There are hundreds of sites where you can launch a project with the help of potential customers. Which fits your business or backing profile best?
You know Kickstarter, you dig Kickstarter. You’ve maybe even pledged to support a hyper-connected watch, a new video game console, or an earnest long-form journalism project. Kickstarter has drawn on regular web users to fund $236 million in successful projects as of this writing, and it’s the leader in a projected $2.8 billion crowdfunding boom in 2012. But there are plenty of other platforms for getting a project off the ground these days—at least 450 of them.
What follows is some hand-picked crowdfunding options that differ from Kickstarter in mission or model. Kickstarter screens projects, requires that some kind of project, event, or release be the end goal, and only gives over funds collected if the project hits its goal inside a deadline. Almost all of the crowdfunding sites are based on pledges or donations, not actual investment, but that is likely to change in 2013, when President Obama’s JOBS Act goes into effect, allowing small-stake investors to pick up equity.
As always, read the rules before you commit to any web venture, from the creator or backer sides.
The Notable Non-Kickstarters
These are the sites that draw the most attention and raise the most cash in the crowded crowdfunding scene.
Projects: For-profit, non-profit, trivial, serious—you name it. Indiegogo states that “There is no limitation on who can use Indiegogo as long as you have a valid bank account.” And funds can be raised even for "personal needs." The only exception is projects in countries on the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control sanction list.
Where the money goes: Free to set up, and projects choose either Fixed or Flexible funding. “Fixed” is a Kickstarter-like, all-or-nothing campaign: you make your goal and Indiegogo takes 4 percent (and a third-party credit card processor takes 3 percent), or you don’t make it and no money changes hands at all (failure is free). “Flexible” has the same fee structure for hitting your goal, but if you fall short, you can keep your funds and give Indiegogo 9 percent.
Notable projects: Matthew Inman of ubiquitous web comic The Oatmeal raised $220,000 for charities, and to mock a ridiculous lawsuit. Max Sidorov started a fund to give an abused middle school bus monitor a vacation, and it’s up to $660,000 so far (for many good reasons). At the moment, there’s a slow burn to turn part of abandoned Detroit into a zombie adventure park.
Rewards: Custom-picked and very Kickstarter-esque.
Why this instead of Kickstarter?: If your project doesn’t meet Kickstarter’s goals, if it’s more cause than product or event, or if your project can launch at much more modest levels.
Where the money goes: It’s not donations, it’s financing for films with budgets between $1 and $15 million. Slated investors must have accreditation, along with two recommendations from existing members, to gain access to equally screened producers and a “socially vetted marketplace of high-quality films and filmmakers.”
Notable projects: Nothing wholly spawned yet, but Slated cites “filmmakers” from Pulp Fiction, Iron Man, and An Inconvenient Truth, and others, along with actors including William H. Macy, Katie Holmes, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Rewards: Your name in the credits, if all goes well, and actual money back if all goes really, really well.
Why this instead of Kickstarter?: If your film is less experimental and community-minded, and more of a commercial project.
ArtistShare, PledgeMusic, SellaBand
Projects: PledgeMusic is geared toward music releases and their related recording/promotion. Artists on more Euro-centric SellaBand can try for albums, marketing campaigns, concert setup, or a “product” for fans. ArtistShare is focused on musical releases.
Where the money goes: None of the sites takes royalties. PledgeMusic is all-or-nothing funding for a band’s next album, with no royalties taken and a flat 15 percent fee. ArtistShare lets artists keep money they raise no matter what, and takes 15 percent of royalties (and can release through its own record label). SellaBand holds pledges in escrow (and keeps the interest), takes 15 percent of completed projects, and sometimes offers revenue shares. On SellaBand, backers can’t refund pledges, but move them to other artist projects.
Notable projects: Ben Folds Five has their next album up on PledgeMusic. Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s released their project. Public Enemy put two albums in play at SellaBand, and Maria Schneider won a Grammy for an album never released in stores.
Rewards: On SellaBand, there’s a chance at revenue returns. On both sites, though, always at least an album, physical or digital, but far beyond, too. For $2,500, Ben Folds Five will use your name in a song. For $700, members of Luscious Jackson will tour downtown NYC with you, or for $5,000, you get an acoustic living room concert.
Why this instead of Kickstarter?: If you’re an act with any kind of name recognition, you’ll find appreciative music nerds at both sites. For pledgers, it’s about nudging an act toward making a recording (something true fans always wish they could do).
Projects: Those submitted by “emerging artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, philanthropists,” but pretty much anything legal and with decent taste.
Where the money goes: Projects keep the money they raise, goal met or not; RocketHub takes 4 percent of successes, 8 percent of funds from unmet goals, and a 4 percent transaction fee. Projects that go beyond their goals receive rewards.
Notable projects: The big one is Extra Credits, a video series about game and web culture; smaller successes include Meghan Sebold’s AFI project, making dresses from scraps of fabric from Ghana markets, and a rather neat kids book/app combo.
Rewards: Similar to Kickstarter: initial shot at the product itself, then artist involvement: autographs, personalization, your name in print, etc.
Why this instead of Kickstarter?: The wide-open project policy, perhaps, or the chance to have your project picked for a LaunchPad Opportunity with more funding and coaching (think incubator-style).
A few other sites to consider, either with niche goals or notably different funding models. Want a deeper dive? Wikipedia has a hefty list of crowdfunding options.
FundaGeek: Technology, science, and other left-brain ideas. Takes 5 percent for successful all-or-nothing campaigns, or 9 percent for products with Premium Marketing Services.
LoudSauce: Pitch in to get awareness ad campaigns produced and run. Resulted in notable 30-second Occupy Wall Street ads (all-or-nothing).
Mobcaster: Get independent TV shows shot and running, on Mobcaster’s own site or elsewhere (all-or-nothing).
[Image: Flickr user Mark Michaelis]
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