On Monday, Kickstarter unveiled a new independent analysis that examined its project fulfillment. This report was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s professor, Ethan Mollick.
“Kickstarter is a new model for bringing creative projects to life. Compared with other funding models — film studios, grant-makers, publishers, venture capitalists — there are fewer barriers to entry, and a greater opportunity to take risks on new ideas. Creators from diverse backgrounds, at every level of experience from across the creative universe, can find backing for their ideas.
“It’s a powerful model — billions of dollars pledged, tens of thousands of successfully produced projects, Oscar and Grammy wins, trips to outer space, and beyond. But how many projects fall short of delivering what was promised? It’s a question many have speculated on, but we want to know for sure.
“In March 2015, we invited a scholar from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to help answer this question. Professor Ethan Mollick is an expert in entrepreneurship and innovation who developed an independent study surveying nearly 500,000 backers about project outcomes and backer sentiment.
“This is the largest study to ever examine the Kickstarter community. We had no influence over its findings. Before research began, Wharton and Kickstarter agreed that we would co-publish the results, whatever was found.”
Here’s how the study was conducted:
- Professor Mollick surveyed 456,751 randomly selected backers about whether they received the rewards they were promised by creators.
- An average of 7.2 backers were surveyed per project, and a total of 47,188 backers (10.3%) responded.
- Altogether, 65,326 successfully funded projects from April 2009 through May 2015 were sampled.
- The set included all projects that raised more than $1,000, half of those that raised between $250 – $1,000, and a quarter that raised less than $250.
- At least one response exists for 30,323 projects — 46.42% of all projects in the sample.
- Projects were deemed failures if backers answered that they never expect to get the promised reward, or that they did receive a reward but it wasn’t what they were promised.
- Response rates were acceptable across all categories and unlikely to bias the findings.
- The data collection effort for this study was reviewed by the University of Pennsylvania Institutional Review Board (IRB) protocol number 822617.
“Kickstarter collaborated on data gathering, but these results are independent and solely my own work. I was not paid by Kickstarter, and all analyses were conducted independently of Kickstarter. Kickstarter was offered the chance to comment on, but not change, this paper before it was made public. For the backer data, Kickstarter conducted the survey using questions jointly developed with me, but shared all relevant non- private data. For the survey of project creators, the survey was conducted by me alone, and responses were not shared with Kickstarter. All errors and omissions are mine.”
Kickstarter then added:
“Kickstarter’s mission is to help bring creative projects to life. It’s a platform for ideas. Creative ideas. Big ideas. Weird ideas. But all just ideas that are looking to come to life. Is a 9% failure rate reasonable for a community of people trying to bring creative projects to life? We think so, but we also understand that the risk of failure may deter some people from participating. We respect that. We want everyone to understand exactly how Kickstarter works — that it’s not a store, and that amid creativity and innovation there is risk and failure.
“Thank you to the University of Pennsylvania, and the tens of thousands of creators and backers who took the time to answer these questions. And thanks to all the backers and creators who make Kickstarter what it is. We promise to always be a place where creative people of all stripes can aim high — and, yes, sometimes fail.”