When Oculus Rift sold out to Facebook for $2 billion, some of us raised eyebrows. A huge Kickstarter crowd had given Oculus money in its early days, and now they were being left behind. Kickstarter has a reply for jilted supporters: "there are things that are more important than money." How kind!
The decision that you don't care about money was made on your behalf by Kickstarter's co-founder Yancey Strickler today onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt:
"If you look at the way the culture industry or investment models work, someone gives you money and hopes that they will make money themselves — and obviously that is the point of investment but I think art works by different rules, creative things work by different rules. If you look at everything through that prism the concept of what becomes possible becomes much, much smaller," he said.
"I think there are things that are more important than money. I think the community is something that our hearts instinctively look for, and so for me I feel a great resolve and a real privilege to be able to devote my life to," added Strickler, drawing impromptu applause from the Disrupt audience.
It's a cute little maneuver to say you care little for money and that "art works by different rules" when your company is pulling in multi-million dollar commissions. That's scant consolation for the rest of us.
In short, Kickstarter isn't going to get in the crowd equity game, which would give the little people who chip in small sums an equally little piece of ownership in nascent companies like Oculus, and a little payday if they sell to Facebook. If you're the next Oculus, this is terrific news, because it means you'll be able to hold on to all of that money yourself and just thank your crowd supporters with shoutouts and tote bags. Keeping equity out of supporters' hands also encourages more would-be startups to take Kickstarter cash, knowing it doesn't come with any strings.
But the notion that Kickstarter is some sort of bohemian scene, a digital commune that draws lovers of art and disinterested creative minds, is of course very wrong. If companies like Oculus Rift thought there were more important things than money, companies like Oculus Rift wouldn't take $2 billion dollars from Mark Zuckerberg.