Kickstarter Mythology Needs Some Retail Reality


Kickstarter mythology has outgrown reality.

(But let me be very clear. I’m NOT talking about Kickstarter art, music, and movie projects. It was designed for these and they seem to be running pretty well overall.)

I’m talking about Kickstarter campaigns that raise money by Directly Selling new Products that have never been built – and taking orders for lots of them. In the computer business we used to call this selling vaporware and investing in businesses dedicated to vaporware led to the dotcom crash. Segway and Google Glass were both massive vaporware disasters.

Now, by selling vaporware with Kickstarter, we’re seeing amazing train wrecks among the most highly successful money raising campaigns. These train wrecks are all made possible by the mythologies that drive Kickstarter and other crowd funding sites. (Incidentally, a comment below points out this is a far more dramatic version of the direct mail practice of “dry testing”. There is already FTC guidance on dry testing.)

The Mythology of Kickstarter for Inventors. Inventor mythology starts with a belief that it’s enough to come up with a good idea and some money to build it. And Kickstarter appears to “unshackle” inventors so this can happen.
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Is Disruption the Most Important Model for Innovation?

The theory of “Disruptive Innovation” is an idea that has come to dominate business. Why? Business pundits and consultants would tell us it points the way to the strongest business success. iStock_000017829020Medium

Except I think there’s a different truth. The thing the disruption theory does most reliably is give you a great way to sell your business to funding sources, to the press (who LOVE a great disruption story), or to that narrow niche of customers who passionately hate the “old ways” and don’t care if the new way is really any better. The theory of disruption is even being used to sell changes designed for wholesale destruction of our public school system in the US (with an odd leap of faith hoping that whatever replaces it will be better). (More on schools here.)

Using theory to promote an idea isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But truth is important for businesses to succeed. Is there really a strong connection between disruption and long term success? That’s far more tenuous. At least that had been my growing sense of the theory.

And now I see that battle has been joined on exactly this issue. Writer and Harvard American History professor Jill Lepore fired the first shot with an excellent article in The New Yorker (“What the Theory of ‘Distruptive Innovation’ Gets Wrong”).
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Space Jump Gets Viewers. But Does Branded Content Really Fly?

Wave Goodbye to Branded Content Myths

Humanity loves watching the truly daring. From NASA projects to high altitude ballooning and trips around the world, my adult life has been paced by some fascinating events.

So it was with tremendous awe, excitement and fun on Sunday that my family watched the TiVO playback of Discovery Channel coverage of the space jump – where Felix Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 feet, lost control in a tumble, fell at more than the speed of sound, then opened a parachute and landed on his feet. (And, tested a possible high altitude emergency escape for astronauts.)

This morning we find that apparently around 8 million YouTube viewers watched the event. (Link here.) (As always…we’re not really certain what a YouTube viewer means since I can count as 15 YouTube viewers given all the devices I use.)

True to form the online advertising enthusiasts are ready to jump on these numbers as “proof” of the power of branded content. Branded content? Articles I read today remind me that Red Bull sponsored the jumper (I’d forgotten already). So, enthusiasts are taking “sponsored” and deciding that it is clearly “branded content”. Whatever.

Anyway, when it comes to numbers we need to be more skeptical.

What the Space Jump Really Proves is That Traditional Media Remains the Best Driver of Demand. After all…

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Apple & Application Software…iOS6 Maps Debacle Looks like Final Cut Fiasco

I wrote my letter today to Tim Cook (CEO, Apple) informing him that, as a result of the Final Cut Pro/FCP-X debacle, starting 11/1 my company will create no new FCP projects.

As I wrote, it hit me – the iOS6 Maps fiasco and the Final Cut Pro debacle have eerie similarities… Read more of this post

Apple vs Samsung Reminds Us: What’s Obvious Today Was Obscure in the Past

‘The man who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The man who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.

“Creativity in living is not without its attendant difficulties, for peculiarity breeds contempt. And the unfortunate thing about being ahead of your time is that when people finally realize you were right, they’ll say it was obvious all along.” Alan Ashley-Pitt as quoted in “The Wonderful Crisis of Middle Age” by Eda LeShan

And so we find on Page 46 of 109 in the Apple-Samsung jury instructions this rather concerning issue: “Obviousness”. Specifically:

“A utility patent claim is invalid if the claimed invention would have been obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the field at the time of invention”

Now I’m no expert in the specifics of this trial. But this fundamental idea concerns me. Because there’s a strange relationship between what’s obvious today and what would have been obvious before a product was released.

Copying Apple makes it far easier to introduce new phones and give them the appearance of “exciting”.

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Research Shows that Smart Phones HELP Retail

The tech theorizers have suckered us into a mythology – the one where the Four Virtual Horsemen of the Tech Apocalypse destroy whatever they touch.

So, as soon as someone saw the first retail store shopper pull their smart phone out, tech titans started taking credit for the destruction of retail. But, new Deloitte research (link here) suggests we might want to keep our retail outlets open after all.
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Cable Cutting? Census Suggests Just Sharing Households.

Much was made of Nielsen numbers released recently that suggested a small drop in homes with multi-channel TV (cable, satellite, etc.).

Of course, those wishing to become rich in a new digital world told us, once again, that this was the harbinger of the death of TV…just like newspaper is dead (which it isn’t) and magazines are dead (which they aren’t).

But truth is often quite complex. And today I came across this release (click here). Read more of this post