It was big news when a Kickstarter project broke the $1 million dollar mark for the first time on February 9th. More amazingly, two projects shattered that record in the same day. Now another project, The Order of the Stick Reprint Drive, has passed $1 million in pledges. This all begs the question: is this just a coincidence, or has Kickstarter hit an inflection point in its growth, with a lot more seven-figure projects coming in the near future.
To understand the site’s recent success, it helps to look at its growth over the last two years. Kickstarter’s Fred Benson made this graph, which shows the acceleration in new backers who are funding Kickstarter projects. It’s the kind of chart venture capitalists drool over, because while it might not be the hockey stick growth of a site like Pinterest, each one of these new backers represents someone who was willing to give cold hard cash through Kickstarter, which collects five percent on every successful funding.
While only around 44 percent of projects on Kickstarter succeed, 89 percent of backers have funded a successful project. That’s the kind of positive reinforcement that turns many people into serial backers. As I wrote after my fiancée completed a successful Kickstarter project, a full third of the people who donated were complete strangers, but looking closer, many of those contributors seemed to have backed a dozen or more different projects.
There is another factor at work here, which is that more established artists are turning to Kickstarter. Both Order of The Stick and Double Fine Adventures, which has now passed the $2 million mark on Kickstarter, are projects from creators who spent years building up their fanbases. It has led to internal debate at the company. “There is some level of conflict here — we used to have a no-businesses approach,” said co-founder Yancey Strickler. “But, really, this was just a guy with an idea, and design is art. We limit Kickstarter to projects. Startups come to us when they don’t want to go to venture capitalists, and we say no, it has to be a project. It’s complicated.”