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:
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?