Like YouTube, Facebook, or blogging platforms, it’s almost hard to believe there was an Internet without Kickstarter, which may be the greatest testament to its success. In 2009, the site generated about $23 million for its projects—an impressive figure by all accounts—but in 2012, Kickstarter pulled in roughly 10 times that, leapfrogging the grant budget of the National Endowment for the Arts. You can find all those facts and many more in this masterful infographic created for Fast Company by Catalogtree and reported by Skylar Bergl, Jeffrey Cattel, and Lindsey Kratochwill:
Of course, Kickstarter is selling the Internet what it wants—and that accounts for a lot more than documentaries and ballet recitals. Video games are its fastest growing category, and gadgets (called "design" here) make up roughly ⅓ of the site’s revenue. From Fast Company’s April feature on Kickstarter:
You green-light yourself—the idea that creative people don’t need intermediaries—has long been one of the Internet’s great promises, and Kickstarter appears to finally deliver on it. Film is its largest category, but the company’s impact has been felt across the media landscape. Last year, a midlist singer-songwriter named Amanda Palmer raised $1.2 million to make an album, which debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200. The site is already by some counts the second-largest publisher of graphic novels, and it regularly pays six-figure advances to unheralded authors and illustrators. Video games is one of its fastest-growing segments. Last spring, Double Fine, a San Francisco video-game developer, launched a campaign as a kind of marketing stunt and wound up raising $3.3 million. 'The walls of the citadel of big media are coming down,' says a triumphant Tim Schafer, Double Fine’s CEO.
But over the past two years, success stories haven’t just been limited to artsy types. In April 2012, a small team of hardware hackers posted plans for an elegant digital watch, the Pebble, that syncs with the wearer’s smartphone. Their goal was to raise $100,000 and sell around 1,000 watches. They raised $10 million instead, from backers who preordered the gadget. The success sparked a rash of imitators: Ouya, an open-source video-game console that raised $8.6 million; Lifx, a fancy LED lightbulb that raised $1.3 million; Elevation, an aluminum iPhone dock that raised $1.5 million. Though Kickstarter does not keep track of dollars pledged to hardware projects—perhaps to discourage interest in the category—a quick scan of the company’s publicly available data suggests that as much as $90 million has been raised to fund gadgets, which would make the category as important to Kickstarter as film.
Interestingly enough, while Kickstarter may be pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to 86 million unique visitors in 2012, the overall percentage of successful projects remains unchanged since 2009, which still hovers around 45%. You can’t help but wonder if that’s largely by design, that it’s some sweet spot of project density to get the maximum dollars out of funders (after all, if every project were funded, there would be little incentive to invest in any project).
While I piece together my conspiracy theories with newspaper clippings and string, take a look at the full Fast Company feature. You’ll learn a lot about a company that we’ve all come to see as indispensable.