Crowdfunding - demand equity in wake of Oculus / Facebook?


#1

I dunno. If I’d given Oculus $1,000 (I thought about it! Maybe not that much …), I’d feel pretty bummed that I helped get them up to a place where they got $2 bn.

I don’t think I’d feel deserving of it, since I knew the terms going in.

But will crowdfunding change? I mean, I always wondered if people were getting equity - didn’t need to be 50%, just kind of a little. Will this be a ‘hey man’ moment?

The Verge has a word on it: http://www.theverge.com/2014/3/28/5557120/what-if-oculus-rift-kickstarter-backers-had-gotten-equity


#2

The complaints I’ve seen about Facebook buying Oculus VR haven’t been about not getting a share, they’ve been about the backers feeling betrayed. They supported it based on the idea of the Oculus Rift being an open piece of hardware that any developer could fairly easily add support for. Basically a 3D monitor combined with head tracking as an input.

Facebook buying it leads to the fear that it’s no longer a piece of hardware, but a platform for whatever crazy shit Facebook is planning. I might be willing to strap a silly-looking monitor to my face if it makes blowing up spaceships more fun. I can’t see the average Facebook user doing that.


#3

Right. I really don’t want to see the crowdfunding model change, as I believe it massively supports innovation by providing a funding structure for crazy ideas - but I think something will shift.

Here in London we had a guy sitting outside the train station for years soliciting donations for dinner. When he got busted living in a really nice apartment, the mood darkened donation wise for all the homeless. It wasn’t necessarily a considered thing, although the local media gave it coverage - it was a sense of betrayal that annoyed everyone.


#4

This is why I never spend anything on Kickstarter that I’m not willing to lose. A book I think won’t get made by a friend? Ten bucks. A cool device with a prototype and lot of potential that I’ll use all the time with 400% funding? $100 bucks. But in the end you can’t get your hopes up, you’re buying into an idea, not the product.


#5

I agree. I won’t shift my stance on crowdfunding, and will work to get more people using it - but I’m cogitating over whether this might be a watershed moment. I hope not.


#6

it was The Man With The Twisted Lip?


#7

Perhaps a cleaner separation between things that are meant to be viable businesses and those that are not would be a good idea. I think there is a place for both though.


#8

In the USA at least, you need to have a net worth of $1Million or more to even be allowed to invest in a startup legally. There may be exceptions for friends/family, but definitely not for a kickstarter-type setup.


#9

The fact that something launched via Kickstarter could draw that price when bought out is a huge success for the Kickstarter model as it was originally envisaged. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for folks who didn’t understand what they were getting, and not getting, for their money; it was clearly enough stated.

On the other hand, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with the concept of a “microshare” crowdfunding proposal either… but you’d better expect that you get Absolutely Nothing in the way of tangible benefit until the company does succeed except, possibly, inclusion in the beta-testers group or an opportunity to purchase at wholesale when there’s actually enough production for there to be a price difference between wholesale and retail. And you’d better expect to put more money down as the minimum investment, because otherwise the legal overhead would probably make it completely impractical.

Take your pick: Do you want to buy something to encourage the team, or do you want to invest? You can of course do both, but that’s two separate funding models and two separate transactions.

(I’m still owed something from a Kickstarter I backed two years ago. My own fault for not chasing the artist more actively.)


#10

I’m actually pretty sure this isn’t part of the deal with Kickstarter. I’ve never seen “Step 4: Hound me until I do that thing I said I was going to do.”

I figure they’re either going to do it or not and I have no choice in the matter. So I wouldn’t necessarily fund that artist.


#11

I feel like the betrayal is more about the idea that funders are putting money into a specific group of people as independent creators. I personally would donate on kickstarter to do an end-run around multi-bullion dollar sellouts. Obviously this is a naive perspective on creators, and isn’t in any way explicitly written into the function of kickstarter, but it was the warm, fuzzy feeling that I got. If I invest in Oculus*, I want to invest in those creatives, I don’t want to invest in Facebook’s R&D, and had it been presented that way, I never would have.

It was funny to me that somebody on the verge article in the comments quoted the kickstarter FAQ:
“4. Creators keep 100% ownership of their work."
This was meant as a defense against people claiming a right to a return on their investment, but can also be deconstructed as an expectation that creators aren’t going to sell out.

*big disclaimer, I’ve never donated to a kickstarter…


#12

No, this really is a special case. He offered to ship it to me. I said “Since I’m local, why don’t you just drop it off.” Then we failed to coordinate dates. He said “Swing by my workshop.” I failed to coordinate dates. It really is more my fault than his.


#13

If you’re investing in the creatives, this is a huge success; they now have a massive pool of money to fund their next development efforts.

It sounds like you would have (but didn’t) invested in a vision of them as the sole owners, manufacturers, etc. of the product. Which would have tied them up and kept them from pursuing the next creative project for some number of years. That doesn’t strike me as meeting your stated goal.

As you say, a naive view, with a lot of assumptions. One good thing about this debate is that it has forced folks to honestly evaluate exactly what they’re backing and why. Which may help Kickstarter continue to mature into a serious tool.


#14

Fair points, and I certainly wouldn’t begrudge anyone their $3Bn for their amazing idea, blood sweat and tears of prototype and first gen creation, nor am I trying to prescribe a way that something like Kickstarter should work. And “sell-out” was probably unnecessarily antagonistic. I do sympathize with a donator who doesn’t get a good taste in their mouth from this turn of events.

It is difficult, in some ways, to separate the creator from the creation I think, when the request for donations is so personal as in a platform like kickstarter. Creators often make very personal pleas starring in their own videos, and making themselves and their ethos part of the product. Beyond this Pollyanna view, there is also just the very real and business-critical connection between product reputation and company reputation. If not, “locally sourced”, “family owned” and other such oversimplifications wouldn’t function properly as advertising.

I don’t think that the expectation that a company will retain ownership of their creation is necessarily “tying them up” from the next great project, ownership of a product can be a beautiful long term commitment. This view of product development also treats a product as if it is a dead object with no further development potential. This could hardly be further from the truth, especially in the realm of emerging technologies. Donating to a new product on Kickstarter can be looked at as donating to the birth, but also the future of that product in the hands of it’s loving creator. Selling it off to a company like Facebook, to me, feels like an end, rather than a beginning, at least of it’s potential as a unique and original project.

I also think that other kinds of relationships can form around manufacturing and distribution. I certainly don’t think the Oculus team has to hand solder every unit by hand, and sell them like Girl Scout Cookies. In the end though, I’m not trying to moralize about the Oculus team’s decision, but I can sympathize with those who had a subtly different hope about the nature of a Kickstarter project.


#15

I understand the reaction; I just think folks were telling themselves stories rather than looking at the real story.

Think about it this way: One of the things that Oculus did was break through the assumption that VR headsets had to be too expensive for a mass market. It is quite possible that without Oculus having led the way, Sony wouldn’t be offering one as a peripheral on their new generation of game machines. And odds are that once these establish a market, mass marketing will bring prices down faster than a techie-only market work, and that they’ll be undercut by still more affordable units, or challenged by ones with better technology and/or more open developers’ kits.

And we don’t know yet whether the repurchased Oculus will close the box or leave it open-source. Everyone’s assuming the worst, but the new owners might be clueful enough to realize that it’s in their best interest to keep the user community motivated to discover new applications and markets for them.

So even given the slightly-off-target assumptions, this MAY still wind up accomplishing those goals. Via a different path, and some of us have a bit of personal gripe with FaceBoot and would ideally have preferred to see Oculus link up with someone else… but I still think folks are arguing about glasses being half full or half empty when the real success is that we’re gonna have glasses.


#16

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