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I'll just say it: Kickstarter is for suckers. When you give money to a project, you're doing one of two things:

1. Making a donation to a company. [1]

2. Preordering something that hasn't been built yet.

Doing 1 is silly, since you don't really get anything in return. "But it makes it more likely that this thing I want will happen!" In some tiny marginal way, sure, but mostly it's going to happen because other people donate (or fails to happen because they don't). Don't be the fool who tries to personally take on the collective action problem. And stop trying to make other people rich out of the goodness of your heart.

Of course, as the WSJ fails to make clear, most of Oculus's Kickstarter money wasn't straight-up donations; it was preorders of the Rift. That's obviously not a donation, but it's not a good idea either. As the buyer, you bear the risk that it never ships at all. "But I'm compensated with a discount!" Essentially, you're making an investment in which your returns come in the form of future discounts on a product. Forget that you like the Oculus Rift for a second; is this a wise investment structure? If someone set up a VC company that did that instead of buying parts of companies, would you think that was smart? Did you do any kind of analysis that suggests this is actually works out to be a good investment? Do the potential returns even justify that analysis? Do you think of other consumer products this way, or only shiny electronic things?

Or to think about it a different way: imagine if someone set up a store that worked like this: you take your item to the counter, where they don't actually let you buy the item. Instead what you can do is pay the price minus n% and then they roll this big roulette to decide whether you get the product (m% success rate). If you win you get to keep the product and if you lose it goes back on the shelf and they keep your money. To spice things up, they don't tell you what n and m are either, just the price to play and whether you get the item. Now, it's possible--though unknown--that m and n work out that you're EV positive here. But would you really shop at that store? Especially when there's another store next door that just sells you the same stuff at a known price (i.e. just buy the Rift when it comes out).

The fact of the matter is that you're aren't pre-buying the Rift on a rational basis. You've been convinced by clever marketing to shoulder risk for a company because it seems cool and feels good. Total sucker move. That probably explains why it tastes bitter when the company whose capital requirements you fronted rolls that into a $2 billion dollar acquisition.

[1] Maybe it's not a company. Maybe it's a cause you support like improving CoffeeScript or something. For those cases, I withdraw my objections.




Who cares?

You seem to live in a universe where everything goes according to plan, that's not any real universe I'm aware of.

Kickstarter is about being a patron of creators for specific projects. Sometimes those projects are by people working in good faith, sometimes not. Sometimes those projects succeed, sometimes not.

The idea that this is somehow unusual is ridiculous. The idea that it should be discouraged is actively harmful. One of the most powerful things anyone can do with their money is to fund the development of things which change the world. Create products they wish existed, create art they desire, support creative or productive people, help others, etc.


> "Don't be the fool who tries to personally take on the collective action problem"

That's exactly what Kickstarter solves. My $10 probably wouldn't help much, but the $10 of thousands of backers will actually do something.


> The fact of the matter is that you're aren't pre-buying the Rift on a rational basis. You've been convinced by clever marketing to shoulder risk for a company because it seems cool and feels good.

This is the point that many commenters are missing.

Many of the comments here are addressing the straw-man argument of the legal aspect of the transaction (yes, technically the backers are not owed anything... but we know that).

What the WSJ post questions is the ethics of a KS Project making a human to human appeal to the heart and ask for donations when in reality it is a Corp asking for debt-free seed funding from regular people.




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