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?


[The H Online via PCWorld]

Your Comment


That awkward moment when your phone runs out of juice and your charger is locked inside your house.

October 20, 2012 at 2:55PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Chad Hustlington

Interesting. A lot of these crowdfunding services popping up. I must say the name is kinda funny. Selfstarter would imply you do it yourself. It should be called "Helpstart" lol.

October 20, 2012 at 3:21PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


This isn't really a service or a platform. It's a piece of web software you install and administer yourself, like Wordpress (.org not .com).

October 20, 2012 at 8:34PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Ryan Koo

I am guessing this option is not suited for fully automated and keyless homes. It won't replace the traditional locking method. It just gives another level of convenience. If anything, it is a good conversation starter.

October 20, 2012 at 3:39PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Soosan Khanoom

Is there a crowd funding platform where you can purchase shares of the product or is that still illegal in the States?

George -

October 21, 2012 at 6:38AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Great, relevant post, Dave. I agree the challenge with a platform like Selfstarter might be traffic. Getting onto Kickstarter is a great marketing tactic for building awareness, made even better if your idea has legs or gets traction. Selfstarter sounds fantastic for raising funds, but would probably work best in a collective environment, like a maker lab or creator collective of some kind, where people are developing a range of new ideas, from films to products. That way, everyone shares in the traffic, but the pool is much smaller vs. Kickstarter. Cheers to the Selfstarter guys, though. I look forward to installing and trying it out.

October 23, 2012 at 8:56PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Jeff Corkran

A lot of these platforms are closed source, and restricted in what you can do with them. One new project i have recently found is called Thrinacia. It is still a work in progress and receiving pledges, but a very cool concept which will benefit a lot of people, by being completely open source.

November 28, 2012 at 2:35PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

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October 25, 2013 at 5:24PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM