The Kickstarter Film Fest Arrives in Los Angeles

Tonight, September 12th, at The Autry in Griffith Park in Los Angeles the Kickstarter Film Fest is happening. You've probably heard a bit about this by now. We did it in New York and a whole lot of people came out and watched a bunch of clips from a diverse selection of Kickstarter-funded films. We also put the whole program online, in case you couldn't make it. Now we're coming to LA, also known as the primary home to basically the entire US film industry. In addition to the films (you can see the list of those right here), there's also plenty of food and cool stuff to look at, like a hot tub that is built into a car. Right below this sentence you can see a cool infographic about Kickstarter and Los Angeles and film (also some information about surfing, skateboarding and denim).

Kickstarter + Art Basel

Art has always been a hugely important aspect of Kickstarter. We’ve seen everything from art on a traveling truck to a musical house to the painting of an entire neighborhood. People from all over the world have pledged more than $40 million to art projects. There are hundreds of great art projects live now — in diverse subcategories like ceramics, public art, mixed media and illustration.

Our enthusiasm for art of all kinds is part of why we’re so excited that Art Basel, which stages the world’s premier international art fairs on three continents, has chosen to launch a partnership with us. Their new curated page will feature projects by non-profit visual arts organizations organizations, and they’re starting with four great ones:

  • 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art wants to stage a multi-disciplinary exhibition with the Chinese artist collective Yangjiang Group in Sydney’s Chinatown neighborhood. 
  • Gasworks, a London-based organization that promotes international artist exchanges, seeks support to build additional artist studios. 
  • The Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound is looking for support to produce a concert of new contemporary sound works in the scenic hills of Greater Los Angeles. 
  • SculptureCenter, New York City’s only contemporary art institution dedicated to sculpture, seeks funding for the first solo museum survey in the United States of Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook.

Art Basel’s powerful imprimatur will help the organizations behind these projects and the artists involved to get the attention they deserve. You can read a bit more about this initiative in the New York Times or on Art Basel’s website. We can’t wait to see more beautiful, innovative and thought-provoking art come to life.

Kickstarter in Canada: the Yearbook

It's been a whole year since Kickstarter went live in Canada! In that time, over $24 million CAD was pledged to more than 3,700 projects. We wanted to round up a few (okay, twelve — one for each month) of our favourites from the north. Read below for a list of projects that are sometimes wonderful, sometimes weird, and well-built all around. 

Most Socially Conscious: The Tar Sands Reporting Project

An award-winning team of journalists from the Vancouver Observer set out to tell the story of the men and women working in the dangerous Canadian tar sands. The project is much more than news: it’s a story about people, their daily lives, and the often difficult relationship they have with the oil industry. The project found success with 741 backers, and now encompasses a digital platform as well as a film.

Most Likely to Spit Rhymes at the Canadian Prime Minister: Shane Koyczan

Shane Koyczan is a poetry superstar. He’s given a moving TED talk on bullying that inspired thousands of people, and some of his fans have even tattooed his words onto their bodies. In February, Koyczan brought his new book A Bruise On Light to Kickstarter, and now he holds the record for highest-funded poetry project ever on the site.

Most Likely to Replace “Late Night Poutine”: Kanga

Three words: Aussie Meat Pies. In Toronto. Ok, that was five, but you get the gist! Thanks to their 289 backers, the ladies from Kanga have set up shop in the heart of Downtown Toronto, and as of May 23rd, they’re serving classic Aussie fare to the masses. Watch your back, poutine.

Most Likely to Perpetrate an Internet Hoax: Half-Cat

In Half-Cat, famed (and possibly nonexistent) scientist Erwin Hobbes takes on the phenomenon of rare bipedal cats. The book’s a collection of apocrypha on the subject: anecdotes, rare photos, and scientific diagrams of two-legged felines, all bound together into a slim fabric-covered volume. We’re not quite sure what’s true and what isn’t here, but we love it.

Most Likely to Be a Heritage Moment: Rhythm of the Hayes

Jennifer Ford is following in her father’s footsteps north up the Hayes River in Manitoba. She’s paddling 380 miles over 25 days, retracing the route he took four decades ago from Lake Winnipeg to Hudson’s Bay, and filming the whole experience. Straight up Canadian Wilderness.

Most Impressive Canadian Comeback: Spaceteam Admiral's Club

His first time on Kickstarter, developer Henry Smith of Spaceteam Admiral’s Club raised 81% of his goal with the help of 1403 backers. It was impressive, but not quite enough to send him over the edge. His second time, however, 613 new backers joined the Spaceteam team to help Smith continue making his games free and available to everyone.

Most Anticipated Film Adaptation: Corner Gas: the Movie

During its run from 2004-2009, Corner Gas was one of the most successful Canadian TV shows ever. Following in the footsteps of Veronica Mars, the Canuck fan favourite ran a very successful campaign to bring Dog River’s quirkiest characters back, and to the big screen, with the help of 2,526 fans. All right!

Tastiest Thing You Didn’t Know You Needed: Castor Toothpicks 

As a tool, the toothpick predates modern humanity; despite its long stay as a personal necessity, it’s never really been revamped. Enter the Castor, a toothpick covered with flavour powder, to be used for presenting hors d’oeuvres and imparting them with flavour combinations such as Wasabi & Raspberry, Marshmallow & Smoke, and Maple & Bacon (classic!). We didn’t even know we were missing this, but we totally were.

Biggest Fashion Revolution: Mia Melon

Who says raincoats have to be dumpy? Mia Melon debuted their fashion-forward weatherproof coat line in 2011, and since then, they've been in high demand. They ran this project to do a full production run and focus on what they do best.

Most Likely To Pop a Really Fancy Wheelie: Vanhawks Valour Bikes

The people behind Vanhawks Valour made a connected bike. What does that mean? Well, it tracks your fitness stats and keeps you safe by alerting you of things in your blind spot with haptic feedback. It also syncs with your phone, all while looking pretty darn cool. (Bonus: it’s well worth it to read their blog, where they’ve been detailing everything from the making of the handlebars to the UI/UX design of the app).

Speediest: Eta, the World's Fastest Bike

Last year, these two-time creators built a human-powered helicopter and conquered the air. Now, they've got another impressive goal: to build the world’s fastest human-powered land vehicle to surpass the current speed record of 83.1 MPH. The fastest bike in the world will be built by a team of student designers to reach highway speeds, and it’s sure to be a feat of efficient engineering. Like us, the 221 backers are excited about watching it come together.

Most Caffeinated: Kaffeeklatsch 

Calgary’s Kaffeeklatsch is more than a place to get a coffee fix: it’s a popup mobile coffee station in a 25-square-foot pantry in CommunityWise Resource Centre, a building with a solid history of social justice work.

Stop Internet Slow Lanes

When you click around the Internet today, you might see a well-known and much-loathed symbol: the spinning wheel that means loading, waiting, pausing, buffering, and waiting some more.

No one wants to see this! It’s the worst! But today we, and some of our favorite sites, are choosing to display it as a form of protest. We’re speaking out against the FCC’s draft Internet regulations that would allow cable companies to create a two-tiered Internet, divided into fast and slow lanes. These proposed rules would stifle innovation, discourage creativity, and destroy the Internet that we know and love.

We’ve been speaking out about Net Neutrality for a while, in the Washington Post and on this blog. But now it’s really down to the wire, with final comments due to the FCC on September 15. Today is the day to tell our elected officials: this isn't right, and we won't stand for it. Please call your Senator and add your name to this letter of support. Otherwise we’ll all be seeing a lot more of that spinning wheel.

Thank you.

Introducing the #LOL Tag

What is comedy? Webster's Dictionary defines it as ... haha, just kidding. We wouldn't do that to you. 

Comedy is definable in the broadest sense, but also so personal. Because of its specific nature, actually defining Kickstarter projects as comedy is tricky. It makes sense to put, say, The Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival in the comedy tag (comedy is in the name), but what about more conceptual projects like the Nicolas Cage Tea-Towels or the Sleepy Hoosband Calendar? What if you don't think those are funny? Turns out that's okay, because our new (and growing) #LOL tag encompasses all kinds of comedy projects, from Obvious Child to The UK's First Major Bubble Football Tournament, to the project where Kurt Braunohler hired a skywriter to write stuff like "how do I land?" in the sky. 

The tag is still growing, and will probably continue to grow as long as people have weird, idiosyncratic ideas they'd like to bring into the real world. Check it out right here.

Meet the Team: Maris and Alex C.

We thought it would be nice to introduce ourselves. So every so often, a couple members of the Kickstarter team will be saying hello, and picking out a few projects — past or present, successful or not — that they're especially fond of. (They will also be posing for GIFs. The GIFs are mandatory.)

This week, meet Maris and Alex C.:

Maris Kreizman (@mariskreizman)

Job: "I help publishing and theater people make great Kickstarter projects." (Note: Maris is also the creator of the immensely lovable and popular Slaughterhouse90210, and also apparently too modest to slip that in here.)

  • Moby Dick Marathon Reading — "I love reminding bookish types that they can use Kickstarter for many different kinds of literary endeavors. My friend Amanda raised funds to set up a weekend-long, marathon reading of Moby Dick, which will feature tons of great writers, some interesting pronunciations of 'Queequeg' and plenty of clam chowder."
  • Reductress — "Reductress is to women’s magazines as The Onion is to journalism and Clickhole is to web content. The satirical website, with features such as 'Serial Optimist Exhausts Entire Group of Friends' and 'Twenty Quotes to Cheer Up Your Smaller Boob,' cuts through the bullshit and is sure to inspire giggles."
  • Cutting Off Kate Bush — "'Cathy is having a crisis. And she's venting on YouTube. Through the medium of Kate Bush. Yep.' This description for a wonderfully emo one-woman show made me feel like maybe actress/playwright Lucy Benson-Brown might be my spiritual soulmate. I only wish I could’ve traveled to the Edinburgh Fringe Fest to see it live."

Alex Cox (@alexncox)

Job: "I write code in Ruby and Javascript. And I paint."

  • Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle: Book One Special Edition — "I backed this project because my coworkers Shayne and Callan said the book was interesting, and because it was run by a publisher whose office was across the hall from my painting studio. It turned out to be one of those defining moments in my life as a reader. A surprising book, a book that changed the way things were for me. I love the edition they printed through the Kickstarter, and I'm learning more about the great publisher now: Archipelago Books."
  • Disko: Photographs of Lithuanian village discos — "I think this is real art. Some of these photos have a crazy power to me, but what got me to really look was the author referring to the forest rites scene in the film Andrei Rublev, which I generally worship with something like a religious fervor. A pagan religious fervor, of course."
  • + POOL, Tile by Tile — "I think I tweeted about this once, that the concept of the pool was inspiring and depressing at the same time, depending on how you looked at it. It seems, incredibly to me, like it actually has a chance of happening now. The idea that we played a role in that is wonderful."

Making the Nomiku Wi-Fi Connected Sous-Vide

The Sous-Vide method of cooking involves slow cooking food in air-tight bags in steam or a water bath. It's been used in restaurants forever, but not so much in homes. The Nomiku Wi-Fi Sous-Vide is changing that, though. We asked creator Lisa Q. Fetterman to talk about the process of making and developing the cooking product.

To prepare for our first Kickstarter, we moved ourselves to China for three months and spent our life savings to create a fully functional prototype. This time around, just two years later, everything about our new campaign is different and it’s because the Maker Movement has changed hardware from the bottom up.

As we moved forward to rapidly prototype in Shenzhen the first time, we would spend upwards of $5,000 on functional prototypes. Designing for manufacturing doesn’t take place on the computer, something Kickstarter knows very well because they don’t allow you to launch a hardware project on renderings alone. It takes iteration after iteration of prototyping, and we went through dozens. Waiting on those models would cost us more than just the money for the physical pieces, sometimes we’d receive a part way after we’d made a change. The system was not flexible. Today with the advancement of 3D print houses right in Oakland, we can make fully functional prototypes for $600 each and the parts get back to us quickly.

We consider our experience in China as essential to bringing manufacturing back to the Bay Area. After our first Kickstarter campaign, we lived next to our factory in Guangzhou for a year. It was very intense but before long we started to regard it as normal. It was the fastest way to skill ourselves on how to make our device on a mass scale. Our biggest takeaway was we needed to make our device simpler to put together. Nomiku 1 had over 100 pieces and over six moving parts, today’s WiFi-Nomiku has eight pieces and two moving parts—it doesn’t take an engineer to understand the amazing implications of that.

Some Cool Stats on the Coolest Cooler

In the wee hours of the day after Christmas, Ryan Grepper's first Kickstarter project fell short of its $125,000 goal and quietly sputtered out. It wasn't the most promising debut. But eight months and $13.3 million later, Ryan's revamped Coolest Cooler project is sitting atop the list of the most-funded Kickstarter projects of all time. Here's a bit of context and some fun facts about the Coolest's amazing feat.

The Coolest's 52-day funding period wrapped up last Friday after a big surge at the end. We wanted to compare its progress with that of the #2 and #3 most-funded projects: the Pebble smartwatch and the Ouya game console. Those two had shorter funding periods, so we lined them all up on the same time scale, as if they had competed in an imaginary horse race.

One thing that jumps out here is the slowdown in Pebble's funding three-quarters of the way through. The Pebble's creators chose to cap the number of watches they were offering as rewards, saying they wanted to focus on making a great watch for the backers they already had. Without that cap, would the Pebble have raised enough to move beyond the Coolest's reach? We'll never know. But we do know that they made a great watch!

Ouya's climb is more typical, with a spike in pledges in the last days. But the Coolest's late gains were truly extraordinary. That's probably because of the burst of press attention it received when it topped Pebble's record. (Ryan even made vodkaritas for the folks on the Today Show.)

The Coolest's victory ended a remarkable reign by Pebble, which spent more than two years at #1. At the dawn of Kickstarter in 2009, there was a lot more turnover at the top of the list, but of course the funding amounts were relatively tiny. The Designing Obama book, which was #1 at the end of that year, raised 0.6% of the Coolest's total. In an earlier post we ran through all the #1s in Kickstarter's history. Here's a quick recap:

Project Amount Days on Top
New York Makes a Book $3,329 22
Allison Weiss Makes a Full Length Record $7,711 31
Help Polyvinyl Save 10,000 Records From Destruction $15,625 57
Release the next Five Times august album $20,546 35
The Vanderbilt Republic Foundation: "Masters" $50,264 27
Designing Obama $84,613 235
Decentralize the Web with Diaspora $200,641 162
Save Blue Like Jazz $345,992 34
TikTok + LunaTik $942,578 441
Elevation Dock $1,464,706 0.25
Double Fine adventure $3,336,371 65
Pebble $10,266,245 862
Coolest Cooler: 21st Century Cooler that's actually Cooler $13,285,226 ???

The shortest reign of all belongs to the Elevation Dock. It was the first project to top $1 million, and it ended TikTok's 441-day run, but after just six hours it was knocked off its perch by Double Fine Adventure. (That was a crazy day.)

Ryan timed his second Coolest campaign a little better than the first, rolling it out at a time of year when people in the US were most likely to have frozen margaritas on their minds. Here we've labeled the 10 states that pledged the most money to the project. California has always been a big Kickstarter state, but Texas really stands out here. One in every 4,629 Texans backed the Coolest Cooler.

The Coolest was not a big hit internationally, possibly due to shipping costs. Just 11% of backers chose the "International Coolest" reward. But the project still managed to pick up 524 backers from Australia, 89 from Brazil, and 66 from the United Arab Emirates -- all places where an icy beverage might come in handy. The Coolest's project video racked up 2.7 million views worldwide, vs. Pebble's 2.1 million.

We always like to check out which other Kickstarter projects appeal to the people who support a blockbuster like the Coolest. Here are the projects that Coolest backers went on to back the most in recent weeks.

Project Backers Who Backed Coolest
Bunch O Balloons: 100 Water Balloons in Less Than 1 Minute 860
The Stupendous Splendiferous ButterUp 608
Sense: Know More. Sleep Better. 584
Blink: Wire-Free HD Home Monitoring & Alert System 491
NudeAudio Super-M speaker 447
Noke: The World's First Bluetooth Padlock 384
Aquabot: Makes Your Water Bottle Spray 25 Feet 244
Earin - The World's Smallest Wireless Earbuds 203
The Ice Chest: Makes Crystal Clear Ice Cubes or Spheres 190
Tool Pen - Makes Everything Beautiful 181

There are lots of high-tech projects here, but also three that, like the Coolest, are about staying cool and having fun: Bunch O Balloons, which seriously escalates the water-balloon arms race; Aquabot, a turbocharged spray cap for water bottles; and the Ice Chest, a way to make clear ice spheres.

The list also includes a smash-hit butter knife. Which makes us wonder how many other everyday household items could use a Kickstarter-powered, Coolest-style reinvention. If you've got an innovative idea, we hope you'll share it with the world on Kickstarter!