So What Do Kickstarter Projects Owe Their Backers?

by Barry Andersson1 Comment

Kickstarter has been taking the indie film world by storm the last few years. And let's not forget how many products to make the films have been successfully using Kickstarter to get preorders to help develop the products. I myself ran a successful Kickstarter campaign last year and a recent webseries I directed raised over $30,000. So I am somewhat familiar with the positives and negatives of using the service.

What I find interesting now is the somewhat backlash against successful Kickstarter projects that go on to real world financial success.

For instance Zach Braff's Kickstarter-funded “Wish I Was Here” sold big at Sundance. This caused pushback from the Kickstarter backers as they felt like they had contributed and now Zach is making money off them

Another product that was success in their campaign was Oculus VR. They raised $2.4 million to create prototypes for the Oculus Rift headset which was set to be “the first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games.The campaign received more than 9,500 backers.

What bothers people is recently the company sold to Facebook for over $2 billion.

So my question is why does this bother you? If this bothers you then you are a fool. From the very beginning Kickstarter was not an investor platform. That means anyone who backs anything will not share in the upside of any project. (*Note the laws have recently changed and new platforms are emerging that will allow backers to have a small equity stake in what they back.)

This means you are giving your money for a product, to see a movie you are interested in seeing or for some other reason.

It bothers me that people get mad if people have success. If I owned Oculus and I invented a brilliant product and in the process of releasing the product a huge company offered me $2 billion dollars to acquire it- I would sell in a nano second.

If the company does not send out the devices that people were promised as part of the campaign or if you don't get access to a digital version of the movie you back before it hits theaters- then by all means be mad.

If success of others bothers you then DON'T back a Kickstarter project. I WANT projects I back to be successful. Because if they aren't then I don't get the product or get a copy of the movie I want to watch.

So what do Kickstarter projects owe their backers? Only what they promised them. Nothing more.

The Crowdfunding Backlash: What Do You Owe Your Backers?

Oculus VR chief Palmer Luckey turned to Kickstarter to raise $2.4 million to create prototypes for the Oculus Rift headset. Billed as “the first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games,” the crowdfunding campaign attracted more than 9,500 backers. But now that the company has been sold to Facebook for more than $2 billion, some of the backers feel duped.

Crowdfunding Backlash

Countless backers of Oculus Rift vented their frustrations on the Oculus Rift Kickstarter.

“I am saddened that the independent dream that was Oculus is now selling out to Facebook,” wrote one of the project's backers. “Honestly, I feel that every single donor should get a “kickback/refund” from that $2 Billion (they'd still have plenty left over!) to put towards a Kickstarter project that isn't a masquerading golddigger. The whole idea of Kickstarter is to support people in making the world a better place through original ideas and technology, not selling out to corporate America. We already have enough politicians that do that – and you see how good that's worked out for the country. A shame and disappointment to everyone who backed Oculus; it's a damn shame.”


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(cover photo credit: snap from Indiewire)


  1. On the other hand, if backers view Kickstarter (and similar sites) as a place where companies and ideas that might never have a chance against their more well-established counterparts out in the world can get the support of generous people to help level the playing field, is it really enough to say, “Thanks for giving us the boost we needed.  Bye!”

    It’s easy and possibly a bit simplistic to simply say, “Thanks for getting us our uber success, but we don’t need you anymore now that we’re great on our own.”
    It’s a bit elementary school to say that liking an idea enough to contribute should be its own reward and if a company becomes wildly successful because you gave your money to it rather than use it for yourself, you should be thankful just for that.

    Frankly, contract or no contract, if I raised, say, $100,000 in a crowdfunding campaign and sold the end result for $2,000,000,000, I would feel a personal obligation to find a way to reward those who made it possible to achieve that success.  At least in some way.  It would be me saying, “I wouldn’t be here without your faith and help.” 

    Of course backers have no say in where a company takes its product or service.  But here’s the thing:  If someone stopped to give you a lift when you were hitchhiking, would you really drive past them if you encountered them under reverse circumstances afterward saying,  “Hey, buddy, thanks for the help last week but I’m okay now and on to other things.  Don’t have time to stop for you.”

    I mean, really?

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