Classic Hacks: How To Avoid Kickstarter Regret

Classic Hacks: How To Avoid Kickstarter Regret

Kickstarter is a dangerous place full of (what appear to be) shiny, shiny toys. How do you know what projects will give you said toys, and how do you know which will end in extreme disappointment? We’ve dug up an easy list of questions that’ll help you decide the viability of any crowdfunding campaign.

While the original story, written in 2012, is from the earlier days of crowdfunding, its lessons still hold true. Now more than ever Kickstarter and its fellows are flooded with projects, some of which are obviously bad, some of which have promise and some that look too good to be true — if you ever actually get a reward out of it.

Thankfully, you can kickstart projects with relatively little risk if you stop to think and investigate a little first. Here are some questions to ask:

  • How would I rate the quality of the campaign and its idea? Was the video well-made? Are the people involved in the project passionate?
  • How reliable are the people involved in this project? Google their names, look at their past work, and decide if these people are the kind you want to do business with. Even though your contribution may be minimal, you’re not just buying a product — you’re investing in one. Don’t forget that this decision isn’t as simple as a one-click online purchase.
  • What are the rewards for my contribution? Is the reward system good? Is it easy to understand? Is it something I believe that the creators of the Kickstarter campaign can easily deliver?
  • What is the lead time for the completion of this project? If the people behind the campaign don’t really have an idea of how long it’s going to take, and that’s something that matters to you, this may not be an idea you want to put your money behind.
  • Is the project’s goal realistic? Will they be able to accomplish everything they’ve set out to do with the money they’re hoping to get? Is it too much, too little, or just right? Make your judgments and decide accordingly.
  • Is this something you actually want or want to see made, or are you just excited by how cool it seems? Give yourself 48 hours to think about the decision before you dive in. Campaigns last 30 days, so you can take more time if you need it.

The last question is arguably the most important, and one you should ask yourself before any major purchase. While most of this is common sense, going through the facts calmly and methodically is going to help you cut through the campaign hype.

Lifehacker’s Classic Hacks is a regular segment where we dig up the most popular, useful and offbeat advice from our archives and update it for your modern lifestyle.


  • A few more things to consider:
    1) Are the products shown in the photos actual prototypes, or just renderings?
    2) Do the videos show anything actually working? any physical thing at all? or just people talking and renderings?
    3) For people on their second or third kickstarter project
    -Have they delivered all of their rewards from previous kickstarter projects? (and if so were they on time?)
    -Do they have existing, still running (ie, not funded, but still funding) projects? If so, do they say why they are running projects simultaneously?
    -Is the current project in the same vein as their previous projects, or are they doing something completely new?

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