My Close Call With Crowdfunding

I’ve got a confession to make. Despite my fastidious nature, I’ve got a little habit that tends to get in the way of that attention to detail.

I’m a daydreamer.

I spend way too much time dreaming up ideas that have little to no application in the real world. That’s just my thing. I’ll tell someone about it, they’ll give me that crazy look, we’ll laugh and I’ll go home, cry myself to sleep, and wake up ready to move on. But every now and then a really good one sticks. So then what? I’m no venture capitalist and unless there’s some trust fund I’m unaware of, I’m pretty much out of luck.

Like any good entrepreneur, I turn to the internet for help. More specifically, crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. This practice has existed in one form or another for years. Until recently, it involved the tedious task of creating a website to sell the idea, setting up a way to transfer funds, and then figuring out how to actually get the word out. You know, work. This proved difficult for most and, thus, raising capital for ideas was typically left to the truly ambitious.

Then Kickstarter came and changed everything.


Named one of the best inventions of 2010, Kickstarter is responsible for giving life to an incredible variety of projects. From watches to potato salad, humans no longer feel confined to conversations about their brilliant plans. Nay, this is the 21st century and together we have the power to breath life into the most absurd ideas.

While Kickstarter and its primary competitor, IndieGogo, weren’t the first, they certainly acted as a catalyst for what is now a $5.1 billion industry. To date, millions of people worldwide have contributed to projects via more than 100 online funding platforms.

Impressive, but it got me thinking. They can’t possibly all be good ideas. Right?

As it turns out, around sixty percent of all Kickstarter and IndieGogo campaigns never meet a quarter of their funding goal. So, what’s the catch? Are they just all terrible ideas or is there something else at play?

About three years ago, after losing the support of our indie record label, my bandmates and I found ourselves with an album half recorded and way over budget. After some debate, we decided to raise funds for the remaining expenses via Kickstarter.

We rallied our supporters and went on a pre-launch campaign tour. We sent out emails, text messages, even sent out requests on letterhead. We produced a video, conducted interviews, and basically had panic attacks for the duration of the project.

Then, on November 18, 2011, with just two days left to go, we did it. We successfully funded our Kickstarter project. The feeling was unreal. If you’ve ever been there, you know exactly what I mean.


But that was after one record, two singles, and three years on the road. We’d already been in the news half a dozen times and performed in front of 8,000 people at SXSW in Austin. We eventually realized that this was about so much more than 30 days of fundraising. We were banking on our entire careers to help make this thing work. I can’t imagine how it would have turned out if we had decided to launch this project any earlier than we did.

In the days that followed, we were on such a high from our success that we hadn’t really stopped to think about the next step. Fulfilling the rewards. I mean, we thought about it. We just didn’t really consider the task at hand. And that’s where so many of these projects go wrong.

Honestly, I’d always heard the phrase “measure twice, cut once” but never had I truly appreciated it until that moment. From personnel changes to manufacturing delays and simply not having enough money to ship everything, the process was just short of a nightmare.

To this day, many of those rewards remain unfulfilled. Sure, the record made it to stores and we thanked everyone for their support, but holding up our end of the bargain proved more difficult.

That relationship of trust between a business and the public is so delicate. The long term implications of our lack to live up to our word have yet to be revealed, but I can’t help but still cringe at the thought of it. It’s probably the biggest reason for never giving crowdfunding another shot. By the numbers, it was a huge success. In reality, I think we all still try not to think about it.

But now that I am thinking about it, three things come to mind:

1. Appoint someone with real math skills to help decide the goals and rewards.
2. Keep in mind that only a small percentage of your base are actually paying attention.
3. The work really starts when the goal is met.

There are many, many ways to make an idea stick. You don’t always need years of press behind a project, and you don’t always need a huge audience. But this is your dream we’re talking about. Your one shot at something amazing. Trust me when I say that timing is everything. Even when you’ve been over it a thousand times, just remember the old adage:

Measure twice, cut once.