There’s no one reason why a project fails, but usually it has to do with rewards that are too pricey, a funding goal that’s a bit out of reach, bad timing, or myriad other things in life that can get in the way of success (I had finals! I had a baby! My cat got sick! Portal 2 came out!). That’s just kind of how life is.
Last week, I interviewed the creators behind a failed Kickstarter project called graFighters. Their story was an interesting one, largely because they’re likely one of the most successful failed projects we’ve seen. After falling about $17k short of their $20k goal, they went on to raise $200k from a private investor who found them on Kickstarter. This is about as close to a Cinderella story as it gets in the world of game development. A few media outlets picked up their story, and the focus shifted to the fact that it’s not just individuals like you and me who are looking for interesting projects on Kickstarter. It’s also serious investors and companies looking for the next big hit.
But let’s backtrack a little here. The graFighters story struck me as especially interesting because it was ultimately a story about failure, and what you can gain from failing. While there a lot of amazing successes on Kickstarter, there are also projects that seem to do almost everything right, but still aren’t able to pick up the momentum they need to make it.
Take, for example, these two projects:
Both had cool ideas, personal pitch videos, and nice rewards. I’d check in on their projects every couple of days, hoping they’d get that big burst of funding that happens when enough people have passed your project around, fallen in love with your concept, and realized they’d be fools not to pledge.
But it never happened.
And yet, not reaching their goal on Kickstarter didn’t mean the end of the road. As Jeanne said in a note to her backers:
“I want to say thank you again to all of you that pledged your support. Knowing that so many people appreciate the work makes it easy to carry on with this project. I’ll continue to adapt and refine the piece in the hope to see it brought to fruition.”
It’s something we see all the time — project creators who are absolutely committed to their work, and undaunted by the specter of failure. In fact, failure becomes as integral to their projects as success.
Putting yourself out there on Kickstarter can be both exciting and terrifying. Nearly everyone who works at Kickstarter has done a project, myself included. As someone who is more than a bit terrified of coming out from behind her computer screen, making a video and promoting the project was a giant uphill battle. Anxiety sets in and you find yourself thinking “What if nobody likes this?” or “What if I work really hard but still don’t make it?” The funny thing is, even the most confident, outgoing project creators I’ve talked to are plagued by these same anxieties. You walk into this knowing that failure is always a possibility.
If I had it my way, every good project would reach its goal and be wildly successful. But that’s not always the case, and that’s okay. For the graFighters team, Jeanne, Rei and many others who’ve failed before them, Kickstarter became a place to meet people who sincerely believe in your work and want you to succeed. Your everyday backers may not be able to cough up $200k or $20k, but they can tell you that you’re on the right track and remind you that in a world where it often seems impossible to get noticed, they noticed you.