As news of ever increasing pledge amounts of Kickstarter projects are coming in daily, I find myself wondering. It sometimes becomes difficult to separate anecdotes from data. People (including me) tell other people to “just get some crowd funding”, but how likely is it really to raise any money there? I’m worried that for average project founders the chances of getting funding are pretty slim, while the “big” well-connected guys seem to make ridiculous amounts of money (and not always for a readily-apparent reason, either).
Scraping 599 Project Summaries
The Kickstarter site itself does a good job of hiding the severe limitations it places on browsing through projects. It’s not obvious at first glance how amazingly difficult it is to simply browse a list of projects which has not been filtered and pre-selected to show only those items most likely to succeed. But it’s true. Likewise, it’s not easy to get a list of completed projects, or even some data about failed ones. A lot of projects are on that site – but how many? Difficult to answer. At every corner, the UI does its best to show us only what we are supposed to see.
To get a better feel for the success chances of projects, I decided to pull project data from the “Ending Soon” list. I chose this list because – as far as I can tell – there is little if any filtering going on, it’s the only meaningful list on that site that gives you just the projects, sorted by ending date. I got 599 of them, that seems to be the limit of the endlessly scrolling page. This is the best option I could find short of writing a spider to scrape the site.
Here is the raw data from this evening. It’s a list of projects, showing how far along they are both in time and funding. The Kickstarter site makes it difficult to know how long a project has been going on, but at least we know when its deadline is. Using an average project duration of 20 days, it’s possible to guess whether a project is going to fail or not. Of course, the closer a project comes to its deadline the more accurate that assessment becomes.
At first glance this shows (on a log10 scale) the projected pledge amounts versus project minimum funding goals of all projects that have 6 or less days to go until deadline. Everything south of the blue line is going to fail. As you can see, failed projects often miss their minimum funding threshold by about one order of magnitude; it’s uncommon to fail by only a small margin. Successful projects, here shown as above the blue line, seem to be more heterogenous but apparently often manage to get more than double their threshold funded.
Of the 599 projects sampled, 335 are projected to succeed while 264 will most likely fail. This means you can expect a 56% chance of getting your funding when applying on Kickstarter.
Let’s have a look at success chances as segmented by project magnitude (aka. the funding goal):
|< $1000||< $10000||< $100000||< $1000000|
Now, while the results in the top magnitude bracket are not really statistically significant, it’s apparent that most successful projects are overfunded by at least 50%, even if they are relatively large! Failing projects, on the other hand, can expect to be underfunded by about the same percentage.
Among the failed projects, there was an average 0.42 orders of magnitude shortage between the funding goal and the actual pledge amount (standard deviation 0.29). Successful projects overshot their funding goal by an average 0.17 orders of magnitude (standard deviation 0.21).
So what does it mean?
After a lot of hand waving, you can assume you’ll have a 50% chance of getting funded on Kickstarter. While bigger projects are less likely to succeed, the drop-off in likelihood is NOT linear with project size – so it’s probably a good idea to aim high. If your project is bumbling along at 50% or less projected funding: don’t expect any last-minute miracles, because the data does not show an increase in funding activity towards the end of the deadline. It looks like in most cases, you should be able to tell after a few days whether a project is going to fail or succeed.
I believe there is more interesting data buried way deeper inside Kickstarter. For example, the question whether an “average Joe” type of person has a realistic chance of getting funded is still open. I suspect you’ll probably have an extremely slim chance if you don’t have some social media heavyweights ready to back you and gently steer the crowd towards your project. If this hypothesis is true, it would mean Kickstarter is something of a bubble movement (as in: a mass movement driven by dubious value assessments due to the influence of parties who are experiencing a conflict of interest). It would be interesting to look at Twitter data in this respect – maybe another day.
Update: Dan Misener seems to agree.