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Kickstarter vs Indiegogo 

The Ultimate Guide

There are dozens of rewards crowdfunding platforms vying to host your campaign, but for the vast majority of creators, it should boil down to a choice between just two: Kickstarter vs Indiegogo.

After reading this guide, you will be well-equipped to make the big call – which of these platforms is best for YOU.

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Why The Platform Choice Matters

Kickstarter and Indiegogo are, by far, the largest two rewards crowdfunding platforms in the world. They have achieved their dominance due to a phenomenon called “network effects”.

The largest marketplaces have an advantage due to their size – a fact which self-reinforces itself as both campaigns and backers tend to favor the larger platforms over their smaller competitors. It means that audience attention becomes increasingly concentrated in situations where network effects are at play. The same result is observable elsewhere: To name a few, TripAdvisor dominates travel reviews, Airbnb dominates short-term home rentals, and LinkedIn dominates professional social networking.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo have risen to the top of the pile for rewards crowdfunding. Creators who list with them get the chance to access the vast audiences these platforms have built, while smaller platforms cannot offer this to the same extent. Campaigns listing on Kickstarter or Indiegogo still need to get the ball rolling and drive the *initial* funding themselves, but listings on smaller crowdfunding platforms may need to drive almost *all* the funding on their own.

Crowdfunding platforms without their own backer audience are just not as useful for creators seeking funding.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo have also invested a lot into optimizing their user experience. They are visually appealing and intuitive for backers to use, and campaign creators are able to easily track who has pledged and for how much. Their brand name recognition also means that backers will tend to have more trust in backing a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign than backing a campaign hosted on a smaller platform.

Now the reasons for favoring the world’s two biggest crowdfunding platforms have been established, we can look closer at comparing Kickstarter vs Indiegogo. They have much in common, but Kickstarter and Indiegogo have also developed divergent attitudes in certain respects. 

  • Kickstarter has a more standardized experience, with more stringent standards for the campaigns they allow to list.
  • Meanwhile, Indiegogo styles itself as the more inclusive and flexible option, making crowdfunding possible for a broader range of creators.

These structural differences between Kickstarter vs Indiegogo matter to your campaign and how it will be conducted.

What’s The Same

Both the big two crowdfunding platforms are similar in concept, providing the architecture for creators to upload information about what they are trying to make, and to solicit funds from backers. Let’s first look at the factors which both platforms have in common.

Campaign Page Layout

The placement of the various campaign page elements is essentially the same between Kickstarter and Indiegogo: both platforms have the video on the top-left, the amount of money raised on the top-right, the main body of text and images visible when visitors scroll down, and the frequently asked questions at the bottom.

Fees

There are no upfront fees to start a project on either Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Instead, they take a percentage of the funds successfully raised. As of writing, the success fee on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo is 5%.

Payments Processor

Both Kickstarter and Indiegogo use a provider called “Stripe” as their sole payment processing option, meaning the payment processing fees are indistinguishable between the two platforms.

Clear-Cut Criteria

There are several requirements of Kickstarter and Indiegogo which, depending on your circumstances, may immediately eliminate one or both of them. It makes the choice very straightforward if only one of Kickstarter or Indiegogo is open to you.

Working Prototype For Complex Products

If a project involves manufacturing and distributing something complex, Kickstarter requires creators to show a fully functioning prototype before the campaign is allowed to launch. They enforce this through requiring photographs of the prototype in its current state of development. They forbid photorealistic renderings and heavily edited images or video. They do not want creators to show functionality which does not yet exist. 

Indiegogo allows projects even if they do not yet have a working prototype. If developing a working prototype is beyond your financial resources, Indiegogo can still host your campaign.

Brand New Products

Kickstarter only hosts products being offered for the first time. Raising money on Kickstarter is not possible if the product has already been sold somewhere else. This exclusion applies even if the product has not yet been delivered, and even if only a very small number were sold. Some creators have found themselves unwittingly excluded from Kickstarter because they had pre-sold a few units on their website without knowing about the implications. Indiegogo has no such restriction.

Countries Supported

When creators first click ‘Start A Campaign’, both Kickstarter and Indiegogo ask where they (or their company) are located. Before a campaign can go live, this has to be proved by uploading a government-issued identity document. Large countries like the United States and the United Kingdom are supported by both platforms, but those from smaller countries may be open to only one, or neither platform. If your country is not supported by either Kickstarter or Indiegogo, you will need to look into alternative platforms.

At the time of writing, New Zealand creators were only welcome on Kickstarter (not Indiegogo), while creators from Finland could only use Indiegogo (not Kickstarter). The list of supported countries is subject to change, so check with Kickstarter and Indiegogo to get the latest information. Note that these geographical restrictions only concern the creators. Backers can pledge their support from almost anywhere.

The Other Differences

If your intended project satisfies the strict rules of both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, there is still a choice to make. Here are the rest of the factors to weigh up between Kickstarter vs Indiegogo.

Audience Size

Earlier, audience size was explained as a reason to favor Kickstarter and Indiegogo over smaller platforms. Of the two, Kickstarter is larger. There are many ways to measure audience size – at the time of writing, Kickstarter had roughly 2x the monthly website visitors, 3x the Twitter followers, and 4x the number of people searching for them on Google each month. Historically, more very large campaigns have funded on Kickstarter than on Indiegogo. 

Demographics

With that said, sheer numbers do not matter if it is the wrong audience. The size of the platform’s specific audience for projects like yours is more important than the overall size. The kinds of backers found on Kickstarter and Indiegogo are not identical.

There is much disagreement about the demographic profile of Kickstarter and Indiegogo (as in, the male/female split, age profile of their users, etc…). Instead of fixating on demographics, Leigh Lepore from mintr suggests looking for similar campaigns: “If one platform has a large number of campaigns with a comparable audience to yours, and funding amounts similar-to or higher-than what you want to raise, that can be an indicator of a strong demographic match for your own campaign.”

Email Frequency

Indiegogo promotes campaigns through a daily e-mail, while Kickstarter broadcasts to their subscribers weekly. Indiegogo’s greater frequency means there is a better chance of getting featured in an Indiegogo e-mail blast, but potentially less benefit since Indiegogo’s subscribers are probably paying less attention to each message. So, Kickstarter campaigns get a more from being mentioned in dispatches, but it is a higher hurdle to achieve – to get into Kickstarter’s e-mails, your campaign must be a stand-out for the whole week, not just for a single day.

Quality Control

Kickstarter manually reviews projects in the ‘Design and Technology’ category before allowing those campaigns to go live. This process takes around 2-3 business days on average. This extra screening means some of the lower-quality campaigns get eliminated from Kickstarter before they even get the chance to be seen by the public.

Flexible Funding Goals

If a creator were to set a goal of US$10,000, but ended up raising only US$7,000, a Kickstarter campaign would fail and the creator would get nothing. Conversely, Indiegogo campaigns have the option to begin with a ‘flexible funding goal’, which means they stand to receive all funds raised, regardless of whether it makes it all the way or not. Indiegogo campaigns may choose a fixed funding goal or a flexible funding goal before the campaign starts, but Kickstarter only offers fixed funding.

Support

Many of the creators who funded through Indiegogo said that superior communication with Indiegogo staff was a big reason behind why they chose them instead of Kickstarter. Contacting a human at Kickstarter has a reputation of being difficult. Indiegogo’s staff are more reachable and responsive.

Tracking Analytics

Creators hosted on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo can integrate Google Analytics tracking, to show traffic sources to their campaign page. However, Google Analytics cannot go further than that and reveal the source of money pledged – which is, of course, the most important thing for a campaign to monitor and optimize for. Indiegogo campaigns can get this critical information through the installation of Facebook pixels – essentially, small files which get automatically downloaded to computers which visit a campaign page, and send data depending on the actions visitors subsequently take. Kickstarter does not offer this Facebook pixel integration natively.

Backer Contact Information

Indiegogo provides the e-mail addresses of backers as soon as they pledge. This means campaign creators can start using lookalike audiences with Facebook advertising immediately. Kickstarter waits until the end of the campaign before revealing backer e-mail addresses, meaning creators who want the contact information of their backers will have to acquire them through other means, such as through running a mid-campaign backer survey.

Charging Credit Cards

Kickstarter backers can cancel their pledge anytime before the campaign is over. If they do so, their credit card will not be charged. Indiegogo charges the credit cards of backers immediately, and refunds them if they cancel their pledge or if the campaign is unsuccessful.

Post-Campaign Order-Taking

Once the countdown timer on a Kickstarter campaign hits zero, no more money can be accepted. The article Kickstarter Is Not A Store on Kickstarter’s blog explains that they wants their platform to be about creators and audiences working together on projects while still in development, rather than be a forum to purchase items which already exist.

Indiegogo has a different attitude. They are happy to host products which are finished and ready to be shipped. Indiegogo has`a feature called ‘InDemand’, which allows creators to continue taking orders and payments indefinitely, even after the crowdfunding campaign is over.

Notably, InDemand is available to campaigns which originally listed on Kickstarter. Creators can run their main crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, and then change over to Indiegogo to use InDemand and continue selling. However, InDemand has lower fees for campaigns which were originally listed on Indiegogo than those which transfer across from Kickstarter.

Making The Decision

As you can see, there is a long list of differentiators and neither Kickstarter or Indiegogo outperforms on every measure – the winner of Kickstarter vs Indiegogo depends on your situation.

In a nutshell, Kickstarter is larger and more restrictive (and therefore their campaigns have a higher success rate). Indiegogo has more options in how to run a campaign, better analytics tracking, and more personalized support. There is no “right answer”, but you do need to make a choice.

How To Choose – Kickstarter vs Indiegogo

So, with all the facts now laid out, let’s finally make a judgment call between Kickstarter vs Indiegogo for your fundraising effort to give it the best possible chance of success.

  • Begin with the points in the “Clear Criteria” section, because these are definite pass/fail tests which, depending on your circumstances, might make the Kickstarter vs Indiegogo decision for you.
  • If both platforms are open to you, ask whether any of the other features unique to one of the platforms are must-haves. For example, if you absolutely need to keep whatever money you raise whether or not you meet your funding goal, then your decision must be Indiegogo because Kickstarter does not offer Flexible Funding.
  • If the decision is still not clear, look for the platform with the best match for your audience – as in, the one with the best success rate with projects similar to yours. If it is even, then the platform with the biggest overall audience (Kickstarter) should win out.

When To Consider Alternative Platforms

Although for all the reasons mentioned at the beginning, Kickstarter and Indiegogo are to be preferred in the vast majority of cases, there are situations where it could make sense to host your campaign on another platform.

Apart from those which neither Kickstarter / Indiegogo accepts, here are three more times to use alternatives:

Projects Which Do Not Need Outside Interest

Campaigns which are confident of raising all the funds they need through their own crowd may wish to use a platform with lower fees, and therefore keep a larger percentage of the money raised. If you are only going out to friends and family, you might want to consider whether you even need a crowdfunding platform at all – perhaps you only need to give your friends and family your bank account details.

Local Projects

Fundraising for local projects (such as food trucks, community halls, and live performances) cannot hope for much traction with the global audiences of Kickstarter and Indiegogo. If people need to be in the same town or city for them to support your campaign, a local crowdfunding platform could be a better option. It may also be easier to get local media attention for a campaign listed on a home-grown crowdfunding platform.

Projects In Non-English Language

The audiences of both Kickstarter and Indiegogo are predominantly English-speaking. This means that if your project heavily involves a language other than English (for example, a foreign-language documentary or book), you probably won’t get much uptake from people browsing Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Your own audience also needs to be able to navigate Kickstarter or Indiegogo’s English-language website if they are to pledge their support. If most of your backers do not understand English, a platform which caters specifically to their language should be preferred.

Next Steps

You now know the difference between Kickstarter vs Indiegogo. Getting this choice right is crucial to your campaign’s success. Now – if you want to know how to run a successful rewards crowdfunding campaign of your own, check out this step-by-step playbook! It explains how to crowdfund – from start to finish.

The New Book - Rewards Crowdfunding.

Launching April 2020

  How Rewards Crowdfunding Works

  Learn From Rewards Crowdfunding Success Stories

  How To Build Your Crowd, Even If You Don't Have One Yet

  The Differences Between Kickstarter vs Indiegogo

  Everything Else You Need To Launch Your Own Campaign!