This exploding kitten can explain the truth about crowdfunding. And this one, and this one, and this one. [explosion sound effect] This is all part of a game called Exploding Kittens. If you draw an exploding kitten, you blow up unless you have the right cards. Some cards have special abilities, like Skip and Attack, others are just funny, like the “Cattermelon.” [kitten yowling] If you haven’t played it, think Old Maid, and strategy, and death. [explosion sound effect] Elan Lee: It was basically Russian roulette with a deck of poker cards. We said, there’s gonna be a bomb in this
deck. We took the joker and wrote “bomb” on it. That’s Elan Lee. He and Shane Small and Matt Inman, the famous artist behind The Oatmeal webcomic, made this game. EL: And uhhh, we put it on Kickstarter expecting to raise 10,000 bucks and instead broke every record that Kickstarter had. They raised almost 9 million dollars. 219,000 people joined them, giving them more backers than any other Kickstarter project. Ever. With Exploding Kittens, they raised millions of dollars and went on a ton more copies. You can get the game in Target. But when they made a second game called Bears versus Babies, they crowdfunded again, even though Kickstarter has a lot of risks. In case you forgot, Kick-starting is when you kick down on a pedal to get your engine going. These guys did not need a kick-start — they had an engine of exploding kittens. But they still went back and gave Kickstarter a 5% fee to return to the platform. So why did the biggest crowdfunded game in history do it all over again? [ticking sound effect] This guy has backed a ton of Kickstarter projects. Yancey Strickler: Yeah…I have backed something like 1,950 projects. Which I believe puts me at like number 15 on the global leaderboard. So that does not make you number 1, I am both happy and sad to say. He just cracked 2,000, by the way. And some of those projects are weird. YS: There was recently a project to make a gigantic sculpture of Cristiano Ronaldo made entirely out of shrimp…obviously I had to back that. It’s a real shame, Ronaldo should have really pitched in to that last 40 grand to make it happen. He’s made his own projects too. YS: Over the next month I’m gonna make a simple zine of about 12 essays about alternate NBA universes…A world where Isaiah Thomas is a giant living on a Gulliver’s island of his own creation. My name is Yancey Strickler and I’m the CEO and one of the co-founders of Kickstarter. “My life before Kickstarter was as a culture vulture writing about music and film for a living, for almost ten years. And so, my entire life has been looking for the new, what’s on the vanguard, you know? What’s on the edges of things. Kickstarter is just nothing but that. All that backing isn’t just a hobby. It’s key to what they he thinks is important about crowdfunding. And it’s not the dollar signs. EL: What we were really trying to raise was a crowd. If you look at the Exploding Kittens Kickstarter page, you’ll notice a few things. There aren’t a lot of options for money. A few tiers, that’s it. But there are a ton of rewards they invented, without money in mind. They’re as random as Exploding Kitten Beard Cats. They made people do stuff to unlock rewards. EL: 10 Batmans in One Hot Tub. What the hell does that even mean? Who would possibly do that? Here’s an awesome 3d printed model they got back in response. In return, Exploding Kittens unlocked features, like a fancy hinged special edition box that…“Meow.” Yes, meowed when backers opened it. They even said “help us build this game”
to the community too, because it was part of their crowdfunding strategy. This is not a store. This is the place where you don’t build infomercials…you enlist a community.” It’s not money, but engagement, that drew them back to crowdfunding for their second game, even though there are risks. EL: We had no idea that the phrase, “Exploding Kittens”, should ever be trademarked… Once the game hit day seven or eight on Kickstarter, we realized, ok, we actually do need to worry about this. And so, I called a trademark lawyer and said hey there’s this is probably a thing we have to do now… and he said, you’re too late, somebody’s already registered it. They registered it yesterday. And it’s so heartbreaking. Crowdfunding allows competitors to see the future. EL: A year later, and many lawyers later, and so much time later, we finally had the rights back. Because as long as you can prove prior art and prior commerce, and all these things… But, so many people have to work on that. The popular Fidget Cube faced a similar problem. They raised millions of dollars, but debuting on Kickstarter forced them to give up an element of surprise. YL: In Shenzhen, there were Chinese copycats of the Fidget Cube that hit the market before the fidget cube itself did. So, that’s a whole new universe of copying a product that does not exist yet to beat it to market. I felt concerned about that. I felt badly for those creators that that happened. And I’m not sure how to stop that. And I think that people will appreciate that fidget cube is the original. And I’m sure they’re going to continue to do well. But creators of games like Exploding Kittens deal with the risks of crowdfunding and Kickstarter’s 5% fee because it’s worth it for their business. EL: We looked to crowdfunding in general, as a possible way to launch it. And every site that we played around with and kind of even the people we talked to about it kept looking at the term “crowdfunding” and they kept emphasizing the funding part. And we looked at Kickstarter, we started talking to the people that worked at Kickstarter, they really talked us into shifting that. …and focusing on the word crowd instead. The funding will happen. What you’ve got to do is build the crowd. That Bears vs. Babies game that the Exploding Kittens guys took to Kickstarter? They got 85,000 people to come back with them. Exploding Kittens is a beautifully designed box, with well-drawn cards and a funny gimmick. But without a crowd and without people,
it’s just paper.