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How To Predict Who Will Donate To Your Kickstarter

Computer scientists may have found a way to game Kickstarter.

How To Predict Who Will Donate To Your Kickstarter
[Illustrations: CoolR via Shutterstock]

Crowdfunding isn’t always fair. The guy who launched a Kickstarter to make potato salad somehow raised $55,000, while quality film projects go ignored all the time.

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But what if there was a way to game the system? Cambridge University computer scientists say they may have found a way to match Kickstarter projects with the right audiences, so no deserving project goes unfunded.


After analyzing an enormous, three-month Kickstarter dataset that tracked Kickstarter projects and their funders, researcher Jisun An (now at the Qatar Computing Research Institute) and her colleagues found that they could divide Kickstarter funders into two basic categories: frequent investors and occasional funders. An’s team then built a machine learning algorithm to see which projects attracted which types. The results, uploaded to pre-publication server Arxiv.org, could help project creators solicit funding from well-matched investors on Twitter.

“Users that act like investors, they tend to focus on progress in technology or games,” An says. “Projects in other categories tend to be attract [less frequent] donors.”


That doesn’t mean that all Kickstarter projects should try to attract high frequency investor-types. If your Kickstarter project is raising funds for an art installation at the local library, An’s tool might help you reach out to locals online. If you’re trying to create the next Fitbit, that same algorithm might match you with Kickstarter’s finest high rollers.

That said, An’s study did come up with a handful of qualities that attract regular Kickstarter funders:

  • Good management. An’s study notes that investors don’t always look for moonshot ideas. Instead, they want to see good managers: project creators who update the page frequently and make sure it’s well designed.
  • High stakes. The Cambridge study finds that frequent Kickstarter investors are more likely to invest in a project with a high fundraising goal.
  • Universal appeal. Local projects are all well and good, but making them appear too narrow might turn off Big Picture funders.
  • Fast-growing. Speeding bandwagons appear more fun. If your project slowly picks up crumbs of capital, it’s not going to seem urgent.

There’s one caveat. An acknowledges that not all crowdfunding projects will (or should) meet their funding goals. If your project sucks, no one will want to donate money. “What we learned from this study is that the quality of the project itself is really important,” An says. “Without it it’s not possible to be success on Kickstarter at all.”

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Guess the potato salad guy was an anomaly.

About the author

Sydney Brownstone is a Seattle-based former staff writer at Co.Exist. She lives in a Brooklyn apartment with windows that don’t quite open, and covers environment, health, and data.

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