. In the year 2010, Kickstarter had 3,910 successful projects and $27,638,318 pledged. The corresponding figures for 2011 were 11,836 successfully funded projects and $99,344,381 pledged; and there were 18,109 successfully funded projects, $319,786,629 pledged in 2012.
February 9, 2012, saw a number of milestones set by Kickstarter. A dock made for the iPhone designed by Casey Hopkins became the first Kickstarter project to break a million dollars pledged. A few hours later, a project by computer game developers Double Fine Productions to fund a new adventure game reached the same figure, having been launched less than 24 hours earlier, and finished with over $3 million pledged. This was also the first time Kickstarter raised over a million dollars in pledges in a single day. On May 18, 2012, The Pebble E-Paper Watch raised $10,266,845 to become the most funded project in Kickstarter history.
In July 2012, Wharton professor Ethan Mollick and Jeanne Pi conducted research into what contributes to a project’s success or failure on Kickstarter. Some key findings from the analysis were that increasing goal size is negatively associated with success, projects that are featured on the Kickstarter homepage have an 89% chance of being successful, compared to 30% without, and that for an average $10,000 project, a 30-day project has a 35% chance of success, while a 60-day project has a 29% chance of success, all other things being constant.
The ten largest Kickstarter projects by funds raised are listed below. Among successful projects, most raise between $1,000 and $9,999. These dollar amounts drop to less than half in the Design, Games, and Technology categories. However, the median amount raised for the latter two categories remains in the four-figure range. There is substantial variation in the success rate of projects falling under different categories. Over two thirds of completed dance projects have been successful. In contrast, fewer than 30% of completed fashion projects have reached their goal. Most failing projects fail to achieve 20% of their goals and this trend applies across all categories. Indeed over 80% of projects that pass the 20% mark reach their goal.
Creators categorize their projects into one of 13 categories and 36 subcategories. They are: Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film and Video, Food, Games, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology and Theater. Of these categories, Film & Video and Music are the largest categories and have raised the most amount of money. These two categories alone account for more than half of Kickstarter projects. These categories, along with Games, account for over half the money raised.
To maintain its focus as a funding platform for creative projects, Kickstarter has outlined three guidelines for all project creators to follow: creators can fund projects only; projects must fit within one of the site's 13 creative categories; and creators must abide by the site's prohibited uses (including charity and awareness campaigns). Kickstarter has additional requirements for hardware and product design projects. These include
Banning the use of photorealistic renderings and simulations demonstrating a product
Limiting awards to single items or a "sensible set" of items relevant to the project (e.g., multiple light bulbs for a house)
Requiring a physical prototype
Requiring a manufacturing plan
The guidelines are designed to reinforce Kickstarter’s position that people are backing projects, not placing orders for a product. To underscore the notion that Kickstarter is a place in which creators and audiences make things together, creators across all categories are asked to describe the risks and challenges a project faces in producing it. This educates the public about the project goals and encourages contributions to the community.
Notable projects and creators
Several creative works have gone on to receive critical acclaim and accolades after being funded on Kickstarter. The documentary short "Sun Come Up" and documentary short "Incident in New Baghdad" were each nominated for an Academy Award; contemporary art projects "EyeWriter" and "Hip-Hop Word Count" were both chosen to exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art in 2011; filmmaker Matt Porterfield was selected to screen his film Putty Hill at the Whitney Biennial In 2012; author Rob Walker's Hypothetical Futures project exhibited at the 13th International Venice Architecture Biennale; musician Amanda Palmer's album "Theatre is Evil" debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200; designer Scott Wilson won a National Design Award from Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum following the success of his TikTok + LunaTik project; the Kickstarter funded GoldieBlox toy gained nationwide distribution in 2013; and approximately 10% of the films accepted into the Sundance, SXSW and Tribeca Film Festivals are projects funded on Kickstarter.
Both Kickstarter and project creators have canceled projects that appeared to have been fraudulent. Questions were raised about the projects in internet communities related to the fields of the projects. The concerns raised were: apparent copying of graphics from other sources; unrealistic performance or price claims; and failure of project sponsors to deliver on prior Kickstarter projects.
A small list of canceled projects include:
Eye3 camera drone helicopter for unrealistic performance promises, photos copied from other commercial products, and failure of creators to deliver on an earlier Kickstarter project.
Mythic: The Story of Gods and Men adventure game for copying graphics from other games and unrealistic performance promises; the creator had raised $4,739 on an $80,000 goal before canceling the project.
Tech-Sync Power System for failing to provide photos of the prototype and sudden departure of project creator.
Tentacle Bento, a card game intended to satirize Japanese school girl tentacle rape comics, after being criticized in the online media for having inappropriate content.
Kobe Red, a project for beef jerky made from Kobe beef, was canceled after raising $120,309. The project was allegedly fraudulent.
In addition, over 15 projects have been completely removed in lieu of public cancellation. Kickstarter appears to reserve project removal for egregious claims of copyright or other severe breaches of policy.
In May 2011, a New York University film student, Matias Shimada, raised $1,726 to make a film, but plagiarized another film instead. Later, he publicly apologized.
In 2012, Amanda Palmer raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter. She wrote about how she used the money, however several other musicians reviewed these expenses and said they were extravagant and possibly fraudulent. She was further criticized for attempting to have musicians play with her for free on tour, after raising such a large sum.
In April 2013, filmmaker Zach Braff used a Kickstarter campaign to fund his upcoming film Wish I Was Here and raised $2 million in three days, citing the success of Rob Thomas' Veronica Mars Kickstarter as his inspiration. Some have criticized Braff for using the site, saying celebrity use of the site will draw attention away from filmmakers and other creatives who don't have celebrity name recognition, a criticism that had been previously made in regards to big figures in the gaming industry using Kickstarter (such as Richard Garriott, who created a successful $1+ million Kickstarter despite his large personal fortune). Kickstarter has disputed these arguments by reporting that, according to their metrics, big name projects tend to attract new visitors to the site who in turn pledge to other lesser known projects.
The Better Business Bureau has given Kickstarter an F rating (its lowest) for, among other things, failing to respond to six complaints filed against it.
On September 30, 2011, Kickstarter filed a request for declaratory judgment against ArtistShare’s U.S. crowd-funding patent US 7885887, "Methods and apparatuses for financing and marketing a creative work". Kickstarter asked that the patent be invalidated, or, at the very least, that the court find that Kickstarter is not liable of infringement. In February 2012, ArtistShare and Fan Funded responded to Kickstarter's complaint by filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. They asserted that patent infringement litigation was never threatened, that "ArtistShare merely approached Kickstarter about licensing their platform, including patent rights", and that "rather than responding to ArtistShare's request for a counter-proposal, Kickstarter filed this lawsuit." The judge has ruled, however, that the case can go forward. ArtistShare has since responded by filing a counterclaim alleging that Kickstarter is indeed infringing its patent.
On November 21, 2012, 3D Systems filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Formlabs and Kickstarter for infringing its 3D printer patent US 5,597,520, ”Simultaneous multiple layer curing in stereolithography.” Formlabs had raised $2.9 million in a Kickstarter campaign to fund its own competitive printer. The company said that Kickstarter caused "irreparable injury and damage" to its business by promoting the Form 1 printer, and taking a 5% cut of pledged funds.