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The Secret Formula That Can Help You Design Killer Kickstarter Projects

Crowdfunded projects can fail as easily as they can take flight. One PhD from Switzerland thinks he can predict how yours will fare.

The consumer merits of Kickstarter—eliminating the middleman, bringing cool new products to market—have always belied Kickstarter’s unreliability. Stories abound of inexperienced Kickstarter campaigns delaying delivery, if not failing outright. So it’s no wonder that somebody came along and created a "success formula" to determine which campaigns will succeed or fail. The good news? They put their formula online—and following their rules for a higher score can only improve the momentum of your campaign.

Rather than being the death knell of creative campaigns, SideKick’s data-backed algorithm is the first rough guess at what makes Kickstarter campaigns live or die. Only 52% of Kickstarter campaigns succeed, says SideKick creator Vincent Etter, a PhD candidate from Switzerland who built the site from his research.

Out of 34,000 campaigns that SideKick has tracked, the 52% that did succeed have a few things in common: On average, they were mentioned in 73 tweets (compared to an average of 20 for failed campaigns), they had an average of 262 backers (compared to just 25 in failed campaigns), their average goal was $9,600 (compared to an average $35,000 for failed campaigns), and successful campaigns received 217% of goal funding (compared to 11.4% in failed campaigns). It’s easy to see how affordability correlates with success in this trio of easy-to-read graphs.

What can Kickstarter campaigners learn from this? Aside from the obvious (backers will usually go for less-expensive campaigns), the successful campaigns doubled their funding goal but had ten times the backers as failed campaigns. Backers prefer having very low-tier funding options. Whether this implies a hidden, benevolent class of backers who choose lower/lowest-tier "cheerleader" options (those $1/$5/$10 rewards with inexpensive merch but not the campaign’s central item) is unclear, but more backers is (on average) better than fewer, higher-funding backers.

But SideKick doesn’t just gauge your campaign’s initial features and kick back after you launch: Its bots autoscrape your campaign’s info and updates its percentage estimate of success. As Etter explains in an academic paper describing the research results that form the basis of SideKick’s data, similar sites like Kicktraq and Can He Kick It give success estimates based on static starting factors, which are 68% accurate, Etter says. Instead, SideKick tracks data dynamically, revising its estimate along the way to get an estimate above 85% accuracy—though the research shows that, using its suite of prediction equations, SideKick can make a prediction at 76% accuracy after the first four hours.

Whether these factors critically correlate with success is only half the battle: As the crowdfunding novelty begins to ebb, crowdfunding supporters will want more security for their investment, and SideKick promises a solid percentage of success. As more websites jump on the data analysis bandwagon, Kickstarter campaigners would do well to pay heed to how these sites tell potential funders whether to shell out cash for campaigns.

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