Kickstarter brainstorming at KansasFest

Filed under Happenings, Musings;

On Saturday, July 21, I gave a presentation at KansasFest 2012 about Kickstarter. I reviewed what the crowdfunding site is and how it works before presenting and analyzing examples of various campaigns. After reviewing successful projects (Double Fine, Leisure Suit Larry, Diaspora, TikTok, Pebble) and some unsuccessful or poorly designed ones (Rolling High, What's Where in the Apple, MULE), I identified three qualities that lend themselves to meeting one's crowdfunding goal: the fame, reputation, or track record of the artist (Jason Scott, Penny Arcade, Andrew Plotkin); a convincing pitch video (Huck Finn, Nataly Dawn) that doesn't necessarily need to be expensive to produce; and attractive rewards (Pebble; Joulies).

Kickstarter logo

Due to both the previous session and my own running long, after we watched Kickstarter pitch videos and dissected their strengths and weaknesses, I didn't have as much time as I'd like for my presentation's interactive component: brainstorming Apple II projects to launch on Kickstarter. I started by asking the audience what products we'd like to see that would require a financial investment, then who in the community has the reputation to attract a funding audience, followed by what the reward levels for such a Kickstarter campaign would be. As with all brainstorming sessions, I wrote down every idea regardless of feasibility. We then conducted an informal poll to narrow the choices to those bolded in the below table.

ProjectsSponsorsRewardsDonation level
VGA cardKen GagneContributor credit on Web site$10
Bluetooth / Wi-Fi cardVince BrielAccess to contributor-only blog$25
Accelerator cardRich DreherUSB adapter$50
Ethernet cardTony DiazUSB adapter & name in manual$75
Magazine PDF archiveJames LittlejohnTwo USB adapters$90
Buy rights and inventory from ReactiveMicroWozLimited-edition model$150
System 7.0Apple II t-shirt$250
USB input device adapter10 adapters$450
Buy the copyright to somethingSilkscreen greet on the board$500
Spectrum Internet Suite (SIS) updateLunch with the designer$1000
Full-color Juiced.GS
Ad-free RCR
Open Apple merchandise
Retrocomputing video podcast
Mark Twain clone
KansasFest scholarship
Open-source programming language
Woz action figure (with 9 points of articulation)
KansasFest FOREVER

Note that the first two columns do not line up with each other or the other two columns, but the third and fourth columns line up with each other. Also, some reward levels (access to contributor-only blog) include the previous rewards, whereas others (two USB keyboard adapters) do not.

Of all the bolded projects, we deemed the USB adapter the most affordable and thus the most likely to be funded. The proposed adapter would not only work with keyboards, joysticks, and mice, but it would adapt them to multiple platforms: Apple II, Commodore 64, and more. As the Battle Chess Kickstarter campaign demonstrated, limiting your product to only one audience (in that case, Windows) diminishes your chances of getting funded: more potential customers equals more money, as evidenced by the success of many old franchises that are being revived for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android.

A wide audience requires a creator with exposure and recognition beyond the Apple II community, for which reason I nominate Vince Briel. The inventory of Briel Computers, from the Replica 1 to the Micro-KIM to the ALTAIR 8800micro, appeal to retrocomputing hobbyists of many ages and interests, and Briel's track record as a businessman, from shipping products to offering customer support, is unparalleled. Briel has the reputation that could get a Kickstarter project funded.

Briel was in the audience for this brainstorming session but did not actually drive this proposal. But if he were to accept it, I would be first in line to give him my money.

For more advice on how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign, check out Nelson De Witt's A Kickstarter's Guide free e-book and Tyler York's "How to succeed on Kickstarter" blog post.

UPDATE (Oct 21, 2015):: Courtesy Kevin Savetz, here is a video of my KansasFest session.

  1. Ken, I would love to see what the Apple II community could come up with via Kickstarter. Is it possible that something like an emulator program on Ouya or Windows could be used to further the audience?

  2. Where do I go to vote for the VGA card? They're all nice ideas, but it's getting impossible to find a working RGB monitor.

  3. Have we thought hard enough about this USB adapter? Those of us not involved in the conversation might not have grasped the product as well as those involved directly.

    Guessing (to be multi-platform) would mean that the device is intended to interface older hardware (mouse, joysticks, paddles, maybe a keyboard in a strange world) to current PC/Mac by usb.

    Going the other direction seems like it would be much less cross platform or at least a lot more interfacing work.

    Or am I over-thinking it at this point?

  4. We were thinking of using modern USB interface devices with retrocomputers, but you're right that using old interface devices with modern computers would be interesting, too!

  5. Don't get me wrong, I like to idea of being able to augment old hardware with new devices (because there are only so many 40lb keyboards out there.

    The problem as a generic solution is interfacing with all those different machines (and possibly having to dive into the guts – not all machines have nice slots.)

    But imagine a box with a couple 9 pin connectors for atari/commodore joysticks, a 16 pin apple game port and possibly an ADB and now you can take your retro with you.

    I don't see a market big enough as almost everyone and their dog have usb adapters for atari/cbm joysticks already.

    If it was easy everyone would do it.

  6. Michael says:

    I agree with the "Where do I vote for a VGA adapter" – especially one for the //c, but I'd be happy to see the openbox Apple2s get VGA as well.

    Looking forward to any, and all Apple2 projects.

  7. D Finnigan says:

    I have to agree that getting a good video solution is a high priority for me. I love using the real hardware, I just dislike not having a very good monitor. I currently make do with a b&w TV set for the II Plus and IIe, and an aging and somewhat-broken AppleColor RGB for the IIgs.

    Also, I worked with the Spectrum Internet Suite (SIS) source code last evening. "Worked with" is putting it loosely. Unfortunately, there are no comments, and the code looks like spaghetti to my eyes. It appears to be a write-only language.

    I think that the hope of getting SIS updated will rely on someone who already knows the Spectrum scripting language. Yes, I looked at the manual.