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In case you have been living under a rock (or maybe you just don’t live online like I do), Kickstarter is the most popular crowdfunding platform currently available.
While browsing through the various projects my eye was immediately drawn to a new Star Trek film project called Star Trek: Renegades.
Normally I discount fan versions of Star Trek productions, but I was slightly more interested in this particular movie because I saw real actors from previous incarnations of the show, including Tuvok from Voyager played by Tim Russ and Chekov from the original series, played by Walter Koenig involved in the Kickstarter campaign.
As a trek fan, seeing these guys and many other previous Trek actors involved, gives the film real credibility. As I learned, this movie was the second such crowd funded film after Star Trek of Gods and Men.
I’m not sure if that’s enough to do a huge film production, but it’s definitely a sign there is some serious demand. Who knew this series had such a strong following.
After seeing the Veronica Mars campaign, and also a sequel to Garden State called Wish I Was Here by Zach Braff also funded on Kickstarter to the tune of $3 million+, I began thinking of all the TV series that I would love to see resuscitated.
Immediately I thought of Firefly, one of my all time favourite Sci-Fi series, created by Joss Whedon. I still struggle to understand why this show was cancelled when so many terrible reality TV shows continue to get renewed.
I had to quickly search to see if there was any ground swell movement behind the possibility of a Kickstarter campaign to get Firefly back, and discovered that Joss had already been asked the question and said he is too busy right now.
Another series that ended too early that I’d love to see brought back to life is Stargate Universe. Then I remembered the 4400 (also cancelled) a series that was just getting better and better as the seasons progressed, which I thought really deserved a proper ending, maybe at least a movie. There was also Hereos, which although it deteriorated as it progressed, picked up a bit towards the end of the last season and deserved a proper conclusion too.
As you can no doubt tell, my sci-fi loving fan side wanted to see all my favourites come back to life and now with Kickstarter and other crowd funding platforms, there were options.
Better still, these are options that grant creative freedom to the artists who create them. No longer does a studio decide whether a show gets renewed or not, instead the fans vote and they vote with money to get their favourite shows created.
As I was thinking about how Kickstarter allows creatives to fund projects before they are created, it dawned on me how similar this was to what we call the product launch in the world of internet marketing.
A Kickstarter campaign really is just a product launch. You create a lot of buzz, engage your audience in the quest to fund something they want, include all kinds of incentives and samples, and of course, have a deadline driven target that spurs action.
When I did my first ever product launch for my training program Blog Mastermind I only had the first week’s lesson complete. I wrote the next 26 lessons after I had paying members.
This is a formula used by so many people online who sell information products. You offer your product, launch it with a bang, and then create it with your customers.
You get your money upfront and you can tailor the product to the people who signed up. Win-win.
It’s a great strategy for everyone involved, except if there are delays in delivery or excessive refund requests – or of course, no buyers!
Kickstarter runs pretty much exactly the same way. It has taken the concept of the presell launch to almost any creative endeavour and legitimised it for the mainstream – well at least the internet mainstream.
Projects are just an idea – or at the most a prototype or beta version – before they are taken to market and sold on the Kickstarter platform. Those that are marketed well enough and gain traction are funded and then created. Those that fail to reach the threshold are not – at least not via Kickstarter.
People who back projects have to wait to receive what they just supported. If all things go according to plan, within a few months they should have what they paid for, with the creators busy using the funds to build their idea.
I had a lunch meeting with Rob and Chris who run AnnexProducts, a company that has experienced tremendous growth selling clever mobile phone cases.
They got their start thanks to Kickstarter, raising just under $30,000 to create an iPhone case that doubles as a bottle opener.
Using Kickstarter they were able to test market demand, generate startup capital and perhaps most importantly, engage an audience that became their raving fan customers.
They have gone on to create more unique mobile phone cases and today run a million dollar business.
During lunch we talked about how difficult it used to be to test an idea compared to today. Now you don’t even have to create anything. Just explain what your idea is and use one of the many vehicles available to drum up interest and even make sales.
Today with a little bit of good marketing, even the craziest of ideas in the most bizarre markets get their chance to capture interest.
When talking to potential entrepreneurs a lack of ideas is never the problem.
Usually it is a lack of action, driven by limitations that stem from some kind of fear.
Often fear of failure is a big cause of inaction.
This is why I love things like Kickstarter and the Product Launch Formula. These platforms and strategies allow you to test an idea to see if their is traction before you go too deep into creating it.
Just throw something out there and let “success” only be an answer to your question of whether there is demand.
If people do not respond, great, you know the answer and you can move on to something else.
If people do want what you offer, they will show you with their money and then you can create something amazing for them.
The internet is changing the media landscape in so many ways. With Kickstarter and Netflix and YouTube there are new avenues for independent content production free of the tyranny of network decision making.
I for one can’t wait for the day when shows like Firefly are never cancelled by a small group of people in a boardroom and instead are powered by the passion fans have and are more than willing to back up with money, given the chance to do so.