BackerKit developed software that helps manage the logistics of a crowdfunding campaign. And now its founders have announced The Creative Fund, which has the goal of pledging $1 to every project on Kickstarter.
One dollar doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s just a start. BackerKit cofounder Rosanna Yau says that this is more of a proof of concept, to see if their community is willing to rally around the idea. She and cofounder Maxwell Salzberg have set up a Patreon, a monthly subscription service that enables people to support creators directly. All the donations they receive from that platform will be distributed among Kickstarter projects, and the goal is to make sure all projects have at least one pledge.
“One dollar is infinitely more than zero dollars, so we felt that was a suitable first step to prove the concept and make sure the setup works,” said Yau in an email to GamesBeat. “We’re not trying to pretend that $1 makes any actual monetary difference in the short term. But we’ve already received so much inspiring feedback from the delightfully surprised creators we’ve supported, that we just know this could be the start of something much larger than us.”
The idea behind The Creative Fund is to “reward all the creators, makers, artists, and entrepreneurs willing to put their best foot forward,” according to Yau. The $1 pledge also acts as emotional support, giving the folks behind the campaign a little boost. Along with helping creators, The Creative Fund could also benefit BackerKit, which brings on crowdfunding campaigns as its clients, by spreading the word about its service.
Though The Creative Fund is casting a wide net in terms of which creators they’ll support on Kickstarter, it does have guidelines and reserves the right to cancel pledges if someone is found violating them. For instance, it has a “no tolerance policy” for “harassment and/or threatening behavior” or “abuse of others’ personal information.”
“These guidelines are minimalist on purpose, just like our $1 pledge,” said Yau. “We expect the guidelines to flesh out as we have more stakeholders — Patreon and otherwise — participating in the community — just like the monetary fund itself!”
BackerKit emerged from Yau and Salzberg’s own Kickstarter campaign back in 2010. They successfully raised over $200,000 for Diaspora, a decentralized social media platform that ran on an open-source web server. It was an internet experiment that survived for two years before the founding members handed the reins over to the community and dispersed to other projects.
Though Diaspora itself encountered challenges and controversy, Yau and Salzberg had accrued some valuable experience running a successful Kickstarter campaign and decided to found BackerKit. For the first time this year, the company hosted Bond, a conference that discussed crowdfunding strategies.
“Crowdfunding has changed considerably in the past five years, for better and for worse,” said Yau. “In the short term, we want to bring attention to all the benefits of crowdfunding. In the long term, perhaps we can get the per-project bounty to a place where it actually coaxes more would-be creators out from their shell.”
According to Yau, crowdfunding has changed for the better in that creators have more experience in running campaigns, either because they’ve already done it before or because more information is available. It’s also become a normalized strategy for tabletop and video games to go to sites like Kickstarter to find funding (or use a campaign to gauge if a game has enough interest to sell or to market a new project). On the downside, this more experienced crop of creators is edging out newbies who don’t have as much name recognition. She says that this has led to “less creator diversification.”
“While a formula for success is generally a good thing, it tends to favors incumbents more than newcomers. More incumbents dominate the crowdfunding charts, sometimes crowding out the light from newcomers,” said Yau. “There’s less media attention on crowdfunding projects in general, with much of that leftover attention going to incumbent or well-heeled creators.”
The Creative Fund plans on taking a community-driven approach as it feels out its path forward, and Yau says that the company is open to contributing more than a $1 in the future. Its Patreon guidelines say that for each $2,000 milestone reached, the fund will pledge $1 more to all Kickstarter projects. If something doesn’t get funded, the fund’s pledges will get recycled and re-donated to new projects.
While Yau and Salzberg are approaching crowdfunding by making multiple, anonymous donations across the board, other new takes on the process, like Fig, are doing the exact opposite by getting donors personally invested in projects through shares of a game’s profits. It will be interesting to see if The Creative Fund’s kind of equal-opportunity donation plan will attract people, and also how the company plans on remaining accountable to its community.