To celebrate hitting $1 billion in pledges on Kickstarter, we’re putting the spotlight on the people who made that happen. We’ll be posting excerpts from chats with some notable backers, talking about projects they love and the joys of supporting someone's idea.
Tieg Zaharia is an engineer at Kickstarter, but he might be better known as one of the few people who have backed over 1,000 projects (1,556 at last count). He backed his first project in December 2009. Six months later he tweeted this, which is how we ended up meeting him. Here are some excerpts from our chat about, among other things, how people at Kickstarter HQ think about backing projects.
What makes a project cool? What’s your criteria for backing?
If it's a filmmaker who's done work that I like, that's always interesting. Or maybe it's an experimental filmmaker, where it's obvious it's hard for them to get funding for projects. Music is always straightforward — if it's a band I like, I'll definitely back it. It's basically like preordering their album. Typically I'll only back metal bands nowadays. Or chiptune. One of my favorite projects was a chiptune artist who did covers of songs from Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails. It had some awesome puns for song names.
What kinds of projects does the Kickstarter team get excited about?
If someone does a project that just looks kind of outlandish or silly, I think we love those because it makes the atmosphere more fun. It emphasizes that we don't take ourselves too seriously. Also really groundbreaking projects like MaKey MaKey or Oculus Rift — we all get excited about those. And big films too. We love supporting filmmakers here.
What kinds of silly projects?
The Death Star projects — those were pretty awesome. They were obviously joke projects but it was fun to back them anyway. And the movie about the Spin Doctors guy! It actually would have been cool if that went through.
Favorite project of all time?
To pick one I might just say Kick-Heart, which was a short animation from Japan, and I recognized the director from some anime I'd watched before. He's a little more experimental, so it made sense that it might be hard for him to get funding through the regular studios there. Part of me really wants to see more anime projects on Kickstarter, so I had to back that.
I really liked + Pool a lot, because it’s just three guys who have this really big vision for this pool in the East River. And they're doing it in three stages, and they've thought it out really well. So even if the worst case happens and they can't finish it, I still think it's awesome that they went on this journey to try to put a pool in the East River.
Can you explain what’s known around the Kickstarter office as the Tieg Film Fest?
The idea first came about when Inocente won an Oscar. Bethany [Sumner] and I both suggested watching it in the office after work one day. And afterwards Shannon [Ferguson], our office manager, suggested that we show shorts from projects I've backed before our company meeting every Wednesday. I thought that was a great idea, and now it's a weekly thing. It's a cool way to remind everyone what we're doing and the results of these projects.