In three years, Kickstarter users have raised nearly 350 million dollars through 70,000 campaigns. Ten of those have topped the million-dollar mark. And with the passage of the JOBS Act, Kickstarter, and crowdfunding in general, shows no signs of slowing down.
But with dozens of new projects each day, Kickstarter’s website has become an overwhelming experience. Finding projects near you, for example, is tough–especially if you’re looking for something specific. There’s simply no easy way to parse the massive number of campaigns going on at one time.
Enter ThingsWeStart, an online app that maps Kickstarter campaigns by location–a bit like Padmapper, which does the same for Craigslist apartment listings. On ThingsWeStart, users can search for campaigns by neighborhood, city, or state. A clever set of filtering options let you drill down to see which projects are raising the most cash, or which are “almost there.” You can also sign up to receive email updates about new campaigns. In one fell swoop, it solves a number of problems–mainly with search–precipitated by Kickstarter’s explosive growth.
ThingsWeStart was built by a loosely organized band of volunteers, spread out across Seattle, Puerto Rico, and San Francisco. The team’s leader, Seattle developer Justin Wilcox, launched the project after trying unsuccessfully to search for a specific type of project on Kickstarter.
Wilcox tells Co.Design that with so much data to work with (there are about 3,500 projects in play at any given moment), developing ThingsWeStart was an exercise in data management. “There’s so much interesting information and features to surface for users,” he says. “Finding a way to do that in an elegant way has been difficult.” The map is surprisingly fast to load, despite the heaviness of Kickstarter’s data set. Wilcox says that’s because the map pulls from a pared-down set of data points, while the column search bar calls a dynamic database only when a user decides to dig deeper.
Crowdfunding is increasingly trending toward localization, with neighborhood-oriented sites like Smallknot and Lucky Ant competing with Kickstarter for users. ThingsWeStart could help Kickstarter adapt to the changing market. Could a potential buyout be in the works? Wilcox says that they’ve had zero contact with Kickstarter–this was a labor of love–but that may change soon. “At this point we’re in ‘wait and see’ mode.”