In a bid to stay competitive with Indiegogo and other less-restrictive crowdfunding sites, Kickstarter is loosening the rules for getting projects on its website.
The biggest change involves a new feature called Launch Now. Rather than waiting for projects to get reviewed and approved by Kickstarter's human community managers, Kickstarter users--or "creators" in the parlance of the crowdfunding site--can enter their project data and hit the Launch Now icon to get their ideas on the Web and in front of would-be backers fast.
The catch: Before being posted. their ideas will get scanned by what Kickstarter CEO and co-founder Yancey Strickler calls "an algorithm incorporating thousands of data points to check whether a project is ready to launch."
Kickstarter's Launch Now algorithm checks items such as "the project's description, rewards, funding goal, and whether the creator has previously launched a project," Strickler wrote in a blog post explaining the site's new approach to OKing projects. "If the project qualifies for Launch Now, the creator can go live whenever they're ready."
And if it doesn't? "The creator will need to share the project with us for a review before it can launch," Strickler says. It's worth noting that if you still want to have your project assessed by Kickstarter's Community Managers before proceeding, you're able to do so.
Kickstarter to Launch Now
Strickler says Launch Now is available to roughly 60 percent of projects currently, with plans to roll it out to more projects in the coming weeks.
In addition to Launch Now, Kickstarter is also simplifying its overall rules, again with an eye toward making it easier for creators to get their projects online. Kickstarter trimmed its rules to three simple laws: To qualify for fund-raising on Kickstarter, projects "must create something to share with others," "be honest and clearly presented", and "cannot fundraise for charity, offer financial incentives, or involve prohibited items," according to Strickler's blog post.
Kickstarter's changes have garnered mixed reviews on the Web so far. While loosening the site's rules have won some kudos, a few critics worry that a less-regulated Kickstarter will make it easier for fraudulent projects to solicit consumer funds on the site. "Crowdfunding is notorious for being riddled with impossible projects, broken promises, and straight up scams," wrote Gizmodo's Ashley Feinberg. "But Kickstarter's been one of the few sites that even attempts to vet projects before people start throwing their money at them."
The changes at Kickstarter come a month after the state of Washington sued the crowdfunding site over an Asylum-themed playing card venture that raised more than $25,000 via Kickstarter, but has yet to deliver any product. Given this lawsuit, and Indiegogo's problems over the discredited Healbe GoBe Automatic Body Manager that raised more than $1 million on that site, it's an odd time to look at loosening the rules surrounding crowdfunding.
Lawsuit and doubts notwithstanding, Kickstarter apparently believes that its relaxed rules will still be enough to protect project backers. "Our Moderation and Trust & Safety teams are working every day to make sure everyone on Kickstarter is following the rules," Kickstarter's Strickler wrote. "And these streamlined rules still expect the same things from projects that we did on day one: make something to share with others, and be honest with the people around you."
After all, the Launch Now algorithm is standing on guard. What could go wrong?