Have you ever wanted to create a board game featuring zombies? Film a documentary about the other Michael Jackson, or develop a hot new accessory for an iPad? If you did, you may be too late, because these ideas are close to becoming reality through the hard work of three Idaho entrepreneurs who used the crowd-sourcing power of the Internet to kick start their dreams.
Kickstarter.com is the latest Internet phenomenon breaking into the mainstream. Created in April 2009 by Lance Ivy, the online crowd-sourced funding platform has exploded in the past year, becoming the perfect platform for would-be entrepreneurs to find bottom-up funding.
Billed as the world's largest funding platform for creative projects, Kickstarter claims that "every project is independently crafted, put to all-or-nothing funding, and supported by friends, fans, and the public in return for rewards."
Other than for five days each July, when the country's top media and technology minds converge on Sun Valley Resort for the annual Allen & Co. conference, Ketchum is not known as a tech hub. However, two local entrepreneurs have paved the way for the Wood River Valley in the online funding world.
In January, John Richards of Ketchum used Kickstarter to raise $44,758 from 577 backers to make a documentary film about the British journalist and author Michael Jackson, whose books and television series about beer inspired the global phenomenon that is the craft brewing renaissance.
Currently, local author and photographer Matt Leidecker is trying to fund the printing of his newest guidebook, "Exploring the Sawtooths -- A Comprehensive Guide."
"I first heard about Kickstarter on Facebook," Leidecker said in an interview this week. "Someone posted a camera strap project that looked interesting, so I followed the link and pledged some money."
That first exposure piqued his interest and he decided to delve deeper and figure out how to make it work for him.
"First, your project has to meet Kickstarter specifications," he said. "It has to be project-based, it can't just be for continued funding of a business. If you meet those specs, you then go ahead and create your page with your story, a video and your information. Then you choose your funding levels, or rewards as they call them. The process is very straightforward—you could do it all in an hour or two."
The rewards are one of the most intriguing aspect of the Kickstarter model. As opposed to the traditional venture capital funding model, where an investor owns a piece of the business and expects a return, with Kickstarter, backers pledge a dollar amount and receive rewards based on that amount.
"Kickstarter says the most successful funding level is the $25-$30 range," Leidecker said. "It's usually set up so you're pre-buying something, a product or some exclusive access or insider knowledge."
Herein lies the appeal of Kickstarter—which is hugely successful in terms of attracting backers for the projects on its site—people like to feel they are getting in on something new and exciting, and that they're helping build something from the ground up.
Recently a project named Pebble asked for $100,000 to fund a smart-watch. Within 27 hours it had reached $1 million. By the close of the 30-day funding period (the standard length of time for a project) Pebble had raised $10,266,845.
Leidecker, who is trying to fund the printing of his guidebook to the Sawtooth Mountains, chose to offer rewards such as public recognition and insider updates ($5), a custom-designed T-shirt and signed preordered copy of the guidebook ($55) and a three-day, four-night photography expedition into the mountains with Leidecker and the Sawtooth Mountain Guides ($1,100). His page went live Tuesday and will close July 31. In one day he raised $430 from 10 backers.
There are some basic rules. A project has to reach 100 per cent of its funding goal or everybody gets their money back. If it does reach the goal, Kickstarter takes a 5 percent fee. Also, the "investor" has little recourse if a project fails.
"They take in good faith that the project will follow through," Leidecker said. "But what's really great about Kickstarter is it can be a perfect platform to see if your idea will even succeed. You might put a little bit of time into making a prototype or you might just do a conceptual thing. For example, I'm thinking about doing a White Clouds guidebook, so I might use Kickstarter to see if there's enough enthusiasm out there to fund the research phase. It's a proof of concept before you really have to put a lot of money down."
To learn more about Matt Leidecker's Sawtooth guidebook Kickstarter project visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/852912006/exploring-the-sawtooths. There are about 100 Kickstarter projects in Idaho looking for support (including a zombie board game in Idaho Falls, www.kickstarter.com/projects/683352228/famous-zombies). Interested backers can also browse through categories such as art, comics, theater, food and technology to find a project that interests them.