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Analysis of 170,000 Kickstarter Campaigns Reveals 3 Fundamentals of a Crowdfunding Success


There’s no magical “open sesame” key that will guarantee a crowdfunding campaign reaches its goal. But that doesn’t mean that success is a game of chance, either.


Researchers at University at Buffalo School of Management found that successful crowdfunding campaigns share fundamental similarities after they analyzed more than 170,000 Kickstarter campaigns that ran between the 2009 launch of the Brooklyn-based platform and the end of 2015. Only U.S.-based campaigns with a goal of more than $1,000 were included in the study. The research is currently under review for inclusion in an academic journal, but it hasn’t yet been officially published.

Below are the three leading indicators of successful donation-based crowdfunding campaigns, according to the research, which was a collaboration between Yong Li, an associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship; Supradeep Dutta, assistant professor of operations management and strategy; and Christopher Courtney, a doctoral student.

Related: When Kickstarter Hit Its Tipping Point

1. Photos and video

Unlike more traditional investment situations, a potential backer of a crowdfunding campaign is making a decision without any in-person, face-to-face time with an entrepreneur. The crowdfunding page has to do all the selling.

“Private equity investors follow a stringent due diligence process to assess the quality of a startup, while crowdfunding backers rely more on the information on the campaign’s webpage,” says Li in a statement announcing the results of the research.

The more engaging and visual a crowdfunding page is, made rich with beautiful photos and videos, the more likely it is that an entrepreneur will reach a fundraising goal.  

Related: Kickstarter Wants to Be More Than a Crowdfunding Platform

2. Previous crowdfunding success

Experience matters. It’s a risk for anyone to back a crowdfunding campaign. It’s less of a risk, however, if the entrepreneur behind the campaign has launched and fulfilled other crowdfunding projects in the past.

“If an entrepreneur has experience in launching and managing crowdfunding projects successfully in the past, it makes the entrepreneur’s promise to develop and deliver the reward for the current project more credible,” the authors of the study write in a white paper analyzing the results of the research.

Related: The First 100,000 Successful Kickstarter Campaigns, in 10 Numbers

3. Positive comments from backers

For this segment of the research, the University of Buffalo team analyzed more than 8.7 million comments posted by 1.5 million individuals and used a computer-based algorithm to measure the relative positivity of the sentiment in each comment. 

Campaigns that have more positive comments are more likely to reach their funding goal, according to the research. As a potential investor is debating whether to back a crowdfunding campaign, reading the comments of campaign backers is a good source of trustworthy information.

“It is difficult for a few backers to manipulate the overall sentiment on the project,” the white paper says of user comments. Therefore, user feedback “is one way in which the crowd may help to weed out low quality projects.”

It’s probably a good idea, then, to encourage your backers to leave a comment on your crowdfunding page as your campaign gets going and picks up momentum.

Related: Get Your Burning Crowdfunding Questions Answered on Kickstarter's Version of Reddit

To be sure, not all crowdfunding campaigns are going to operate identically and the relative importance of these criteria changes depending on the other factors. For example, for entrepreneurs with no previous successful crowdfunding campaigns, the visual materials on a campaign webpage become exponentially more important.

Catherine Clifford

Written By

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.