My Kickstarter Project Sucks

No really, I’ve tried to deny it for too long now. I’m afraid I have to burst my own well-constructed bubble and face the truth. Despite much gnashing of teeth, beating of breasts, rolling in dirt, and rending of garments, after four whole days slog I’ve managed to raise $1 for my project. It looks suspiciously like a dead parrot – it has ceased to be.

It’s not because it’s a bad product. When I talk to people one-on-one about it they get it and are excited about it – I can tell by the glazed eyes and the drool. When I tell them it could be the next Facebook they don’t laugh in my face. But I guess being the next $100 billion project is just not good enough for some people.

But let’s take a step back, to a time when hope ran free in the meadow – last week.

For those who don’t know, Kickstarter is a website where you can raise donations for interesting creative projects. There’s been some great successes (that you hear a lot about) AND a lot of failures (that you don’t).

Kickstarteees (you heard it here first) post a short description about their project, including a video, in the hopes of attracting donations. Apparently there are millions of good folks out there with just too much money under their mattresses just dying to give it all away. Rather than give it to the evil government, they give it to Kickstarter projects. They get to stick it to the man AND get some reflected glory – it’s a win-win! They can tell their mates all about how they were the first to fund that amazing post-apocalyptic-monkey-zombie-unicorn-horror- video game. And they might get a T-shirt.

And why would Kickstartees do it? Hey, FREE money!

Say you want to climb the world’s greatest movie stars (because they’re there, OF COURSE!). Just write a few words about how you would stalk them, set a fundraising amount and off you go. But wait! You absolutely have to make a video, because Kickstarter Mommy has told us many times that you’ve got a much better chance with a video – and she knows everything.

Super 8, apparently, is out of the question, so I used the next best thing – my iPhone. I wrote a script, found an autocue program and got in front of the camera. The result: a performance more wooden than Pinochio hitting himsef with a wooden spoon in a forest, shown on a TV with a wooden frame, in a wood-paneled room with wooden floorboards, watched by Woody Harrelson. It was very wooden. So I tried to “be natural”. Then I found out that the hardest thing of all to be on camera is to “be natural”. So now I have a new found respect for actors, even that ginger guy on Harry Potter.

It was so awful I considered sending the outtakes to America’s Most Tedious Home Videos. It took me at least 20 tries to get each single sentence out. Each time the camera was switched on it mysteriously cut the connection between tongue and brain. You try saying “interest-based social network with awesome drill-down search” 50 times in a row! After a while my wife pretended to be dead so I enlisted my daughter, who was able to remember the lines better than me. It’s no fun seeing your ego smashed into millions of tiny pieces by a seven-year old. No fun at all. I love you sweetie.

Eventually after three days and a LOT of cutting I ended up with 15 seconds of usable footage. Or to be precise: one usable foot. I filled the rest of the two minutes with a screencast about how to use Crisscross to find Japanese girls who like Radiohead. Why Radiohead? It seemed kind of cool but then I’m 45 years old, I don’t have a beard, I don’t wear a funny hat, and my skin is unblemished by tattoos. What do I know? Old people need help too y’know!

Even after all that, and despite all my efforts to screw it up, the video is actually presentable.

It’s somewhat uncouth to say that you want the FREE MONEY for nothing in return, so Kickstarterees have to offer various rewards based on the amount of donation. Much as I would like to offer my donors real actual working light sabers, I settled for mousemats, bottle openers and the obligatory T-shirt. Actually, the Crisscross T-shirt will be the awesomest T in the history of T’s. It’ll be so T it’s actually Z. But you’ll never know will you, because you didn’t donate. I’m not bitter.

Yay! Your project’s been approved by Kickstarter and it’s time to launch. Now the millions of people who use the site will rush to your door. It’ll be like when The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show (or a more appropriate metaphor for younger readers – do I have to do all the work here?) You’ll bask in the glory of…wait..what’s that sound?…it’s…it’s… it’s not crickets chirping. It’s a single cricket. It’s a little-known fact that crickets are the stingiest of the insects. Never go for a drink with one – they never stop tap dancing and you’ll end up paying for all the beer.

Surely this is the legendary calm before the storm. Once some “early adopters” get hold of it it’ll zoom up the charts, become a “project of the day” and… FREE MONEY! At this point I would like to thank Vivienne Green, the lovely lady who donated $1. I know it was a struggle, but thanks for pulling through for me.

Allrighty, I am strong. I am an entrepreneur. I get knocked down and I get up again! I’ll get all my Facebook friends to promote the project. Let’s see, 300 friends who have 300 friends is a total reach of 90,000 people. Even if those friends just donated a single measly dollar then I’d be on my way. Surely you’d give more to a bum in the street (this metaphor will come back later in the story)?

Nope. Out of three hundred only five repost my link – god-bless ‘em. Next week I am due to appear on Jerry Springer. The show title is “I don’t hate my Facebook friends, they’re just not there for me”.

It’s not my friends fault, it’s just that they’re not viral enough. I need friends who will infect the entire planet with my project – just like Ebola. But, like most Kickstartees, I don’t know any influencers. I don’t spend my afternoons in a Silicon Valley hot-tub getting backrubs from Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Cuban, Marc Andreessen and Mark Pincus. That said, if all it takes to become a hot net billionaire is to be called Mark then surely I have a better chance than most.

So I sent my press release to all the main tech sites. Well, it was more of an informal note. After all I’m a regular reader and I’ve even made a comment or two. We’re like buddies. They know me. But not a peep in return. How could my media friends be so fickle? I guess they must be busy writing stories about Mark Zuckerberg’s cat or the latest IPO for location-aware bagels because like the Titanic, my email has sunk beneath the waves. I’m in the freezing water, the lifeboats aint comin’ back, and I didn’t even get to see Kate Winslet’s boobies.

Talking of boobies, I began to feel a desperate need, a need to connect on a more primal level. Then I got it! The only way to get through to lonesome nerdy journos was to “sex up” my mails. Forget the Japanese girls who like Radiohead, now Crisscross was the best system ever for finding bisexual Japanese girls who like Coldplay and beer. That’ll get them for sure. Putting my dignity to the side for a moment I jabbed the send button out only to hear the sound of one hand clapping. In the forest. When nobody was there to hear it.

Never mind, said I, slightly perplexed that the bisexual thing didn’t work, I’ll just go straight to the source. A quick search turned up fifty of the most popular tech industry insiders on Twitter. The people whose actual job it is to catch interesting stuff like my project. Think of the glory they would have in discovering the new Facebook, or laughing at the guy who thinks he has the new Facebook. It’s yet another win-win!

My tiny mind was racing. If only one of them would retweet, then the trickle of donations would become a stream, and then a river, and then a flood, and then a tsunami so huge that Noah could ride it all the way home, except this time he’d bring the dinosaurs. I’d finally get my project on the way again and I could get in that hot tub with all the Marks and life would be peachy.

But the hours passed and there would be no retweets. I also blame you, Donald Trump (it was worth a try). There are none so lonely as those who have not been retweeted. I’m on a sad sidewalk, on the wrong side of the tracks, in Kickstarter City, home of lost dreams, with a measly $1 in my cup, stretching my arms out with a plaintive wail: C’mon gov’nr spare 140 characters!

It’s sobering to note that if I’d actually stood out on the real sidewalk and asked for a dollar I would be much, much farther along than I am now, and I wouldn’t have had to make that damn video. But to hell with sobriety I’d rather be drunk on hope!

So now you know the terrifying reality. Four days of hard, hard, work and only a single $1 donation to show for it. Four days work and no FREE MONEY – what is the world coming to?

Perhaps my sorry lamentation will help the less fortunate among you not to get your hopes up. And to take a moment before you seek funding for that photodiary of Village People impersonators around the world.

But don’t listen to me. I’m just an old guy with broken dreams. You’ve got a beard, tattoos, and a whole life in front of you. Never let reality diminish your thoughts. Keep dreaming you wild dreamer and one day, maybe just one day, the world will see things your way.

By the way I have great new Kickstarter idea: I’ll take photos of all the cash you’ll donate. Can you spare a dollar?

Mark Devlin is the guy behind Crisscross, an awesome thingy that may very well be the next Facebook (or not). Feel free to discuss on Twitter, Facebook and anywhere else wealthy people congregate. Click here to check out his awesome Kickstarter project.