Potato Salad: By the Numbers

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When you work at Kickstarter, you come across amazing projects all the time. But in the site’s five-year history we’ve never seen anything quite like Zack Brown’s potato salad project.

It wasn’t the project’s ambitions that blew us away, because... well, it wasn’t very ambitious, at least at first. It was the reaction Zack got from all corners of the Internet: head-scratching, laughter, loud harrumphing, pure delight. And it was Zack’s graceful handling of a project that quickly became far too big to fit in a bowl.

The potato salad project ended Saturday with $55,492 in pledges from 6,911 backers. Here’s a look at how it got there.

Zack’s project started popping up in the press almost immediately. On July 6th, three days after it went live, Zack was on local TV news in Columbus, Ohio, expressing amazement at how the thing had blown up. At the time he had fewer than 200 backers.

Traffic to the project page quickly took off and eventually reached 4.1 million visits.

That made it the fourth-most-viewed project page in Kickstarter’s history. The top ten:

  1. Ouya game console
  2. Pebble watch
  3. Veronica Mars movie
  4. Potato Salad
  5. Double Fine Adventure
  6. Project Eternity
  7. Penny Arcade
  8. Reading Rainbow
  9. Mighty No. 9
  10. Oculus Rift

It’s funny to think that more people have seen the potato salad project than Oculus Rift, but hey, the Internet is a crazy place.

Despite all the traffic, the project received fewer pledges than anything else on that list. Here's a breakdown of pledges by day, showing a big surge at the start and then a flurry of backers getting in just before the deadline:

Hunger for potato salad knows no borders: people in 74 countries supported the project. Here are the top ten:


Country Backers
United States 4,676
United Kingdom  419
Canada 363
Australia 220
Germany 179
France 107
Sweden 82
Denmark 54
Netherlands 53
Switzerland 46

Among countries with more than five backers, Norway had the highest average pledge at $12, followed by South Korea and Sweden.

About two-thirds of Zack’s backers were from the US, and they pledged a total of $41,166. Here is a breakdown showing what percentage of that total came from each state:

(We've omitted some states, including those contributing less than 0.5% of total money pledged to potato salad)
(We've omitted some states, including those contributing less than 0.5% of total money pledged to potato salad)

Ohio, California, and New York pledged the most to the project. Ohio was no surprise, as it’s Zack’s home state. In fact, if we zoom in on Ohio, there’s particular strength around Columbus, Zack’s hometown, where his friends and neighbors wanted to come along for the ride. More than 62% of the money in Ohio came from Franklin County, which includes Columbus. Columbus is now gearing up to host PotatoStock 2014 next month.

As you might expect, most pledges to this project were small. Backers averaged $8.03 per pledge, compared with a Kickstarter-wide average of $77.51.

Most of the project's backers were not new to Kickstarter: 72% were repeat backers. In fact, even when you include the newcomers, potato salad backers have backed an average of 15 projects on Kickstarter! So while this was a global joke on the Internet, backing the project became an inside joke among core Kickstarter fans.

Here are the projects that people backed the most before they backed the potato salad project:

  1. Reading Rainbow - 868 backers
  2. Double Fine Adventure - 437 backers
  3. Ouya - 343 backers
  4. Mighty No. 9 - 340 backers
  5. Torment: Tides of Numenera - 293 backers
  6. The Veronica Mars Movie Project - 276 backers
  7. Project Eternity - 262 backers
  8. Pebble - 245 backers
  9. Wasteland 2 - 239 backers
  10. Kung Fury - 230 backers

...and those they've backed since potato salad:

  1. Coolest Cooler - 101 backers
  2. Sense - 99 backers
  3. Bunch O Balloons - 95 backers
  4. Electric Objects - 39 backers
  5. Litographs Tattoos - 36 backers
  6. The Deer God - 36 backers
  7. Bibliotheca - 34 backers
  8. NudeAudio Super-M - 30 backers
  9. The Resistance - 29 backers
  10. Timespinner - 27 backers

The project also received an incredible amount of press. According to the media analytics service Meltwater, it got 2,068 media mentions in 54 countries.


Country Media Mentions
United States 1,319
Australia 272
Canada 95
United Kingdom  70
India 49
Singapore 29
Malaysia 24
Germany 20
New Zealand 20
China 18

Some of our favorite features were in The New Yorker, Good Morning America, Columbus Alive, and The Verge (and also The Verge).

Tons of people would have watched Zack’s project video — except that he didn’t make one. Here’s our favorite of his video updates:

Zack’s project inspired some handwringing about What It All Means. Here’s one take: Kickstarter is a good place to aim high and go big, but small projects are great too. If you want to make something to share with others, maybe you just need ten or 20 or 50 people to get your idea off the ground. And if it turns out that 6,911 people share your vision for potato salad… then you’re going to need some more potatoes.

We look forward to seeing your project! And maybe we’ll see you at PotatoStock 2014.

Got ideas for other fun things we could do with all the great data we have at Kickstarter? Write to us: [email protected].
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