October 12, 2012, 11:12 AM — Kickstarter's most talked-about blog post has put a tighter focus on just what Kickstarter is used for, and who should use it.
For the rapidly evolving crowdfunding market, this is a positive step. There's a wide range of people who want to use crowdfunding platforms, ranging from beleaguered bus drivers who want a break, to wannabe entrepreneurs with little more than an idea, to well conceived and planned startups with actual products in development. These early non-equity platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been seen as a sort of kitchen sink platform for anybody looking for money, and it's inevitable that the operators start putting a finer point on their mission. Is Kickstarter for creative and artistic projects looking for funding? Non-profit initiatives, or well-meaning do-gooders looking to help someone in need? Is it a place to, as the name would imply, "kick start" a small company? The answer depends on who you ask, and it's always been different.
As the crowdfunding phenomenon continues to evolve, and will start next year to include equity-based crowdfunding possibilities, we can look for more crowdfunding platforms that have a more specific focus. There will for example, be crowdfunding platforms that are specific to certain geographic regions, platforms that target specific types of businesses, and crowdfunding platforms that target more of the "feel good" campaigns.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the new Kickstarter rules is the prohibition of product simulations and renderings for Kickstarter campaigns in the hardware and product design category. The idea behind the rule is sound, Kickstarter merely wants to prevent fuzzy, early-stage conceptual projects with no meaningful work behind them from having a seat at the table. That's reasonable. There are countless people out there, who proclaim, "I have a great idea, let me throw it up on Kickstarter and see if I can get any money for it." It's a good thing to discourage those people from launching.
But, there are plenty of early-stage conceptual projects, which have no physical product yet, but the developers of said projects still have put a considerable amount of time, money and resources into developing that concept and getting up to the brink of the actual prototype stage, and need some capital to get to the next step. For companies that match that description, a product rendering is a very appropriate way to communicate that concept and take it to the next step. Those companies will now be unable to participate, and that's unfortunate.