Kickstarter Projects That Don't Meet Their Goal Are Not 'Failures'; They Help People Avoid Failures

from the remember-that dept

A little while back, on one of our "funniest/most insightful comments of the week" posts, we featured a comment that someone made anonymously, in response to a story about Bjork's Kickstarter project that was taken down before it ended, after it did not look like it was going to get anywhere near the required threshold. However, the comment has stuck with me and I think it deserves a post. In particular, the commenter called us out for saying that her project "failed."
This was not a "failure!"

Platforms like Kickstarter have changed the way the market is functioning, and our ways of thinking about it (even here on Techdirt) have to catch up.

Bjork's campaign did not fail, even though the results were not what she was hoping for. She successfully learned that the market was not interested in this product.

Spending £375,000 of her own money? Now THAT would have been a failure.

Using Kickstarter is more like running a science experiment than it is like selling a product. It increases the efficiency of the market by orders of magnitude, and apparently beyond our ability to think about it clearly.
This point -- even if it was calling us out -- is so true, and it's so important for people to understand. It's easy to use the word "failure" for those projects that don't meet their goal. Hell, just in writing this post, I repeatedly had to consciously stop myself from using the words "fail" or "failure" in describing projects that don't reach their goal. But, the commenter is right: those projects are not failed projects once you realize what Kickstarter really is: a platform to judge the market for products, and to build commitment and funding around them. If a project doesn't reach the goal, that's actually valuable market research, suggesting that if they had gone ahead, without going through the experience, they likely would have "failed."

So, in actuality, it makes sense to look at such projects and recognize that they were saved from a dismal failure, in which large sums of money may have been spent, but at the same time clarifying the market's reaction to a product before it's even been introduced. With so many people thinking of Kickstarter more as a store, than as a platform for supporting people trying to turn cool ideas into reality, it's important to be careful in how we choose our language. Putting up a Kickstarter project that doesn't reach its goal shouldn't be seen as a failure. It should be seen as a useful bit of data, which helps one avoid failure, and also to (hopefully) sharpen up their product and pitch so that the next time, it is more likely to be funded.

Filed Under: bjork, crowdfunding
Companies: kickstarter

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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    out_of_the_blue, 14 Mar 2013 @ 12:06pm

    As Japan said after WW2: "not necessarily in Japan's best interests..."

    Yes, if you redefine "success" as stopping the feasibility study, it's a success!

    What I want to know, and it's kind of key: does Kickstarter still get paid its 5 percent? Cause that gives it a perverse incentive, ya see.

    2nd question: so how the heck is this different from marketing studies done for the last hundred years at least? Because it's on "teh internets"?

    3rd: how can it be good that Bjork isn't out some cash?

    4th: how is this reflective of the actual product that would have been made? One never knows what confluence of creativity can occur.

    5th: doesn't this prove more that funding on a shoestring (by which I mean WITHOUT crowd-funding) is likely to force the creator to think more carefully on whether it's worth investing the time, and/or to come up with something better? What we get in this case is simply a flopped idea; IF the crowd had been swept along with enthusiasm, for whatever reason, then they'd have been out money for a flop!

    6th: let's learn some more from, er, pre-empted successes. Find more stories like this, Mike.

    Take a loopy tour of! You always end up at same place!
    Every "new business model" here requires first getting valuable products -- including money and labor -- for free.

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