I've been thinking about what makes Kickstarter special. My reflections seem to center on the idea of Kickstarter almost being more like a person than a company.
What kind of person is Kickstarter?
She is smart, accomplished, and likable. She believes in you. She believes that you are capable of making something beautiful. She has helped many people, and has many people who are willing to help her. She is overwhelmingly generous.
She is also no-nonsense. She won't tell you that a bad idea is a good one. She won't indulge unrealistic fantasies. She expects you to work hard. She won't cripple you by doing everything for you. Like a good friend, she will tell you the truth because she cares about you.
She becomes giddy with excitement over a really good idea, yet she is also level-headed. She has plenty of practicality, yet she is willing to try something a little bit crazy. She is reasonable, yet not predictable.
She can keep pace with the brightest minds, yet she can also play in the sandbox with a child. She is interested in grand and complex projects as well as humble and simple projects. She is friend to the rich and to the poor. She is interested in making the world a better place and making her neighborhood a better place.
She does not deal in trades or favors. Money is necessary for her to keep doing what she's doing, but money is not what motivates her. She helps you because she wants to. She dedicates herself to her work because she loves it.
She knows that some will take advantage of her generosity. She may feel indignation toward them at times, but more often she feels pity for them. More often still, she rejoices with her friends. With them there are no debits and credits, rather only joy, both in giving and receiving.
I do not think I can press this metaphor much further, so now I will leave it and speak plainly. Kickstarter is a company that connects people who create things.
I was going to say it connects people who create with people who encourage or support those who create, but I think that is a false dichotomy. We all create, and we all encourage. Both are ways of creating, one is just more obvious.
In any particular project, we may be the one actually making the thing, or we may create through encouragement, ideas, advice, or inspiration. Contributing money, though it is necessary, is not the primary way backers join into the creation of a thing. The fundamental role of money is to be an ambassador of their exuberance.
It seems to me that many backers are interested in more than buying a product. That is why they are at Kickstarter instead of Walmart. Excuse me for slipping back into metaphor again, but backers ask Kickstarter what she's been working on because she makes interesting things, not because she makes cheap things.
And people who start projects on Kickstarter come to her because she believes in them, because she is willing to listen to them and take a chance on them. A company like a bank does not believe in them and will not listen. For many companies, efficiency is king. In this way, they are like a machine.
Kickstarter seems to me to be the opposite. Of course she has to make money to stay in business, but I don't think that efficiency is king. Kickstarter makes room for inefficiencies. Kickstarter invests time and energy in people who may not deserve it. Kickstarter believes in people from the beginning, knowing that they may take advantage of her generosity, or fail even though they are trying their hardest.
Kickstarter is a company that doesn't want to be a machine. Unlike machines, people have desires that do not conform to precise rhythms. Sometimes people want something to exist simply because they think it should. To a normal company, that makes no sense. To Kickstarter, it makes all the sense in the world.