Once upon a time, the route a media start-up took to becoming a household name was: 1) start in someone’s garage, 2) get venture capitalist funding, 3) plan your IPO, 4) sell out to Google - or something like that.
These days, Kickstarter has completely disrupted the stranglehold that venture capitalists once had on this process by popularizing and democratizing a crowdfunding model that actually works. As a rule, Kickstarter only funds creative projects that are finite, like a film or a game or a book, not a company or an organization. Although a business or a non-profit can launch a Kickstarter campaign for its own finite project, as long as it fits within the company’s set parameters.
And unlike venture capital dollars, Kickstarter donors are expressly forbidden from receiving equity or stock in the company or project they are supporting, so creators retain full creative control of their kickstarted ideas.
Here are 10 winners that are making the media world richer - either in content or in hardware - thanks to projects funded on Kickstarter:
1. Veronica Mars Movie Project
There are lots of reasons why this is the most important Kickstarter media project to date. Among them are the facts that 1) it was the fastest project to reach $1 million in pledges and 2) it was the first project to have the blessing of a major Hollywood studio. “Sure,” Warner Brothers said. “If you can crowd fund it, we’ll distribute it.” Well... Veronica Mars, The Movie had a goal of $2 million and raised $5.7 million with the help of 91,585 backers. That’s a big deal.
2. Decode DC
A project by a former NPR reporter, Decode DC dodged Kickstarters rules against political projects by focusing on journalism about the policy itself and how it gets made. With a goal of $75,000, creator Andrea Seabrook raised over $100K from 1,628 backers.
3. Double Fine Adventure
From the makers of the classic CD-ROM adventure cartoon puzzle game, The Day of the Tentacle, the team at Double Fine managed to raise $3.3 million from 87,142 backers to produce a video game called Broken Age free from VC or corporate overlord interference. Added bonus: there’s enough funding for a documentary film crew to film the whole process! (viewing for backers only).
4. Zach Braff Movie Project
In the wake of the Veronica Mars funding explosion, Zach Braff (of Scrubs and Garden State) wondered if Kickstarter might be a new way to finance a movie without surrendering creative control and final cut. Well, in 20 days, Braff blew through his goal of $2 million to raise $2.6 million from 37,610 backers. Now, Braff will have complete creative control of his new project, “Wish I Was Here,” something once thought impossible just a few years ago.
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Matter is a long-form journalism project focused on technology news. It blew straight past its modest Kickstarter goal of $50,000 to raise $140K from 2,566 backers. Expect big things from Matter, including investigative tech journalism that, well, matters. For instance, it’s current cover story is about the Russian dissident Alexander Litvineko and how he was poisoned in London by a radioactive compound by a shadowy assassin.
6. Dark Sky
One of the biggest neglected areas in media is accurate weather prediction dedicated to one’s exact location. Consolidated Face has now filled that void with Dark Sky, thanks to its 1,203 backers on Kickstarter who kicked in $39,376, well above its goal of $35K. With Dark Sky, a user can determine exactly when the rain will start for one’s exact location, and when the breaks in the storm will occur to give one a chance to make it to the car or train stop without getting soaked.
Yes, using one’s Apple device to video chat with FaceTime is convenient, but also clunky when you have to hold your phone at arms length or if you move out of the shot during the call. Galileo has now solved this problem with the help of its 5,227 backers who chipped in over $700K, when the developers where only asking for $100K. With this little automated stand with 360-degree rotational ability along both X- and Y- axes, one’s iPhone is now practically a Scorsese-directed steady cam, a baby monitor, and a real estate agent’s dream come true -- allowing 360-degree panorama pictures of every room in the house. Could be a platform for all sorts of media development in the near term.
This is a robot that uses your iPhone for its brain. It turns your iPhone into a little robot army tank. There are tons of potential media biz applications that could be based on this iPhone-robot model -- like an app that would send your iPhone come fetch you in the other room when your favorite program is about to start, and then it could shout brand names at you on your way back to the television. The team at Romotive wanted to raise $32K; but instead, 1,152 backers kicked in nearly $115K because they want an iPhone with tank treads. And who doesn’t?
This is a media story in the oldest sense of the term. The camera lucida is a optical device used by painters since the Renaissance to see their subject and art surface at the same time - a device that projects an image onto canvas or paper. The two art professors who put this Kickstarter project together have sold out of two production runs to nearly 10,000 backers who raised $402,526 when the creators only asked for $15K. While decidedly old-school, once this new lucida becomes widespread, inexpensive and popular again, there’s all sorts of ways one could integrate it into the modern world by turning a tablet like an iPad into a canvas. The Instagram of 2014 could be the LucidaGram.
The philosophy of this book is simple: “Use New Marketing to Prove New Marketing.” And since the concept of this book is “zero paid media as the new marketing model,” then that’s exactly how its creators are going about marketing it. Sixty backers pushed the Kickstarter account past its $10K goal with 44 days left in its campaign. This can be a frightening concept if one makes one’s living from paid media, but keeping tabs on the sorts of people who want to disrupt the status quo is the best way to keep a step ahead.
What interesting media projects have you seen on Kickstarter?