Rewards crowdfunding matters because of the part it is playing in moving us from where we are today, to where we need to go. The world is facing unprecedented challenges – environmental, economic, and social. One only needs to turn on the news to see the vast array of problems in need of solutions. As Peter Thiel wrote in Zero To One, tackling these challenges is going to take more than a miracle – it is going to take hundreds or even thousands of miracles. Outside of traditional employment, crowdfunding allows people to pursue passions that could benefit us all.
We need miracles, but we cannot rely solely on the established companies with deep pockets to develop them. Large, bureaucratic organizations find it difficult to be truly innovative. They move too slowly and have too much interest in preserving their existing position. When Kodak was making billions of dollars selling old-style photographic film, they found it hard to cannibalize the main source of their income by fully embracing the switch to digital photography. When Blockbuster had thousands of brick-and-mortar movie rental stores, they found it unpalatable to jeopardize them by transitioning to online streaming. Kodak and Blockbuster were too busy enjoying what they had already built. It took others to move the world forward, bankrupting Kodak and Blockbuster in the process.
The future is too important to be left to the incumbents. But if the miracles won’t come from the incumbents, then where will they come from?
The miracles will come from the vast multitude of small creators.
Unlike the incumbents, small creators have not got a comfortable cushion to rest upon – their opportunity lies in changing the status quo, rather than preserving it. Small creators are best-placed to invent a better tomorrow.
There is a growing trend toward conscious consumption – as in, being more careful about the products we buy. Every dollar we spend is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in. Being a conscious consumer is all well and good, but entrepreneurs have an even greater opportunity at their fingertips – to become conscious producers. Entrepreneurs can build organizations which are bigger than themselves, meaning their impact can be bigger than themselves too. Conscious producers are uniquely positioned to help make the world a better place, and rewards crowdfunding can help new conscious producers get their start.
Is this overly grandiose? Crowdfunded gadgets may not seem significant in the context of the great challenges of our time. But many rewards crowdfunding projects have a strong social impact or sustainability angle.
‘FinalStraw’ is a re-usable drinking straw. ‘Ocean Bottle’ is a drink bottle funding the collection of plastic from the ocean. Both are doing their bit to reduce waste.
‘Solidteknics’ creates non-toxic, durable kitchenware. ‘Wild’ is making eco-friendly deodorant. These are products which people need – made without the harmful chemicals.
‘Traveler’ is a distraction-free writing tool. ‘BoringPhone’ is a minimalist smartphone. These projects are offering users a more conscientious experience with digital technology.
Thanks to rewards crowdfunding, more people are able to thrive outside of traditional employment. Instead, they can pursue their passions. It has opened up new avenues for independent artists, resulting in books like ‘ABBA: The Complete Recording Sessions’, and documentaries such as ‘In Search of Israeli Cuisine’.
Rewards crowdfunding matters because it places the power to create into more people’s hands.
Just as a single crowdfunding campaign seeks to raise a large amount of money via many small contributions, the accumulated effect of all these small miracles will, in sum total, add up to a globally-significant positive impact.
Main image: Nathan Rose’s latest book, Rewards Crowdfunding