Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Crowdfunding Consultants: Heroes or Menaces?

on Wednesday, May. 15th

In the latest from the generally excellent video game magazine/blog Kill Screen, writer Jason Johnson pledges to take us into the "strange and confusing world of Kickstarter consultants" starting with one Hans Olsen:

Olsen is an entrepreneur in the emerging and discomfiting field of Kickstarter consultancy, an intermediary industry operating in an online arena that really has no need for middlemen. The ever-popular crowdfunding service was created in 2009 as an open space where independent artists can ask the internet at large to help fund projects, free from the overhead and machinations of big business. Generally speaking, Kickstarter campaigns aren’t intended to turn a profit, but to attract a pool of backers who’ll put a little money down in exchange for an altruistic boost to their ego and a copy of the finished product. Regardless, a lot of money ($319 million in pledges in 2012) has traded hands, which is like blood in the water.

The gist of Johnson's article: game makers don't need crowdfunding consultants.

I think that might be a tad myopic.

While–at least according to Johnson–Kickstarter is pretty sanguine about how unnecessary consultants are this goes hand in hand with the idea that a crowdfunding project manager is a complete entrepreneur.

Sure, you can handle all the details on your own, but as many learn there are a lot of details.

Take the campaign for the game République, for example. We were lucky enough to have an in-depth interview with project leader Ryan Payton during the campaign. It was clear then that the success of that project was never certain, in spite of some really optimistic outlooks from other game industry professionals.

In time Payton brought on veteran game journalist Billy Berghammer to act as the community manager for the campaign after it nearly wiped Payton out. Would Johnson consider Berghammer a "consultant" in that case?

Now what I don't want to so is undermine Johnson's general message of "be wary of snake-oil salesman". That there are consultants out there who aren't willing to be transparent about what they have and have not done for campaigns is antithetical to the crowdfunding esprit de corps.

However large projects have plenty of people acting as consultants on them. Zack Braff had no less than a graduate of MIT's Media Lab working behind the scenes on that campaign.

While the ideal conditions for a campaign are for the leader to be an excellent self-marketer and community manager the reality is that not everyone is good at winnowing down their pitch to a smooth two minutes. The very skills that can make someone a great game designer or long form storyteller can also trip up their ability to make their case in a heartbeat.

Which is all a crowdfunding project often has.

It is okay to seek assistance, but always do your own homework first.

Image: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid (Flickr Stream)

Follow Noah Nelson on Twitter (@noahjnelson)

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