To date, of 3,713 Kickstarter applicants, 1443 have raised $17.4 Million for Food-related projects. These projects include kitchen appliances, gadgets, spices, sauces, salts, gardening apparatus, cookbooks, apps, restaurants and food trucks. But, they’re not all happy endings. There are no customers, businesses, or products at Kickstarter – there are only project backers, creators, and projects. Here’s how you can arm yourself to better understand the in’s and out’s of Kickstarter for a successful outcome for all parties involved.
84% of successful projects on Kickstarter fall far behind schedule, yet it’s surprising that most of the food projects are delivered on time. Experts have found that projects under $10,000 and those related to the arts are most-likely to deliver on time.
Whether you’ve created the world’s best hot sauce, the snazziest new gadget that not only slices and dices, it washes itself, and answers the telephone, or you’ve got a killer food truck concept, or maybe you’ve written a soon-to-be award-winning cookbook, you’ll want to consider crowd-funding options.
Money, Money, Money
With a nearly 50/50 chance of achieving funding goals, crowdfunding continues to grow in popularity at an alarming pace. Even the Money Man himself, Donald Trump recently partnered with FundAnything - dubbed the new Kickstarter spin-off, but with a twist. Trump places projects on his watch list and awards full or partial funding to select applicants.
How Can You Increase Your Odds as a Project Creator?
Start with your own social network. This serves multiple purposes. First, a solid social network is validation of your own level of commitment to the project. Backers will feel more comfortable investing in a project with a strong and engaged social network. Your social network is also vital to understanding your future customers and their needs, as well as critical inputs in the design of the product.
Project creators with strong social networks, seeking $10,000 in funding in 30 days are more likely to reach 60-80% of their funding goals within the first week. Projects that achieve this level of funding in the first week are most likely going to achieve or exceed the goal.
Odds of success are significantly increased, if the project is featured by Kickstarter.
Kickstarter is Not a Store. These words, originally coined by Kickstarter, itself mark a new turn in crowd funding. In January, Inc. reported that Seth Quest of San Francisco raised $35,000 for his Hanfree iPad stand, then failed to deliver any rewards to backers. The Hanfree project allegedly became the first Kickstarter project where a backer, Neil Singh sued a project creator. According to Inc., it forced a discussion about what Kickstarter owes to the people who use the service.
A couple of years ago, the Kickstarter project called Eyez by ZionEyez HD Video Recording Glasses for Facebook raised $343,415—nearly $290,000 more than the $55,000 the Seattle-based ZionEyez team originally targeted, and backers never heard from them again.
Kickstarter only reports project funding status. Once a campaign ends, it doesn’t assure delivery on rewards or track project success. It’s impossible to determine the actual number of projects that failed to deliver after funding, unless they’re reported in the media and blogosphere. In every case reported, the Kickstarter campaigns were over-funded. In some cases they were over-funded by 500% or more.
Kickstarter made some changes to its Terms of Service, aimed at educating backers, and placed more emphasis on disclosure by project creators. The majority of projects that die after funding are in the technology categories. Kickstarter now requires project creators to disclose the possible risks involved in their projects, and placed some restrictions around rewards. They’ve also prohibited project creators from using product simulations or renderings to promote their projects.
When a project is over-funded, experts suggest that patience will be your best virtue. Most projects that are over-funded are almost always in the 84-percentile of late deliveries. That is, with the exception of the arts.
Marcella Kriebel, a Washington D.C. resident who wrote, Comida Latina: An Illustrated Cookbook over a five month period, before approaching KickStarter received six times her goal, yet every book was shipped on time, and there are many more examples of successfully over-funded cookbooks on Kickstarter. The reason is that a book really doesn’t cost much to design, and the cost of printing is relatively low, provided there’s a large enough order. The printer’s capacity will almost always never be an issue for books. Kriebel’s first book was so successful, the second edition is already in production.
Cookbooks are Not Immune
As an investor (backer), there are never too many questions. Take a look at the project creator’s social networks. The project creator should be engaged with a large network, and you should find a history of project updates in social media that lead up to the Kickstarter application. Ask the project creator questions. In researching Kickstarter projects in the food category, I came across a group of frustrated and angry backers, who want nothing more than the cookbook they were promised nearly a year ago. Much like the ZionEyez project, backers haven’t heard from the project creator in months, and backers are beginning to feel as though they’ve been waiting in a very long line with no end in sight.
Kimberly Morales, Sacramento, California resident, and owner of the Poor Girl Eats Well blog amassed more than 20,000 fans on her Facebook fan page, and had all of the makings of a successful cookbook Kickstarter. She successfully raised nearly $12,000 of a $9750 goal nearly one year ago, but frustrated backers are still waiting for the cookbook with no word from Morales. Having been familiar with the Poor Girl Eats Well blog, I was surprised to discover the tragic outcome of this project.
On the Kickstarter campaign page, Morales wrote:
“This will be a professionally designed, professionally printed book! The majority of the funds will go towards designing and printing the final piece. Most of the content is written and ready to go, but I need your help with the final steps. I need all I can to get this project completed. So, I’m asking my amazing community to come on board with me in the process. Let’s do this together! Publishing this book will not only mean a signed copy for you to keep and use, but you’ll be supporting Poor Girl Eats Well and helping me keep the site going while I add new features and content.”
“you’ll be supporting Poor Girl Eats Well and helping me keep the site going while I add new features and content?”
The funding proposal does not include funds to support the Poor Girl Eats Well website, new features or new content for the site, but this statement slipped by most backers on the project.
In reading the Poor Girl Eats Well Kickstarter page, backers are led to believe that the funds would be used to support the production and printing of a cookbook, containing at least 80 recipes, tips for shopping on a budget, and Morales’ own biography. Backers believed that the content was ready for layout in book form, and Morales specified exactly how the funding would be utilized:
Time required to finish writing the final pieces
Graphic design services for the book
Printing and shipping and administration expenses
Creating and sending the Kickstarter rewards
Kickstarter and transaction fees
The project is now nearly a year past due, and will surpass the most delayed food-related project on Kickstarter, the ZPM Nocturn espresso machine. However, the developers behind the Nocturn have kept backers in the loop. Despite many manufacturing and design challenges along the way, the Nocturn is now in its final stages before commercialization, and ZPM expects to begin shipping by Summer.
Alejandro Galaviz and his wife live in Texas, and made a pledge to the Poor Girl Eats Well cookbook Kickstarter. ”In [Morales] case,” said Galaviz in an interview with Stitches ‘n Dishes, “she specifically stated on her page that, ‘Most of the content is written and ready to go,’ and it turns out that this wasn’t the case.” Galaviz and many of the 310 other backers have grown weary, as they wait for even an update or explanation from Morales.
Don’t Shut Backers Out – Communicate
According to Galaviz, backers have been systematically silenced. Their only recourse, now is to turn to the comments page on the Kickstarter project page. To date, Morales has not responded to comments or updated the Kickstarter project. ”I have attempted to leave several comments on her blog, politely asking for updates,” says Galaviz, “and they always require “moderation” before going live. Guess what? They never get posted.”
Fans and backers have been blocked even from the Poor Girl Eats Well Facebook fan page and Instagram account.
Jeremy Pepper recently commented,
“I posted that on the FB page asking for clarification and answers … and she deleted/closed all “other posts” which speaks volumes.”
And from Jordan Renee Galaviz,
“It would appear all the comments on her Facebook page, from different users requesting updates, has been deleted. I think the intentions are quite clear now… Maybe she’ll respond one day.”
As of the writing of this article, there are no fan comments on the Poor Girl Eats Well Facebook page, leaving backers concerned that they’ll never reap the rewards of this culinary disaster of a Kickstarter project.
“She was jobless at one point in time, and desperately low on funds,” says Galaviz. “I imagine she probably spent the money to keep her finances afloat. So, to put it bluntly she spent it,” he concluded.
Jennifer Usellis commented,
“… I’m understanding of the blog issues (I’ve actually been in a similar situation) but I find it very hard to excuse a lack of updates on the actual Kickstarter page when there are actual investors who have put up money. I’m disappointed, to say the very least.”
The underlying difference between the Poor Girl Eats Well cookbook Kickstarter project, and other late, over-funded food-related projects is communication. Backers are completely in the dark, because the project creator has not kept them in the loop, or openly explained the delays.
Take-Away Notes for Project Creators
- Know what you’re capable of producing and understand the risks,
- Develop a solid plan,
- Build a strong and engaged social network,
- Be honest about what you need and be transparent, and
- Communicate with backers.
Take-Away Notes for Backers
- Kickstarter is not a store, and you’re not shopping,
- Backing a project is an investment that comes with risk,
- In many cases, creators are inexperienced and may not have considered additional factors that could delay the project,
- Ask questions and understand your investment, and
- In a few cases, creators have been known to maliciously swindle backers.