Do they even have a word for projects actually completed that fulfill their promises? (ie, the definition of successful project for the entire world outside of Kickstarter). Can this information be found on the site without reading the discussions for each project one by one?
EDIT: I love Kickstarter. I'm thrilled by it's success. Which is all the more reason I'm disappointed that they have a misleading use of the word "success".
Kickstarter handle the funding end of things. When a project is funded they did their bit. People contributing know they are getting promises that may not turn out. They're not buying stuff. They are getting enjoyment out of being a part of something. Celebrating when a project succeeds. Getting disappointed when it doesn't.
Maybe the hype will end and this'll all blow over. Maybe Kickstarter is here to stay. Either way, it's obviously not malicious.
I point this out because I want Kickstarter to succeed in the long term. If they don't create a way to discourage projects that ultimately fail, adverse selection could become a real problem.
Of course, this isn't unprecedented at all. At first, eBay was just a place where you put in a credit card and maybe got something delivered to you, or maybe it didn't. Then people started expecting sellers to accept this new thing called "PayPal."
I believe this to be a mistake.
Additionally, the fundraising status is orthogonal to the success, you can be funded and ultimately fail to complete the project, or not get funded but somehow manage to produce what you wanted to.
I much rather wish there were a way to know what percentage of funded projects fail to deliver their product. Are some categories more risky than others? Would there be a class action if, say, the Pebble folks just walk away with their 10 million dollars?
Also, of tangential interest on that same page Kickstarter states that the number of successfully funded projects is 'a little less than half'.
 - http://www.kickstarter.com/start
Agree. No question there is something to be learned from projects that have failed by reverse engineering or seeing and analyzing patterns of what didn't work.
This is a problem also with the business press. Sure, you hear about spectacular failures (if it bleeds it leads as they say in the news business) but you don't hear about less than spectacular failures and therefore you can't learn from the mistakes of others.
The raw numbers of success and failures are helpful, but I'd additionally like to dig into the specifics.
Second, if that is the thesis, it's silly. We learn more from success than from failure http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/successes-0729.html; http://hbr.org/2010/01/success-gets-into-your-head-and-chang.... And you can see all the successful projects you want.
This might very well be true, however, if failed tactics/strategies are obscured it is possible that said tactics/strategies will continue to be employed.
Furthermore, even if we do learn more from success than failure, both are necessary lessons for individual success.
but I can tell you that it's nearly certain that Pebble is going to slip the schedule by months.
and what happens then is anyone's guess.
Rumors are in the air that Kickstarter is now refusing to host any more 'hardware' plays, due to the huge overhang on Pebble. I have no idea how to find out if those are true or not.
The more I watch Kickstarter in action, the more I see them not as an innovator and entrepeneur aide, but as a middle man trying to profiteer on people that don't necessarily need their help.
The heavy hitters, celebrities, and true product engineers use Kickstarter not because they need to, but because it's hip...and that makes sense for both parties.
However, there are thousands of solopreneurs and dreamers trying to raise funding for really neat projects, but can't because Kickstarter isn't designed to help them. There are many that think they can post their project and watch the money roll in. It just doesn't work that way.
Additionally, Kickstarter never highlights projects that are near failure or underperforming. They only highlight those that make Kickstarter themselves look good. They do the same thing on their blog. Every time a project reaches a million dollars (or a new, similar milestone), the blog entry is more about the Kickstarter team than the project team.
I'm not saying all of this to bash Kickstarter, but I find it frustrating that so many people think Kickstarter is the only option. I find it more frustrating that people feel Kickstarter is out to help the little guy, which if you read the post, you'll see they aren't doing that at all.
The most valuable service kickstarter provides is in gauging real-world interest in your product.
BTW, I am not affiliated with kickstarter, but I did interview with them and we discussed the creation of a job 'open hardware consultant' that would have me try to ensure the success of any open hardware project on kickstarter. From design & development, supply chain, marketing, that job would be a resource much like meetup's constant helpful aides for ensuring successful events. Question their motivations, but they are trying to help 'the little guy' because its in their best interests to.
I don't think it even does that as a product can fail to garner interest due to lack of adequate marketing. I think most projects fail because they can never reach their intended audience.
But this also means that not every entrepreneur needs what KS offers.
Kickstarter is a business. Showing failures would be a bad business move, as the author admits; they obviously don't want to do that. On the other hand, entrepreneurs starting a business have a ton of work to do to ensure their business is viable. Kickstarter is doing them a tremendous favor by keeping failed attempts on their site; they don't have to do that! Writing a post that calls them out for not doing more to showcase failures seems pretty misguided to me; the only person served is the budding entrepreneur, and it has potential to significantly harm Kickstarter, as it could induce fewer people to start projects.
I guess I completely disagree with the post's intention.
"How have other projects in field foobar done, which ones have failed or succeeded, and what does each group have in common?"
It could even search for references to individual projects on the popular search engines, to gather data on what sources for attention have what kinds of impact on which kinds of projects, etc.
So the risk is on those who are choosing to obtain investment via the KS platform.
Intuitively, this seems like an incredibly low failure rate, doesn't it? I'm amazed it isn't something closer to 80%, considering the fairly relaxed guidelines for getting listed.
Thus - the fact that one does not get the money till it hits their goal number, they spend more time up front getting ready. I actually think currently, that's the greatest service KS provides a project creator. They force a creator to take it more seriously up front.
Is it just me, or is that actually an amazingly high percentage? If you'd asked me to guess, I would have expected it to be hovering between 5% to 10%.
If you've never browsed Kickstarter, your perception of Kickstarter success rates is probably colored even further by the fact that hearing about a Kickstarter outside of Kickstarter (on an aggregate such as reddit, HN, etc) is social proof and that itself is a symptom of success.
For a similar exercise, try checking the HN new queue. Lots of submissions fail to get even a single upvote; you just never see them.
If anything, I'd say that 44% successfully funded seems amazingly high. Much fewer than 44% of Kickstarter projects I've viewed actually deserved to be funded, in my opinion. Then again, this perception is likely skewed by the fact that I've spent a disproportionate amount of time in the games category, which seems to be plagued by "everyone wants to be a game dev without knowing how to code" syndrome.
The projects you see are the ones that overcome all or most of these potential issues and I'd suspect that the numbers for those are much, much better. But I'm honestly surprised that only 56% fail given what I've seen.
In other words, are the projects getting funded on Kickstarter the ones driven by people who would succeed anyway, this just makes it a bit easier for them?
I don't see any problem with the way Kickstart is operated as a business. You see a lot of funded projects, you're more likely to put in the time and energy to a great presentation for your own project. Seeing that most projects fail even the most basic fundraising stage would probably have otherwise discouraged folks from utilizing Kickstarter and ultimately cost Kickstarter revenue.
I didn't even have to click "See all results", so they're not that hidden.
The point of the piece is that failed projects don't show up in: a) Kickstarter's Discover interface b) Google results
Right. This is common-sense UI design. Why would it be better to see a lot of information that no one can do anything with?
The successful projects also aren't actionable, those probably get displayed for purely marketing purposes. That seems like a pretty normal sales tactic (like testimonials on an infomercial).
As DanBC points out, it is definitely possible to find failed projects by performing a simple search. All this says to me is that Kickstarter doesn't want to broadcast them or use up valuable screen real estate for them.
One interesting point was that most that failed did so by an order of magnitude. There weren't a lot of near misses.
Seeing failed projects would probably make me significantly less likely to back other projects, not to mention how much more difficult it would make it to find them.
Not to say they couldn't add some advanced search option or something. But in terms of features, that's probably pretty low, and I understand them not having implemented it.
The reason eBay might keep already sold, or not sold items indexable is because they just might not care if users find those items. eBay also deals with 'commerce' on a completely different scale than Kickstarter. They sell millions of items, daily I would think. One unsold copy of a book doesn't tarnish the service. As for Amazon, if an item is sold out it doesn't mean the item won't become available at a later point. The shopper can probably add the item to a wish list, find a used version or be notified when the item is available again. You can still perform an action on the item, unlike Kickstarter where there is nothing that can be done with the unsuccessful project.
This is exactly why it would work in Kickstarter's favor to make failed projects visible. Since they only make money on successful projects, they stand to make more money if users don't continuously remake the same failed ideas.
EDIT: Reading all other comments after posting this... It seems other people are equally as surprised as me. I wonder if this is related to the sort've pre-sale / reward economy that kickstarter has created.
I would have expected the number to be much higher.
The main issue in my opinion is that Kickstarter tricks "ordinary" people into thinking they have a decent chance of getting funded. In reality of course only socially well-connected projects have a good chance.
Oh please. If you're going to do a writeup like this, fucking own it. I'm so tired of someone putting out something that bears down on what can only be described as "shady" behavior, but then doesn't have the balls to call a spade a spade.
If Kickstarter is darkening the portions of their site that would undermine their product, that's shady. Plain and simple.
Kickstarter says that accountability is enforced by the community of backers, but Kickstarter really needs to be part of that process.
If by "fails" you mean "is successfully funded but fails to deliver" then no.
I am not a lawyer, but I suspect the backer could take them to court for failing to follow through, since this is basically an agreement between the backer and the project owner, and the project owner didn't do their part. It'll be fun to see it tested in court.
 This is the statement I was responding to.
I agree with this statement  to a degree. I would also say that it is also hard to quantify all the things that went right. I think that once people see a successful project/individual/company/etc. they interpret that success to trivial actions (that may or may not have contributed to the success.)
This also identifies another underlying problem; how is success defined?
Edited: for clarity & context.
If everything we ate smelled and tasted "good", we'd die. Because we would eat poisonous things. There is a reason why some things smell or taste "bad".
As another commenter points out, it's a shame because knowing what projects did not work, and when, would be helpful.
Trial and error is a proven way to reach success.
Kickstarter is hiding the errors.