Thursday 9 September 2010

Crowdfunding the kitchen

Back in May, I pointed to Conflict Kitchen in Pittsburgh. As much performance art project as restaurant, they brought Iranian food to Yinzers.

Their next iteration will serve Afghan food (oh how I miss Panshir). They're raising funds for it using Kickstarter - a conditional donation system where donors aren't on the hook unless the project gets enough support. From The Economist:
As crowdfunding has matured from a series of one-off efforts into something reproducible, the money has followed. Millions of dollars, in increments as small as $5, have poured into efforts that connect artists, musicians, writers and others with people willing to fund their projects. Venture capitalists have also shown an interest by investing in start-ups that facilitate crowdfunding.

There have of course been “tip jars” on web pages for years, and even big sites like Wikipedia ask for donations. But this approach works for a vanishingly small number of sites, and then only in conjunction with other sources of revenue. Crowdfunding is different, say its advocates. “It’s not a tip jar, and that’s what makes it sustainable,” says Perry Chen, the boss of Kickstarter, the largest of several start-ups that act as matchmakers between donors and projects.


Crowdfunding has benefited from the rise of social networking, which allows even non-celebrities to accumulate large numbers of fans or followers online, to whom they can reach out when a project needs funding. Successful projects, says Mr Chen, usually require an “anchor audience” of friends or fans who engage in “micropatronage”, enjoying the association with a successful project and a personal link with an artist or writer.


Crowdfunding may turn out to be a fad, says Cory Doctorow, a bestselling novelist and blogger who is experimenting with various forms of micropatronage, including selling a bespoke short story for $10,000 to one of his fans. “There will be some people for whom the fact that they raise money for themselves will be a marketing story,” he says. But crowdfunding’s early success at raising sums large enough to be useful, though not large enough to replace other sources of funding for creative works, fits in with a broader trend of using technology to bring artists and their audiences closer together. As Mr Chen notes, artists can now ask their audiences directly for support, and will often get it. “People are thrilled to be involved in the creative process and see something come to life,” he says.
Conflict Kitchen is looking for $4,000. The micropayments scheme follows Masnick's "Connect with fans - Reason to Buy" formula: even small donors can feel useful if their donations were critical in getting to the $4000 threshold that would draw in the other donors' pledges; larger donors get affiliative goods ranging from food vouchers to a dinner, via Skype, with a dining partner in Tehran:
Your very own Skype meal with a dining partner in Iran. We will provide everything you need for a meal for yourself and a Kubideh Kitchen collaborator in Iran. You will receive a special kit including spice mix, recipes, directions for a three course feast, and contact information with your dinner partner in Tehran, who will prepare the same meal as you in their home and with whom you will share the meal (via Skype); AND 10 Kubideh Kitchen food wrappers for your guests.
Hard to bomb folks with whom you've dined.

1 comment:

  1. Actually most violent crimes are committed by an acquaintance of the victim, and that's not even getting into domestic abuse.