Does Crowdfunding Need A Sheriff?

on Friday, Apr. 18th

In the wake of crowdfunding’s latest scam-scare, the IndieGoGo campaign for all-too-miraculous seeming Healbe GoBe health monitor, crowdfunding activist Paul Spinrad suggests that something proactive needs to be done about researching campaigns with suspicious claims.

So, what if there were a loose body of makers, with some recognizable name and “seal of non-disapproval,” who take it upon themselves to vet all of the new hardware offerings posted to crowdfunding sites, and publish a JSON database or similar that associates each one of them with Pass, Fail, Maybe, Notes, Reviewer, etc.? What if there were a few such entities, expert in different domains? In terms of pro bono work, this seems like low-hanging fruit. In a crowd-powered future, so many would benefit so much from something that’s so easy to do.

Let me riff on Spinrad’s idea for a second: wouldn’t it be more powerful if there was an organization (or two) that was giving out seals of approval? An entity that inventors could go to before they launched their campaign and had their work vetted by. That way potential backers could look for the seal–which could be prominently displayed on a campaign page and in the campaign video–rather than hunting down a third party site?

The GoBe still obliterated its funding goal despite all of the bad word of mouth, which is a big piece of evidence that the “vigilante justice” model of crowdfunding curation doesn’t work all that well.

The body that does this work need not limit itself to questions of technological feasibility. There are plenty of creative endeavors that could benefit from having a third party look at their budgets and timetables in order to give a thumbs up to the business plan. As Spinrad hints at, perhaps one entity wouldn’t be enough. Different groups could pop up along the various crowdfunding verticals.

If such groups were to exist there would then be the issue of funding them. Any kind of public interest group vetting campaigns should have their funds come from a neutral source. While Spinrad suggests that this work can be done pro bono, I have to admit I’m skeptical of the sustainability of that model when the potential demand for seals of approval would be high.

 

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