P.S. Pressgram Violated Kickstarter’s Own Rules

So, last night I was able to finally realize what it was about Pressgram that bothered me so much.

Just to be clear, I have absolutely no objections to companies getting bought. It’s part of the natural business cycle. I’m a bit iffy on companies who are started for the sole purpose of being bought out for piles of money (and have been approached by several trying to hire me on and offer me a stake), but that’s tangential to the point.

Normally, when someone starts a company, they get funding in exchange for a stake in the company, and then have to pay out to their stakeholders if they get purchased. Totally fair — the stakeholders make an investment, and get a payout.

With Kickstarter, folks pay in, to typically get something out of it. A product, some stickers, a big thank you, whatever it happens to be. It front-loads a lot of the funding, and lets the creators build something awesome, which is then dispensed to the backers, and the creators can then go on to continue with it on their own, or build something else.  The expected pay out is known going in.

My concern (that I really hope I’m wrong on) was that Pressgram was trying to juice the system on both ends. Get the capital influx from Kickstarter by portraying itself as a product that folks would be able to use when it launched so that they didn’t need to put their own skin in the game to get launched, force people to sign up and build a user base, and then get bought out for ‘piles of cash‘ as an exit strategy. Basically trying to reap where one had not sown and profit with zero risk?

When I mentioned my concern that Pressgram had run its Kickstarter as though it were offering a standalone app (which, based on folks reactions to my posts, it certainly came across that way), John Saddington replied:

Respectfully, you didn’t read far enough! The social network was a part of the original design, from Day #1 of the campaign!

I couldn’t put my finger on just why that bothered me so much, or why he had made the references to a social network so vague and hard to catch.

Then I realized it, about a half hour ago. From the Kickstarter Guidelines as to what may and what may not be Kickstarted:

Kickstarter cannot be used to fund e-commerce, business, and social networking websites or apps.

Of course the original Kickstarter campaign couldn’t explicitly say that it was funding the creation of a social network. Those are explicitly forbidden!

So there’s two situations that remain: Either John Saddington kickstarted an app, or he kickstarted a social network. If it was an app, he should deliver on the Kickstarter and let the app work solo — without the requirement of being connected to the Pressgram social network (even if it results in a couple fewer users if he tries to get bought out). If it was a social network, then it was in direct violation to Kickstarter’s own rules.

Or, y’know, just say that he decided not to deliver the product that he kickstarted, and built this other product (that happens to have the same name) instead — but that’s a really dangerous precedent, and would kinda kill any future trust.

So, which is it?

Author: George Stephanis

Cooking, Code, Carpentry, Letterpress.

8 thoughts on “P.S. Pressgram Violated Kickstarter’s Own Rules”

  1. This is a great point, but it’s not entirely true (or fair). Kickstarter has changed their TOS and rules for submission 100+ times since it’s inception (this is well documented about their changes).

    It’s true: If I submitted the idea TODAY, it would not get accepted. But when I submitted it their terms and rules did not have “social applications” and thus it was accepted.

    Again, fair point and i’m glad you’re reading deeply into things but you know, you can always ping me personally before making claims like this that are wrong. My personal email is here: me@john.do.

    Thanks George!

      1. Just to clarify for anyone wanting to search Archive.org for themselves, here’s the link to their most recent snapshot before the starting of the Pressgram Kickstarter:

        http://web.archive.org/web/20130220045950/http://www.kickstarter.com/help/guidelines

        The javascript that displays it is a bit wonky, but under “View Design and Technology Requirements” blurb, (if you go into your web inspector and make it visible) it reads:

        Not everything that involves design or technology is permitted on Kickstarter. While there is some subjectivity in these rules, we’ve adopted them to maintain our focus on creative projects:

        • D.I.Y. We love projects from the hacker and maker communities (weekend experiments, 3D printers, CNC machines) and projects that are open source. Software projects should be run by the developers themselves.
        • Form as well as function. Kickstarter is a place for products with strong aesthetics. Think something you would find in a design store, not “As-Seen-On-TV” gizmos.
        • Projects, projects, projects. As in all categories, Kickstarter is for projects that can be completed, not things that require maintenance to exist. This means no e-commerce sites, web businesses, or social networking sites. (Yes, this means Kickstarter wouldn’t be allowed on Kickstarter. Funny, but true.)
        • Single Serving. Projects in the Hardware and Product Design categories can only offer one reward per pledge. A reward consists of either one item or a set of items (e.g., salt and pepper shakers or building blocks). Offering a reward as a single quantity AND a set is not permitted.

        In addition, Design and Technology projects that are developing new hardware or products must show on their project pages a functional prototype — meaning a prototype that currently does the things a creator says it can do — and detailed information about their experience. Projects developing new hardware or products are also prohibited from using product simulations, photorealistic product renderings, and offering multiple/bulk quantities of the product as a reward.

    1. Oh, and posting this publicly really isn’t anything personal — I’ve found that posting it transparently like this, where anyone in the community can read and analyze my words. It has seemed to me to typically result in less problems than conversations that take place in back channels.

      With back channels, one person could misconstrue the intent of another, then tell others what they said and the original message gets all ‘whisper-down-the-lane’. Posting it publicly means everyone can judge my intent and words for themselves.

      It’s not necessarily right for everyone, but it makes more sense to me personally.

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