Kickstarter, is the Bubble About to Burst? And an Apology.

KickstarterI’ve been pretty bullish on Kickstarter, thinking it’s the democratization of ideas and goods, and disrupts the current flow of the creation, production and consumption of products. I’ve regularly posted about projects I recommend to support and multiple times a day I’m bombarded by requests to promote a project. To date, I’ve backed 82 projects, and while with the vast majority I’ve received my items as promised, the majority have been late and in almost 10% of them, those who created the the project have been awol with updates. Some of those absent projects were supposed to be delivered over a year ago.

This has been wondering, with no recourse as a consumer/backer, and Kickstarter unwilling to step in for these absent entrepreneurs, how long before the bubble bursts? More and more, I find myself uneasy promoting projects for individuals. Many are going to Kickstarter to make their project a reality with zero work done other than a plot pitch or an idea for a comic book, graphic novel or series.

Here’s directly what Kickstarter has to say about accountability:

  1. Who is responsible for completing a project as promised?

    It’s the project creator’s responsibility to complete their project. Kickstarter is not involved in the development of the projects themselves.

    Kickstarter does not guarantee projects or investigate a creator’s ability to complete their project. On Kickstarter, backers (you!) ultimately decide the validity and worthiness of a project by whether they decide to fund it.

  2. How do backers know if a project will follow through?

    Launching a Kickstarter is a very public act, and creators put their reputations at risk when they do.

    Backers should look for creators who share a clear plan for how their project will be completed and who have a history of doing so. Creators are encouraged to share links and as much background information as possible so backers can make informed decisions about the projects they support.

    If a creator has no demonstrable experience in doing something like their project or doesn’t share key information, backers should take that into consideration. Does the creator include links to any websites that show work related to the project, or past projects? Does the creator appear in the video? Have they connected via Facebook?

    Don’t hesitate to request information from a creator. You can always reach out before pledging via the “Contact me” button on the project page.

It’s our responsibility as pledgers to guess if a project will be late, or even completed. While there’s legal recourse, I’ve yet to pursue that avenue and no idea if anyone has, yet. All it takes is a few high profile projects to fail and there goes the shaky house of cards Kickstarter has been built on. This is a huge deal as Kickstarter is estimated to be the third largest publisher of comics and graphic novels. If this site goes, or trust is hampered, that’s an impact on the numerous creators who have gone to this service as their only avenue to be published.

There are not stats for how many projects miss their deadlines or remain unfulfilled. A feedback loop post project by Kickstarter would be a good start to solve this issue.

And how do I look promoting projects that turn out to be delivered late or completely absent? I value our site’s integrity, hence why we are one of the few (maybe the only?) comic/geek site that makes it clear when we receive product for free (or some other exchange) when we do reviews or posts. Honest transparency is something I went into as a “must” when this site was started over 4 years ago. I’ve stuck to that proudly.

A few of these “absent” projects I did recommend on this site. And I want to apologize for doing so. I apologize for promoting these projects, you being out of your money, waiting for the product you pledged to support to arrive if they ever do. Every project I’ve posted, I’ve backed, so I’m out money too, if that’s any consolation. It’s frustrating to say the least.

So, where do we stand? The first is to give more scrutiny towards projects I back personally, but especially what we recommend on this site. Going forward to add transparency I am adding a rating as to the “Project’s Risk.”

  • Low – there is a history of projects by this individual that have been fulfilled and completed on time, they are already established creators, or the project is near completion already
  • Medium – there is a history of late projects, the time frame is unrealistic, or little work has been done for the project
  • High – there is no history by this creator, little to no work has been done

An explanation will accompany the rating and if a project creator wants to dispute that rating they can. It might also change as more updates are given by the creator. This isn’t perfect, and will be made for the better, so suggestions are welcome.

It’ll be interesting to see how Kickstarter and the pledgers themselves evolve over the next year or two, but now it’s absolutely “buyer beware.”