Two weeks ago, I was doing some background research on an open source project called CandyFab, and stumbled across Kickstarter.com. At first, I thought it was just another social networking gimmick, but it’s not.
Kickstarter is a community-driven microfunding project for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and dreamers from all walks of life. Only one requirement to getting funding for your pie-in-the-sky idea: you have to be invited to post your pitch. You aren’t able to even start without an invite – just like the original GMail or Google Wave. Once someone sends you an invite, you post your project(s) on a searchable, social-media driven message board and the community has the opportunity to see and pledge money to your project.
After you’ve set up your project and established a timeline for funding, your project may now be “pledged” to. People interested in funding your project do so through an Amazon.com account (all Amazon.com’s legal restrictions apply). If you don’t get enough pledges by your deadline, you don’t get the money – no exceptions. If you have already met your pledge goal, there is no funding limit until the deadline is reached.
Kickstarter maintains itself through a 5% revenue sharing (they get 5% of your pledges, so factor that into your pledge goal calculations). The system is more or less based on community trust. If there is sufficient trust that you will put out on your claim, you get funding; if there is enough demand for your idea, you get funding. The community also maintains integrity via public pledging – there is no anonymity here. Just like any venture, successful Kickstartees occasionally give out incentives (free stuff for the first X pledges, pledges over $X get special item X) to encourage greater participation and trust. Their website is a minimalist, flawless work of design and is well worth the visit. In addition to the social network involved in Kickstater itself, you or your backers may place a pledge widget on a website, and thus drive more traffic to your pledge drive – anybody anywhere may fund your project, provided they set up an Amazon.com account.
The greatest part is – there’s no limit to the scope, scale, or type of project. Open sourcers who previously produced their works without any funding may rejoice; now your creative idea has the potential to put food on the table, and you perform even better because you are accountable to your backers to put that beautiful Creative Commons license on it.
What this means for open source projects is simple: open source does not preclude you from supporting yourself financially on the product you are producing or want to produce. Projects range from whimsical to revolutionary and practical, and there’s no limit to what the community may want.