When working on the campaign for The Fitzroy we would often speak of trying to reach the critical mass point, if we could reach critical mass we were confident our Kickstarter would succeed. I've seen some stats on Kickstarter that seem to hold up this theory.
Or a crowded tipping point
This also been referred to as the Tipping Point in Malcom Gladwell's book of the same name where he goes on to refer to the point as, "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point".
For us this point was when enough people were exposed or had backed the Fitzroy campaign that it would surely succeed. We had every confidence (perhaps foolishly) in the film and the idea that if we could get enough people to see our campaign, then it would surely succeed. Though I guess in some ways the opposite might be possible, that so many people see it and dismiss the campaign as not good enough or appearing ready, allowing bad word to spread.
For us on the Fitzroy tipping point had an exact date, the 13th December 2012 - when the film was featured in the Kickstrater weekly newsletter for 'Projects we Love'. In a matter of hours the number of backers virtually doubled to 400, we were beyond 75% of our target and the campaign seemed to take on an unstoppable force right through to the final day of the campaign as the backers created a self-perpetuating momentum. At this point enough people had backed the campaign, that it felt like it simply couldn't fail - too many had invested so much that they would guarantee its success. Is this the case though? As stats might suggest, we may have hit the point earlier than I realised.
The 50% threshold
While managing a campaign called 'Enemy of Man' (I'll be doing a separate post on this at a future date) I was looking into stats around campaign success. Our target was for $250K and around day 17 of 30, we hit £125K the halfway funding point. Given how campaigns tend to flat line in the middle and pick up massive momentum in the last 48 hours, this instinctively felt like we were in good shape. Though I wanted to put myself at ease by looking into stats of failure rates of campaigns. When I came across the following numbers on Kickstarter.
I should add at this point, to date on Kickstarter there have been a total of 35,575 film & video projects of which 15,860 have succeeded - equaling a percentage success rate of 40.3%. So as the graph above shows, of the film & video projects that failed 717 reached between 41-60% of their target, 230 reached 61-80% and only 98 reached 81-99%. Meaning a total of 1,045 film & video projects failed once they exceeded 41% of their total target and only 328 when exceeding 61%. In percentage terms of the total number of campaigns, only 3% of campaigns fail when they hit at least 41% of their target and less than 1% fail when they hit at least 61% - thats a pretty elite club you probably don't want to be in! When you calculate projects failing between 0-40% makes up over 55% of total film & video projects to date (failed & successful), it puts the less than 1% failure finishing between 61%-99% in perspective. Having hit 50% of our target on Enemy of Man with 13 days still to go, meant I was pretty confident the project wouldn't be adding to those unsuccessful stats.
These stats suggest a couple of things to me. Firstly and slightly cynically that those that hit more than 60% of their target will make sure their campaign succeeds no matter what, including having gap funding in place. So making sure they have funds available to inject into the campaign to make sure they get access to the funds raised, if their target isn't quite reached. Like it or not gap funding makes sense for every project out their. You don't want to be left a few percent short of your target not being able to access the funds you've worked so hard for. Though for every campaign this needs to be calculated, at which point does it become financially viable to put that money in as Kickstarter has its own fees etc. and their are other costs to consider not only is it within the spirit of crowd funding. As a guide for the last two campaigns I worked on, we had roughly 15% on standby in case we needed it for gap funding. There is also the argument that if you can reach those sorts of numbers, well you've probably done a very good job of getting your campaign out their to the wider public and that trend is very much likely to continue.
The gap funding can't be true of many of they cases as most people won't plough 40% of their target in with their own money. The baying mob has backed your campaign and they want it to succeed. If you've done a good enough job to get around 50% of your project backed and people out there to pledge on your project, you've possibly got hundreds if not thousands more people backing you up than you did at the start of the campaign! They have financially backed the project, they want to see it succeed and they want their reward - so they are going to do what ever it takes to make the project succeeds. This for me is when you've reached your critical mass and are likely to succeed - as long as you keep the momentum going and the good will, your army of backers will drive you to the target.
When running the Enemy of Man campaign, in the last 48 hours or so comments started being posted by lots of the backers on the campaign page and social media that sounded for want of a better word - desperate. Desperate for the campaign to succeed and genuine fear that it might not. They sounded like they would do everything within their power to make it happen. This may sound horrible, but at that time I was more confident than ever the campaign would succeed. There were clearly far too many people who were invested for it not to. There is a reason why campaigns more often than not rapidly slow down in pledged funds, once it has hit its target - the mob relax, celebrate their success and don't feel the urgent drive to push it.
If you can get to 50% of your target on Kickstarter, that roughly means you only need to double your backer base to hit your target - so if every backer can average at least getting one more person to pledge, you've hit your target! We are also talking exponential growth here once your beyond critical mass, not slowly pledge by pledge - thats not how Kickstarter is designed. Its spreads like a virus, thats why its called viral, so the more people that back and hear about a campaign the more rapidly it spreads and grows. I'm not saying that if a projects exceed 50% of its target on Kickstarter its guaranteed to succeed - all backers still need to be treated with a great deal of respect and the campaign well managed - though the stats suggest you'd be pretty unlucky to fail.
Do you agree? Or is my view a too simplistic view on things. Have you backed or worked on any campaigns that exceeded 50% of their target and failed? If so, why do you think this happened?