The Cosmonaut: Going Where No Project Has Gone Before
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You may remember Dan Provost and Tom Gerhardt from their first project The Glif. Back then (it was November ‘10), Dan and Tom’s little project was the first to fully realize the potential of Kickstarter’s platform as a place to bring physical design projects from concept to reality. With over 5000 backers preordering Glifs, their one-off project grew into something bigger than they had ever expected. Dan and Tom found they had a new group of supporters interested in what they might be able to do next.
That next step launched today in the form of The Cosmonaut, a cleverly designed wide-grip stylus for tablet devices. While the project is once again a way to gauge their audience’s interest in the product and offer preorders, Dan and Tom decided they wanted up the ante a bit and truly make this a product that could only happen if enough backers sign on.
Inspired by the pay-what-you-want model that Radiohead used when they released In Rainbows sans-label, Dan and Tom have set up a single reward where if you pledge $1 or more, you’ll receive the Cosmonaut (shipping included!). The reward is limited to 3000 backers, and the project’s goal is $50,000.
You don’t have to be a mathematician to see that those numbers don’t quite add up. If everyone pledges $1, nobody gets the Cosmonaut. If everyone were to pledge the same amount, they’d each be pledging about $16.66. And if some people are feeling generous and pledge $25 or $30, suddenly there’s room for a few people to pledge $1 or $5 or $10.
It’s an experiment that Dan and Tom spent a lot of time thinking about, and one that they realized could only be possible with something like Kickstarter. Nobody loses if the project doesn’t hit its goal, and if they succeed, they have the means to bring another product to market with the direct support of those who want it.
But it’s also an intriguing experiment that reveals quite a bit about the psychology of backing a project. Why do some people pledge more than a reward is worth? It’s something we see often, and it points to an interesting type of behavior that’s neither wholly altruistic, nor is it wholly consumption-based. If Kickstarter sits at the intersection of commerce and patronage, then Dan and Tom’s new project is a perfect example of how those two worlds are constantly colliding when backers support a project.
After less than a day, it seems their theory of commerce and patronage is working well. They’ve raised over $12,000 so far from over 800 backers, which averages out to around $15.50 per pledge. But to make their $50,000 goal, backers will have to collaborate with each other a bit, adjusting pledges here and there to ensure the Cosmonaut makes it into the real world.
We’re excited to see Dan and Tom thinking about new ways to play with the Kickstarter platform, and like many of you, we’re curious to see whether this grand experiment will launch the Cosmonaut to new heights.
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