Project Update: Happy Birthday, Kickstarter!

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Today Kickstarter turns seven. We’ll be celebrating tonight in Brooklyn with our friends, families, backers, and creators.

On past birthdays we’ve posted a Project Update on the company itself. Today we’re continuing the tradition by sharing what’s happened at Kickstarter this past year.

The Team 
We’re 137 people. Most of us work in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Our office is a former pencil factory where the legendary Blackwing pencil — endorsed by Vladimir Nabokov and Duke Ellington — was made.

The team at work here in our Greenpoint offices.
The team at work here in our Greenpoint offices.

The Kickstarter team includes some of the site’s biggest backers. Three employees are in the site’s top 20 backers: Tieg (#3 overall, 3,274 projects backed), James (#17, 1,789 backed), and myself (#20, 1,634 backed). Collectively we’ve made nearly 30,000 pledges to 12,900 projects. We like what we do.

The team grew 20% last year. People joined from O’Reilly Media, Google, Facebook, and Ideo, as well as the American Association of Independent Music, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The New Museum, New York Foundation for the Arts, and The Film Society at Lincoln Center to name a few. About 45% of the team designs and codes the product, 45% supports backers and creators in each creative community, and 10% support the org itself.

We are mission-driven, founder-led, and we are hiring.

The Community
Last year our community surpassed 100,000 successfully funded creative projects, and 10 million backers. To date, more than $2.3 billion has been pledged to projects.

For the sixth-straight year a Kickstarter-funded film was nominated for an Oscar. For the third-straight year Kickstarter-funded albums were nominated for Grammys. For the fourth-straight year more than 10% of Sundance was Kickstarted. We crossed $100 million to documentary filmmakers, $400 million to independent game designers, and $400 million to product designers to date. Dancer Michelle Dorrance was awarded a MacArthur Genius grant. Kung Fury broke the internet. Charlie Kaufman’s “Anomalisa” won Venice. The Ai Weiwei show at the Royal Academy in London got rave reviews and long queues. A team created the fastest human powered vehicle on Earth.

Patrons explore Ai Weiwei’s Kickstarter-funded “Trees” exhibit at The Royal Academy.
Patrons explore Ai Weiwei’s Kickstarter-funded “Trees” exhibit at The Royal Academy.
Eta Speedbike Team at the World Human-Powered Speed Challenge in Battle Mountain, Nevada.
Eta Speedbike Team at the World Human-Powered Speed Challenge in Battle Mountain, Nevada.

In modest but meaningful ways, the Kickstarter community continues to change the creative landscape. Backers and creators provide a more diverse community the opportunity to create. They build communities around projects much earlier in the creative process. They empower ideas to be valued on their own terms not the traditional metrics of success. And they expand the creative possibilities for any artist and creator who seeks it.

This is one of the most inspiring, generous, and impactful groups of people on the web. We’re so happy to be a part of it.

Year Seven Developments
Some things we worked on:

  • Public Benefit Corporation: Kickstarter became a Public Benefit Corporation in 2015. Serving artists, creators, and their communities has always been core to who we are, and becoming a PBC hard-codes that mission at the deepest possible level. We’re excited about the potential of the PBC structure to impact society for the better, and we want to see more companies pursue it. 
  • Western Europe: Since day one we’ve been available to backers around the world. But last year we officially launched to creators in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, and Switzerland. We’re very happy be working with these creative communities.
  • Drip: We welcomed a curated subscription service called Drip into the Kickstarter family. It gives fans a way to directly support and engage with great artists and labels like Domino Records, Sub Pop, and Stones Throw. Check it out
  • Campus: We introduced a knowledge-sharing area called Campus that gives experienced and potential creators a space to seek and offer their expertise. 
  • Community Tab: We added a Community tab to every project page with an infographic snapshot of that project’s network of backers. 
  • Film Festival: The Kickstarter film fest was our biggest yet, screening in 32 theaters across the US and featuring a great lineup of docs, features, and shorts. 
  • Aid Refugees: In October, the White House asked if there was a way to use Kickstarter to help the millions of refugees seeking safety in the Middle East and Europe. We broke our rules for the first time, and the UN Refugee Agency and 27,669 backers raised $1.7 million and awareness for those who needed it.
President Obama speaks to the importance of coming together to aid refugees.
President Obama speaks to the importance of coming together to aid refugees.

Year Seven Risks and Challenges
Every Kickstarter project is required to outline its Risks and Challenges. Ours in a word for last year: fulfillment. Several high-profile projects ran into fulfillment challenges, and others became high-profile because of them. We launched two big projects to bring transparency to the challenges of fulfillment.

We collaborated with The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to conduct the largest-ever study of Kickstarter project outcomes. The Kickstarter Fulfillment Report surveyed more than 500,000 backers and creators, and determined that 9% of projects fail to deliver rewards. We widely promoted this research to increase understanding on how Kickstarter works.

Last fall, the highly funded Zano drone project suddenly informed backers that they were throwing in the towel without explaining why. We commissioned an investigative journalist to look into and report on what went wrong. An independent, 10,000-word account of what happened was published a few weeks later.

Both of these projects explicitly promote the fact that some Kickstarter projects fail to come to life. An honest understanding of how Kickstarter and creativity work are vital to the long-term health of the platform and the independent creative community.

The Long View
Art and creativity grant anyone the power to shape and comment on the world. Their importance to humanity is critical and continually underappreciated. We celebrate everyone who devotes their energy to creating and appreciating art, creativity, and culture.

Kickstarter’s mission is to help bring creative projects to life. We want a world where artists and creators can live sustainable, creative lives. We strive to forever be at their service.

We’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by so much love, support, and encouragement over the years. Thank you so much for letting us a part of it. Here’s to the next seven years!

Yours,

Yancey
Co-founder and CEO
Kickstarter, PBC