My goal with this blog

I write about relevant changes in the way that people use the web and how startups are built to provide services and products for this ever changing wonderful thing we still know as "the web." As a former entrepreneur turned early-stage investor, my greatest hope is for this to be useful to other folks that are like me in the hopes that they can avoid some of the mistakes I've made.

On how Kickstarter is like Groupon

First let me get this out of the way though: I love Kickstarter. As content, it is a geek's version of InStyle magazine— something you can mindlessly browse in front of the television while "trying on" the various projects you might buy into. What's more, at $300M of capital committed thus far, there is no way that it is not a fantastic platform for artisans and other types of makers.

Having said that, it bothers me that everyone seems hell bent on describing Kickstarter as the next step in the evolution of funding for new ventures, or more specifically, in referring to it as the next step in crowdfunding.

To me Kickstarter seems a lot more like Groupon in its essence. To see why it is worth considering Groupon not as the juggernaut for local business marketing that it seems to be but as a clever financing instrument for putting money in the hands of cash-strapped small businesses. Looked at from this perspective here is what Groupon is: a small business loan financed by consumers and collateralized by the future goods/services/etc. provided by the business. As the loan originator, Groupon has historically taken a monster commission (though that may be changing).

Similarly, Kickstarter is a loan to the maker financed by his customers and collateralized by the promise of future goods/services/etc. It is brilliant in its execution, relying on the power of the network to aggregate the lenders across geography in a way that ought to provide Kickstarter with more scale and network effects that Groupon has ever had (due to its local dependency). It is clever in how it price discriminates based on sponsorship "level" allowing consumers the ability to self select into buckets of passion for a particular product (the Medicis of 15th century Renaissance Italy would be proud).

But here is the key bit: when I "fund" the Pebble watch, I am in no way funding the project in the traditional equity finance model. That is, I don't get the right to a piece of the future cash flows of the business in the same way that I would if I were to find a company to invest in on AngelList. It may be semantics here (after all, "I just loaned money to X" sounds much less cool) but in an era when so many of the funding models for new ventures are truly being democratized, distinguishing between equity products and credit products might be worthwhile.