Selfstarter May Be a Trendsetter: Crowdfunding Goes Open Source
Just because you attempt to launch something on Kickstarter, does not automatically mean the project will be approved. In response to this, the development team for the Lockitron project (whose original startup was indeed rejected by Kickstarter) has released a new donation-based funding system, called Selfstarter -- and since then has raised $1 million in pre-order sales using it. Selfstarter is fully customizable, clearly effective (compare that $1 million to the team's original $150,000 goal), and -- most importantly -- free for everyone to use for their own projects. More details after the jump.
Here is the launch video for Lockitron:
Kickstarter has been a very important development not only for the democratization filmmaking, but for general independent media creation as well -- and it has truly empowered DIY creatives to accomplish something they may never have been able to (or even wanted to) within the conventional system. Some projects, however, may not fit into Kickstarter's guidelines. Lockitron, a simple remote home security app for mobile devices, was one of those projects. Instead of simply falling by the wayside after it was rejected by Kickstarter, the software's development team decided to do something about it. They created their own crowdfunding system, used it to significant success as mentioned above, and then decided to give that system away for all of us to use as well. Enter Selfstarter.
The code for Selfstarter is 100% open source, free to use, and totally shapable to your tastes and needs. Details on how to get started are included on the system's download page. Essentially, the code provides a functional core for donations to be made primarily via Amazon Payments, around which you may design whatever site you think will best represent or 'sell' donators on your project.
The differences between Kickstarter and Selfstarter are pretty significant: Kickstarter is a centralized platform which internally evaluates whether a concept qualifies for funding, whereas Selfstarter is self-contained software script that allows people to make donations on your website, almost like a plug-in. There's no central Selfstarter entity as there is with Kickstarter, because the script's implementation on your site constitutes its own discreet and separate realization of it. The benefit of this is that you're bound only by your own terms, and not those of a full-service platform.
None of this is to say Kickstarter is not a continuing benefit to what we do -- make no mistake, the platform's contribution to our field is enormous, and to be fair, we really can't fault Kickstarter for being wary and exercising stricter precautions. In fact, the measures it has taken may prevent the exact type of thing that Selfstarter (totally ungoverned as it is) could easily fall victim to. Frauds, scams, and well-disguised get-rich-quick schemes are all possibilities. Considering even Kickstarter has had such problems, there's no guarantee that Selfstarter won't as well.
Kickstarter does have two things going for it that might make you think twice about using an alternative like Selfstarter: legitimacy and traffic. Kickstarter is the most visited crowdfunding platform -- not to mention the one that has so far made the most money for its projects. As far as legitimacy, many people see Kickstarter as a safe place to put their money into (even though that's based on the individual project), and the odds that a project will succeed go up tremendously the safer people feel, and the more natural traffic the project receives.
The caveats of Selfstarter are worth the risk, though, at least in my opinion. I may be somewhat overly-idealistic on the subject, but I believe that Selfstarter represents another huge step not only towards the proliferation of independently created media, but also towards monetizing that media. There's no doubt some of us would say our career paths are dictated by our passions, but at the end of the day, there needs to be some profitability there (or at least a break even) -- otherwise our career simply becomes a hobby.
You can check out Lockitron and Selfstarter using the links below, and even learn how to get started with your own project.
How do you feel about this development? Do you see the Selfstarter model as opening up an entirely new set of opportunities for the DIY crafts? Or do you think the perils and pitfalls will overtake the possible benefits?
- Selfstarter Download
- Selfstarter Homepage
- TechCrunch - The Story of Lockitron: Crowdfunding Without Kickstarter