Kickstarting A Revolution? (Part 1) - A KickStart Primer

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Harry Slater looks at crowd-sourced funding and questions how influential it's likely to be in the future

The internet is constantly changing the way the modern world works. It's moved commerce away from the high street and into the comfortable surroundings of our own homes, treated us to personalised recommendations at every turn, and even found ways to circumnavigate currency and international borders.

Description: The internet is constantly changing the way the modern world works

What it's also built is a platform for distribution that allows creators to sidestep the publisher and take a product straight to its target audience. There's nothing stopping you from writing a book and releasing it on one of the various e-publishing platforms out there, or recording some music and finding a home for it on the web.

One of the most interesting changes that this shift in the relationship between consumers, creators and delivery platforms has produced is a new way of finding funding for creative endeavours. This crowd sourcing is all the rage at the moment, with everything from children's books to videogames to documentaries searching for money before a single word has been written, a pixel placed or a scene filmed. In one way, this is internet democracy at its finest, a reverse engineering of the traditional entertainment paradigm, which lets the audience offer a leg-up to the media they want to see created. But is this move towards people-funded creations really the revolution it seems, or is it merely one out of a myriad of ways that people can make some money from selling their wares online.

A KickStart Primer

Description: Kickstarter

As long as the internet has been available to the general public, it's been used for commerce, and in spite of growing security fears, that looks like a trend that's going to continue unabated. An online store front is far cheaper than its real life alternative, and has a much wider reach than even the largest chain of shops. Putting a product online is essentially sending it around the world, opening up your business to the whims of search engines, social networking and a public the likes of which a hundred shops couldn't hope to fit in.

That's not to say success is guaranteed. There are enough businesses around that have failed in their online push to fill the pages of this magazine many times over, be it due to misunderstanding the basics of the internet, or offering services that no one wanted in the first place.

Fads come and go, and last week's brilliant idea is this week's no one cares, but the one constant that drives the web is its ubiquity. Right now you're probably within reach of a gadget that you can use to buy things online - you might even be reading these words on the screen of your iOS device. It's that instant accessibility that the web offers that makes it such an enticing prospect for retailers and consumers. And it's accessibility that's key to the crowd sourcing drive. With a few taps on a screen or clicks of a mouse, you can have pledged money to a product that you want to see made. In some cases, it's even simpler than buying the completed product when it's released.

Crowd sourcing large amounts of funding is possible because of the interconnected nature of the online sphere. It doesn't take long for an idea to gain momentum, and once it has that momentum, it can spread through social networks and forums like wildfire. Perhaps the most famous platform for this crowd sourcing is KickStarter. Founded in 2008, the site gives creators a place to pitch their ideas to an audience. Each pitch is accompanied by an amount of money the person or company would like to earn, and a time limit dictating how long they have to make that amount. If the pitch hasn't made all the money it's asked for by the time limit, then it doesn't get anything.

In the four years since its inception, KickStarter has seen more than $125 million dollars pledged and successfully funded more than 15,000 projects.

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