How to game KickStarter

KickStarter‘s cool but I feel like I see too many projects hit their funding numbers at the last minute of the pledge window. Call me a cynic, but after thinking about this on the train one morning, I devised this scheme for getting “free” money for your project.

  1. Start your project the old-fashioned way: gather up the cash you’ll need to cover it.
  2. Get your project listed on KickStarter. Set the tipping point to match the amount of cash you have on hand.
  3. During the KickStarter pledge period, play by their rules and try to raise as much money as you can.
  4. At the last hour of the pledge period, check your numbers. If the project’s funding level is between 10% and 100% of the tipping point, take your own cash and pledge the remainder to tip the project.
  5. You’ll take home whatever amount you’ve raised, even if it would’ve normally been below the tipping point.

The only case where this isn’t effective is if a project fails to raise at least 10% of the tipping point: KickStarter takes a 5% commission and Amazon payments amount to 3-5% of payments, so the first 10% of real pledges are needed to cover those commissions. But beyond that, any already-funded project is on a risk-free gravy train.

This means that if you’re going to embark on an artistic endeavor and have enough cash on hand to finance it, there’s no reason not to try to get it listed on KickStarter to offset some portion of the cost. If enough KickStarter projects shift to this model, the spirit of the site goes from a collection Cinderella barn-raising stories to cases of “I’m going to do this anyway, anyone feel like chipping in?”

…which makes me wonder if there’s a business case for facilitating the latter from the outset, rather than waiting for the inevitable (or fighting it).