Why Kickstarter may not approve your tech project

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IT Business  |  Candice So  |  Posted on Sep 13, 2013

Kickstarter and tech projectsYancey Strickler stands in a darkened theatre on Toronto’s College Street, his frame illuminated by a big-screen projector behind him.

Energetically cracking a few self-deprecating jokes with the crowd filling the theatre, Strickler sounds modest when he starts talking about Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform he co-founded four years ago.

“Our first successful project was called ‘Drawing for Dollars,’ and it raised $35 of [its goal of] $20,” Strickler says. “We couldn’t have been more excited – we couldn’t believe it was working!”

Strickler stopped in Toronto as part of a tour of a few of Canada’s major cities. On Sunday, Strickler visited the city to give a workshop on Kickstarter, and the next day, the crowdfunding platform opened its doors to Canadians keen on firing up their own campaigns. In the past, starting projects was limited to the U.S. and more recently, to the U.K.

Many workshop attendees were very familiar with the Kickstarter brand. But what was less clear to them is what types of endeavours will be accepted on the platform, and what types won’t. On Sunday, Strickler fielded a question or two about whether software-as-a-service had any place on Kickstarter. The answer? Usually, it’s a no.

With tech startups increasingly turning to the crowdfunding space as a way to raise cash, you might think they’d be taking over the Kickstarter platform. But they’re not. In fact, the projects with the lowest approval rates on Kickstarter are categorized under tech, followed by design and food. While projects like Pebble’s smart watch attracted a lot of press for raising more than $10 million on Kickstarter, that is the exception, not the norm.

So the question is – what kinds of projects usually make the cut on Kickstarter?

Creative ones, says Sumit Mehta, founder of Toronto-based Speakgeo, a location-based service that provides user-generated comments, reviews, and online petitions of specific places.

While he’s not officially launching his campaign until Sept. 17, with a goal of $25,000, he said he began planning his project in as early as April.

“The challenge that I faced … was to find out, what are people doing to articulate and illustrate their software-based idea [on Kickstarter]? What they were doing is basically showing the product itself, like the Web site, or the solution they built,” says Mehta, who also works full-time at an insurance company. So far, he’s put $40,000 to $50,000 of his money into his startup.

For him, convincing Kickstarter’s approval team that his project was a good fit for the platform, despite being centred around software, was a huge confidence-booster.

“Hearing that made me very excited. I thought OK, so if that’s how they approach their approval process, and they still approve me, that means holy, I’m creative,” he says.

While promoting creativity is one of Kickstarter’s mantras, what’s also important is showcasing a “discrete project,” says Greg Goralski, creator of the Appseed project in Toronto. By discrete, he means it must have a beginning, middle, and end – largely barring companies with subscription models from the Kickstarter platform.

Goralski launched his campaign on Sept. 9, Kickstarter’s Canadian launch date. His project, Appseed, is a mobile app that turns sketches into functioning prototypes. It captures a design on paper, and then transforms into a demo that will run on a mobile device. Its goal is $30,000.

While Goralski considered hosting his project on Indiegogo, he opted for Kickstarter because he feels it is more established, has raised more money, and reaches more backers.

“I looked closely at what kind of campaigns they take,” he says, adding he also spoke with creators of past successful projects. “The concern Kickstarter has is around starting projects, not ongoing companies.”

Goralski may have a point. With Kickstarter, there are grey areas. While it doesn’t wholeheartedly support tech startups and companies, if its approval team sees a project that has creative merit, it may give it the green light.

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The National Crowdfunding Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada crowdfunding hub providing education, advocacy and networking opportunities in the rapidly evolving crowdfunding industry.  NCFA Canada is a community-based, membership-driven entity that was formed at the grass roots level to fill a national need in the market place.   Join our growing network of industry stakeholders, fundraisers and investors.  Increase your organization’s profile and gain access to a dynamic group of industry front runners.  Learn more eBrochure | Prezi or contact us at casano@ncfacanada.org.

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