Kickstarter celebrated its third birthday on Saturday. Three years is an exciting milestone (hooray!) but Kickstarter actually began long before.
Perry first had the idea for Kickstarter shortly after he moved to New Orleans in 2001. (He recently wrote about that experience on his blog.) Perry and I met after he moved back to Brooklyn in 2005, and we soon started working on the idea together. Perry was introduced to Charles through a mutual friend in 2007, and our founding team was complete.
While Charles and Perry were working on Kickstarter full-time — doing random side jobs to make money — I still had a day job. Progress was slow. None of us knew how to code. We made every mistake in the book. The site nearly didn't make it.
Eventually things started turning around. We met Sunny Bates, who began advising us. We met Andy Baio, who helped us make sure we had the right technical plan. And in 2008 we hired three freelance developers, including Lance Ivy, who we ended up convincing to join the team all the way from Walla Walla, Washington.
On April 28, 2009, Kickstarter launched. It was six or seven years after Perry's initial idea, three-and-a-half years after I became involved, and two years after Charles. It was a long road. But sitting here almost seven years later, of course it was worth it.
To commemorate Kickstarter's third birthday, we dusted off old laptops and hard drives in search of artifacts from those early days. We've shared what we found below.
Some of it makes us laugh. Some of it makes us cringe. Some of it brings us back to when we didn't know whether Kickstarter would ever exist. It feels like a million years ago. We hope you enjoy it.
Designs (that never saw the light of day)
In October 2006, Perry completed Kickstarter's first design. Perry is not a designer — as you will see — but the vision for what Kickstarter would become was there from the beginning. The all-or-nothing goal, the deadline, the project video, the tiered rewards, "back this project," "backers," and page architecture are already present. And note the name — Kickstartr without an "e."
Here's a whiteboard sketch from Perry's apartment in March 2007:
Thankfully Charles had some Photoshop skills. He worked with freelance designer Chris Gardella to complete this version of the project page in the fall of 2007:
They designed a MySpace widget too (told you this was a long time ago):
We added the "e" to Kickstarter in the fall of 2008. The new name took some getting used to. Here's a version after the new vowel:
The designs were getting close. In early 2009 the project page was finalized. None of these designs saw the light of day until now.
In February 2009 we shared a closed alpha version of the site with friends. On Tuesday, April 28, 2009, the site went live. Perry launched the first project — Grace Jones Does Not Give a F$#% T-Shirt (Limited Edition) — and I was the first backer. Perry and I launched another project that day with our friend Claudia called New York Makes a Book.
The first successfully funded project was on May 3, 2009. It was called Drawing for Dollars and it raised $35 from three backers, Perry included. It was a start! Three projects were successfully funded that first week. As of this writing, there have been 21,922 successfully funded projects since.
Kickstarter has been lucky to have supportive people around it from the very beginning. Many people had a hand in what it has become: all our friends and families, all the people who launched projects, all the people who backed projects, and everyone who ever lent an ear. We can't thank you enough.
We also have to thank the incredible Kickstarter team. They're an amazing group of people. Here they are listed by when they joined:
2009 — Cassie Marketos and Fred Benenson
2010 — Andrew Cornett, Brett Camper, Cindy Au, Daniella Jaeger, Cedric Howe, Sam Cole, Kendel Ratley, Mike McGregor, and Justin Kazmark
2011 — Meaghan O’Connell, Tieg Zaharia, Elisabeth Holm, Jed Meade, Jared Cohen, Cooper Troxell, Nicole He, Aaron Suggs, Zack Sears, Stephanie Pereira, Aurora Thornhill, Callan Lamb, Jessica Harllee, Alex Cox, Chris Muccioli, and Andrew Boyajian
2012 — Dan Drabik, Brandon Williams, Tomasz Werner, Katherine Pan, Bridget Best, and Ayeh Bandeh-Ahmadi
Thanks guys! We wouldn't trade these years for anything, and we hope for many, many more to come. Thank you all so much!