Everyday Things You Didn't Know Were Crowdfunded
The Statue of Liberty
Not all crowdfunding campaigns occur online – crowdfunding has existed even in history, such as a newspaper campaign to build a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty in 1884, after the US was unable to raise sufficient funds.
This would be America’s first instance of crowdfunding to solve a problem.
Designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and paid for by the government of France, the statue was a diplomatic gift to the US. However, the US had been unable to raise the $250,000 for the pedestal to place the statue on – worth around $6.3m (£4.1m) at today’s prices. A group called the American Committee of the Statue of Liberty was tasked with raising the money, but fell short by more than a third of the target amount – around $100,000. Meanwhile, the New York Governor had rejected the use of city funds for this pedestal, and Congress could not agree on a funding plan.
It seemed impossible to raise the remaining amount – until Joseph Pulitzer decided to launch a fundraising campaign in his newspaper The New York World. 160,000 donors including children, businessmen, street cleaners and politicians came together to make the pedestal a reality. More than three-quarters of the donations amounted to less than a dollar.
The New York World kept the public informed on the crowdfunding process by printing updates and letters from the public on its front page, and chronicled every donation to the Statue of Liberty fund. Doesn’t this sound like an offline version of the crowdfunding campaigns we know today?
Did you know Undertale has its roots in a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign? On its pages, it describes itself as an RPG where “you don’t have to kill anyone”; instead, you kill ‘em with kindness. Or rain death and destruction down onto them anyway. In this JRPG-styled game, the choice (and its outcomes) are yours to bear.
Undertale was developed almost entirely by indie developer Toby Fox, who also composed the soundtrack for the game. It started with a modest goal of $5,000 – and closed with 10 times that amount from nearly 2,400 backers when the campaign ended.
After a delay from its stated August 2014 launch, Undertale saw its official on Windows and macOS in 2015. Successive years saw ports to Linux and game consoles such as the PS4 and most recently, the Nintendo Switch. Reviews from critics as well as users on sites such as IGN and Metacritic have been almost universally positive.
A Fund to Defray Malaysia’s National Debt
After the new government of Malaysia took over in 2018, the government announced that the national debt was currently at RM 1 trillion, or 80% of Malaysia’s GDP. Online, many Malaysians expressed their willingness to make donations to help the government reduce the debt. One individual even set up a “Please Help Malaysia!” campaign on website GoGetFunding, which received more than US$3,500 of donations.
Soon after, the Malaysian government set up a trust fund called Tabung Harapan Malaysia or Hope Fund for members of the public. It stated that it was to “”provide a systematic and transparent platform to ensure all contributions and donations from the people are properly managed and organized” – we think it was meant to prevent cases of fraud.
Over 7 months, it collected RM199 million before its closure on 31stDecember 2018. This was a drop in the ocean compared to its targeted amount and attracted some criticism from skeptics who described it as a political stunt. However, the general reception to this campaign truly represents the power that comes from the unity of communities.
This intense Russian roulette-like card game has its roots in a crowdfunding campaign started by developer Elan Lee. Lee had previously contributed to Xbox games such as Halo while working at Microsoft, before leaving to start a series of digital gaming companies.
In an interview with CNBC he describes how he “felt responsible” after seeing his nieces and nephews play Halo together but not interacting with each other. That sparked a desire to bring interactions back. He partnered with a friend, Shane Small, and came up with a game where a player lost immediately if they were to draw a bomb from a deck of cards – an early incarnation then known as Bomb Squad. Inman of The Oatmeal was the one who suggested that they feature kittens instead of bombs – since kittens were an unlikely thing for people to get stressed over. Thus, Exploding Kittens was born.
The project raised $9 million across 290,000 backers, far greater than their intended target of $10,000. The report also states that over 2.5 million decks have been ordered in one year at $20 apiece, placing revenues are an estimated $50 million.”
This campaign is one of many that proves any idea that resonates with the human psyche will spreads itself.
You can even play Exploding Kittens with Microsoft’s chatbot Zo on a variety of messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger. Someone at Microsoft must really love this game.
The Community Spirit
Crowdfunding draws on the spirit and the brains of the community we live in, and has given birth to many of the technologies we use today, and changed the way we help out in society.
These above projects are but the tip of the iceberg – many other brands out there, such as Oculus VR, and the now-defunct Pebble Watch – all started out as reward crowdfunding campaigns. Over on the social crowdfunding side, many heart-warming cases exist of people rallying to help the less advantaged in our society in a pinch, such as to pay for medical treatment that individuals and families have been unable to pay. These achievements were made possible only through rallying communities of people for a shared cause, and demonstrates that a community seeking a new solution will seek and support a way to make it happen.
Do you know of any other notable brands that began as a crowdfunding project? Share it with us!