Kickstarter changes the game

Kickstarter changed their rules today. They no longer will allow renderings and sketches as a presentation. A true, working model is the only thing they will allow.

I’m quite disappointed by this turn of events. Kickstarter, for me, was about the democratization of ideas. It has moved back to the idea that good ideas only come from those with resources.

I’m curious what you all think.

It’s the reverse of the evolution of patent applications…

IP: I think it’s still a far lower barrier to entry. I think prototype budgets are 1/10 or 1/20 of the tooling costs (at least in my experience). Plus, after tooling, you still need to pay for that first run. That’s a lot of cash.

Kickstarter is a business. And like every other business, their goal is to be profitable enough to stay in business.

While not a reality, the perception of a failure falls onto kickstarter. If I invest in vaporware, lose my money, I am less likely to invest again. Less investors, less inventors, kickstarter is not long for this world.

Anyone with a cheap modeling program can showcase an idea, take the money and run. My guess is that kickstarter wants the inventor to have some skin in the game making them less likely to pull up stakes.

Success is the only way kickstarter can survive. They think models will help them.

I’d think they would be wringing their hands about Pebble. If a couple of high-profile projects tank, they won’t last long.

We’re often asked to make visualizations of concepts to gauge interest from consumers and retailers, before we’ve spent the time figuring out all the functional details. Some of our marketers still don’t understand how we could make a render without a finished solution. It gets annoying.

We had one person declare that no renders, and it seemed like sketches too, should be made until a final functional and manufacturer solution was found. And these people manage new products! Imagine how confusing it must be to simple layman on kicker-starter.

I had a friend tell me he put a watermark disclaimer over a render once, “for visualization purposes only, not to be construed as a finished product.” He said it did not go over well.

It’s a step back for sure. The once (if ever so brief) very low level of entry has sadly been raised.

It’s strange too, considering they already made millions in the last year alone from the runaway success they’ve had, so one would think that they possibly could invest a little bit more in quality control, instead of just putting in a toll booth at their door. Seems like a lazy solution.

Super. The whole thing was destined to break apart quickly if it stayed its previous course.

There is no low barrier to manufacturing entry, the barrier is high, knowledge, resources, financing. The Kickstarter over-simplification of the industrialization/manufacturing process with distributed risk across the crowd was something that bothered Kickstarter since the beginning. It was set up to do music and writing.

We all know the deceptive powers of a rendering, we are designers. The next tier of participants place a unreasonably high degree of faith on a render, this is not fair when you are asking them to put in money, no matter how small the amount.

I like the idea that there is going to be pressure for marketing mockups, and the restoration of the craft. With all of the RP capabilities available today it is still in the low investment range.

Actually the risks and challenges are known for most projects. It should be a form to be filled in by the creators and a score on ability to meet the risk.

Sure this dampens the whole “hey kids, let’s put on a show” aspect of the crowd funding “win the lottery” buzz, but it necessary and will bring long term stability to crowd funding manufacturing projects.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles about Kickstarter failures, scams and delays. Most of the product project issues come from delays in manufacturing, that many would’ve been avoided if some (any/ more) prototyping had been carried out. I don’t think it’s much too ask to show at least a proof-of-concept.

I totally disagree on all points here. I see your position defense of the craft of prototyping as defending the status quo. Kickstarter for me has always been about the democratization of ideas. Helping people try to get it off the ground. It is called a FUNDING site. Not a success site.

The problem is in the gifts. People are using it to “pre-order” rather than fund. That implies that Kickstarter is a storefront, not a funding platform. Even a working prototype can’t ensure it is going to succeed. Heck, a full business plan and a team of top notch engineers and designers can’t guarantee any of that.

I see this as the litigious nature of North American (ahem, American) culture winning out over logic. It’s an emotional response to people who are barking that they feel mislead.

For me, the solution is to tier the types of entries. Don’t allow the renderings and “concepts” to promise product. Make sure anyone putting in their $1 knows that it is for funding. They are giving money to an idea, and it is not a purchase.

Also, up the ante. If it’s a concept, the amount of money they need to get before funding needs to be higher. Maybe to ensure that they will be able to pay for a development team. I am not sure exactly what is the best idea…but this feels like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Render unto “seizure” until you seize up…I just couldn’t help myself. Kickstarter has a whole shit load of problems when it drifted off into the much more lucrative wold of real products rather than artsy fartsy stuff. Kick as you guys know take a piece of the raised amount, so its in their best interest to take any and all projects. Here is there problem from a buisness standpoint, the projects that fund out big are so much more profitable than the little ones BUT also have this built in potential for a class action suit. I mean think of it, your a slime bucket law dog, see a bunch of folk having dumped in 6-10 million into some widget and its late. Their contact information is available, so shit dam lets get 10/20/100/1000 of them signed up and go after the deep pockets…KickStarter. Given this potential I am surprised that Kick didn’t go even deeper into the vetting process, just as a ass cover.

I think the no render thing is good, shit how many of you can womp up a design full of fairy dust and unobtainum and sail them past the great unwashed, the answer is almost all of you. If you demand a working prototype, well that’s a bit higher bar, but still lots of room for green screen, hidden cords running to a PC or any number of other little magic tricks. The truth is simple, we all know it, but the public at large is clueless to this central truth, getting a product to market is a huge undertaking. To move from notion to production is hard, takes a big team, lots of bucks and baskets full of time. Lots of folk with dreams think its otherwise, we know better. The great unwashed consumer, I sometimes think they believe that all the gadgets they buy just fall off some tree out there, and have no understanding of time and energy it takes.

So I am all for the rules changes, keeps the fairy dust low, the bar a bit higher and even educates the great unwashed that their gadgets and gizmos don’t just fall from trees.

I am sure that this has occurred to you bright folk that there is nothing preventing you from putting up a rendering of your product concept at your own site. I think you can show your rough prototype at kickstarter or even describe what you intend to do there then give them a link to your site for the pretty pictures.

This article nicely summarizes the tension between patron and consumer that Kickstarter product projects suffer from:

Reading disgruntled comments on delayed / failed projects highlights that some people believe they are risking money as backers, and others believe they are purchasing from an online store. Kickstarter states clearly that it is the online store model, the reward for backers must include the product (even though they allow the reward to also be stickers, t-shirts etc).

Kickstarter also sit on the fence, stating that money raised isnt an investment, doesn’t have to be returned, there is a stated expectation of delivery of a funded project, but without a clear process if a project isn’t delivered.

Accepting money to carry out a task is a contract, and this may be what is worrying Kickstarter. If one of the big funded projects doesn’t deliver, who is going to be in the shit? The project people or Kickstarter?

Regardless of how Crowdfunding manages this, there is a huge opportunity for IDers to fill the gap between backyard ideas person and prototyping, manufacturing, distribution.

The “status quo” I am defending is fairly consistant across most of my postings on this board and my work approach, “making real things”. Manufacturing "stuff"places serious constraints on ideas, it takes a good part of an early career to learn this process and develop an approach to navigate it. If you intend to convince people that you can make something, you sure as hell better be able to make one.

It is called a funding site, what it had functionally become for product was a social preorder store. The founders are making a smart move. You can imagine the stream of rendered up products that were being submitted and rejected on a daily basis.

My others points stand.
Potential multi-million dollar projects based on renders were going to break Kickstarter.
Renders are deceptive.
Manufacturing is not trivial and has to be seriously factored into an estimate of risk. Mystical “China sourcing” is not the answer to the startup equation. On this point I speak from 15 years of first hand experience.

What does “democratization of ideas” mean in this context? I have always viewed the marketplace as an even democracy.

I call BS on this. I agree that you should have a plan to be able to build one, but you seem taking a position of someone who is defending their craft. But this isn’t the fault of the people posting a video for underestimating their project requirements. It is the “fault” of the person clicking fund based on their emotional response to a video.

The democratization of ideas stems from the belief that everyone has good ideas. As of right now, the only ones who can bring their ideas to reality are the ones who have one or more of the following traits:

  1. The ability to build it themselves (skill)
  2. The ability to hire someone to build it for them (money)
  3. The ability and network to convince someone to invest in your idea

Crowd funding is a way to allow, say, a stay at home Mom living pay cheque to pay cheque the same chance at failure as someone who invests in a “valid” business plan. If someone comes and drops a million dollars in the lap of any design firm with 50 kick-ass designers in it, that doesn’t guarantee the product will succeed.

If Kickstarter is a storefront, it should rename itself Etsy and be done with it. This isn’t the people posting, nor is it Kickstarter’s problem. It is the false assumptions of someone who is supporting an idea they thought was a good one. Someone not accepting the idea that they funded purely on an emotional buy after watching a 3 minute video.

If you get Time magazine there is a great article on Kickstarter in this week’s issue, unfortunately the cheapskates at Time Warner don’t make their articles available online for free. But here’s the next best thing;

It is going to make things very difficult for footwear startups. Prototype sampling is usually done in factory sample rooms, there are no independent sample rooms making sneakers anymore (there used to be in the 90’s) and no factory will make a sample without an order.

Especially tricky for sneakers, perhaps you would have to do what we did as footwear design students, make the shoe yourself then make the outsole from wax. Or maybe 3d print it. Makes it very hard for someone that doesn’t know how to make shoes. Or really expensive - most people need the investment before they even start prototyping, because for shoes it is so costly.

On the other hand Im not surprised because there are so many bullshit artists out there, who can make pretty pictures, walk the walk and talk the talk yet when it comes down to it, they have no clue.

How ironic.

Your second statement is the exact definition of snake oil and you would rather blame the victim instead scam artist.

The purpose of a video is to elicit an emotional response, just like claiming snake oil will cure your ills. Fortunately, in the real world in the case of medical products, that is illegal. While it is not illegal in the rest of the product world, having a working prototype is a minimal requirement from kickstarter to prevent scammers from their site.

Now if you insist on armchair quarterbacking the decisions of kickstarter, I invite you to start your own “democratization of ideas” site and call it a FUNDING site. Good luck.

I understand what they are trying to do here (prevent thousands of people losing money on some fantasy electronic device), but these rules basically eliminate Kickstarter as something I would try again.

Last year I put a furniture project up as an experiment. Didn’t fund, but I didn’t need it to, the project was already going ahead either way. It was a shelving system based on a custom extrusion. There is no way to prototype something like that in a meaningful way without spending the money on the extrusion die and getting a short run made. At which point, what do I need Kickstarter for? There is little economy of scale in extrusions once you’ve paid for the tooling, or in CNC machining, the other process I am most likely to use.

The no renderings rule really compounds this. So even if I had carved some crude representation of the extrusion out of foam, I wouldn’t be able to post a rendering showing what it actually would look like. You have to hope people have the imagination to mentally translate a hunk of pink foam into a 1/8" hollow wall anodized aluminum extrusion. And keep in mind I would never even bother making a prototype of something like this in real life- with everything done in Solidworks, I already know exactly how it’s going to fit and function. This prototype step would serve no purpose other than to comply with an arbitrary rule. They are actually making themselves into more of a preorder system, not less, since I wouldn’t post a project until it’s done, photographed, and ready to ship.

Again, I totally get the logic of these rules for something like the Ouya, a very complex consumer electronics project that would be very difficult to pull off. But they are basically cutting out everyone else who designs physical objects at the same time.

A great extension of what I am getting at.

It is ironic…the whole thing. Everyone is trying to defend the poor suckers who fell for the snake oil, rather than figure out how to counter the snake oil. This is throwing-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater mentality.

I’m not saying that KS should keep things as they were. Changes are/were needed. They took the easy way out and played off the fear that was instilled in them by their lawyers. They moved more towards a store front, and away from a funding site.

I don’t need to start another funding site. Indiegogo already has one. Any other snarky, non-productive comments you’d like to throw into the conversation?

This is a little frustrating. The problem is not the renderings, it’s people not understanding the risk and lack of guarantee.

  1. “Contributions”. Nothing on Kickstarter is guaranteed. It’s the rules of the platform. It’s all buyer beware. " If something sounds too good to be true, it very well may be."- Kickstarter

  2. Contributors. They are not doing there homework and seriously evaluating their risk in contributing. If the product and business plan aren’t well thought out and properly explained it’s probably not wise for the contributor to donate hundreds of dollars because they want “it”.

People need to play by the rules of the platform. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to Kickstarter so we will see how this all works out. Couldn’t Kickstarter have provided some format to encourage the presentation of prototypes and business plans rather than taking away a valuable tool for concept visualization?

This is coming from the guy that called bullshit on my defense of our profession?