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6 things almost every viral Kickstarter has in common

Ben Taylor | May 25, 2015
For many entrepreneurs, crowdfunding is a mystery. Celebrity music videos can flop, while simple, silly ideas can go viral overnight. Some campaigns are all about grassroots fundraising, while others can succeed on the strength of one or two wealthy backers.

That said, the data suggests $50 is the most important pledge on your list. No matter how you slice the data, the median (and mode) amount pledged per backer winds up right around $50.

The chart below displays popular campaigns with lots of backers. While there are a few exceptions — particularly on the high-end — the typical campaign tends to average around $50 per backer.

The key is getting lots and lots of people to pledge that amount. Successful campaigns tend to offer some sort of physical gift right around the $50 mark — like a t-shirt, coffee mug or book. If you can convince a casual supporter to quadruple her pledge for a free keychain, you're one step closer to going viral.

5. Campaigns started at the beginning of the year are more likely to be hits

Kickstarters are most likely to start right around spring break or in the middle of summer, while there's also a small peak right around Thanksgiving. It may be coincidence, but the logic seems to make sense: Budding entrepreneurs can take time off of school or other commitments, while potential backers will theoretically have more free time to make pledges.

The data suggests a different strategy. Among the thousand most successful Kickstarters of all time, there have been a disproportionate number of hits in January and February, despite those months' being relatively less popular among all campaigns. (March and July were still popular among hit Kickstarters, but that's about what we'd expect, given that those are the two most popular months to begin with.)

Since Kickstarter's inception, just 17% of all campaigns have begun in January or February, and yet over 21% of the biggest hits have come from those campaigns. Could it be New Year's Resolutions coming in the form of pledges? Winter boredom leading to increased generosity? Whatever the reason, entrepreneurs might consider waiting until late winter for their next crowdfunding experiment.

6. The biggest hits tend to have low funding goals

Crowdfunding is attractive to many entrepreneurs because of how scalable it is. While an angel investor or venture capital firm will invest a fixed amount, crowdfunding projects have a pool of seven billion potential investors — in theory, anyone in the world could chip in. With that in mind, why not set a funding goal in the tens of millions?

In practice, this shoot-for-the-stars strategy rarely works. Backers prefer a believable path to success, not a multi-million-dollar pipe dream. In fact, the median funding goal for the thousand mosts successful Kickstarters is just $1,000 — five times less than the median goal among all projects.

This doesn't mean you should set a $1,000 goal in order to build a $100,000 3D printer. But it does suggest that a conservative funding goal beats a wildly ambitious one. If you play it right, you'll blow way past your goal anyway.


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