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Kickstarter’s Community Advisory Council helped steer it away from blockchain tech

‘We’re not committed to moving Kickstarter to the blockchain’

Graphic render of Kickstarter logo Illustration: James Bareham/Polygon
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

In December 2021 Kickstarter stunned customers when it unilaterally announced that it would transition its platform to blockchain technology. What followed was sharp and swift outcry from its community, a small but significant exodus of high-profile creators to competing platforms, and a $33 million (12.4%) decline in revenue from tabletop projects — a category that historically accounts for roughly a third of the crowdfunding giant’s income from backers. The company has since softened its stance, confirming for Polygon in an email on Thursday that it is “not committed to moving Kickstarter to the blockchain.”

“As we’ve shared with our community in previous blog posts, we’re exploring the opportunities that are in blockchain to alleviate some of the challenges that we face as a centralized crowdfunding company,” said a Kickstarter spokeswoman in a written statement to Polygon. “However, we’re not committed to moving Kickstarter to the blockchain or doing anything specific there. We are open to exploration and experimentation but want to do it in a way that feels tested, collaborative with our community and considerate of the experience they want from Kickstarter.”

Thursday’s statement follows a news post on June 22 that brought to a close Kickstarter’s inaugural Community Advisory Council. The council was announced in March 2022, just days before to the company’s previous CEO Aziz Hasan announced he would step down. In the news post, Kickstarter thanked the council members, who were selected from among its community of creators to serve a one-year term. It also said that because of their feedback the company has shifted its focus from blockchain tech to “the core business and needs of our creative community.”

Here’s an excerpt from that news post:

The Council frequently shared feedback regarding how Kickstarter shows up in the world and our approach to emerging technologies. Several members emphasized the importance of fully embracing our position of leadership in the crowdfunding space. They encouraged us to utilize our influence as a powerful force in building trust and raising awareness for the entire industry. This perspective has significantly contributed to the development of an AI policy which is forthcoming, knowing that our community relies on us to champion initiatives that drive progress across the industry while also supporting creators. Moreover, the Council’s insights have helped us reframe our focus on the core business and provided us with invaluable perspective (ahem, tough feedback) on R&D efforts with protocol technology.

Participants in the council came from all across Kickstarter’s community of creators, and included Ivan Askwith (film and television), Annette Azan (fashion), Ellia Bisker (music), Stefanie Black (pop culture), Kat Calamia (comics), Jose Cardona (engineering), Thomas Negovan (publishing, art, and music), Tony Patrick (art), Philip Reed (gaming), George Rohac (marketing), Philomena Schwab (gaming), and Philip Winter (engineering).

Kickstarter added additional clarity on the council’s impact in its statement to Polygon on Thursday.

“Where we are focused and deeply committed [...] is on our core business and making Kickstarter better,” said the spokeswoman. “This is why we’ve prioritized finding ways to give creators access to the pledge management and digital marketing tools they need to be successful during and after their campaign period.

“The creation of the Community Advisory Council was actually born out of the feedback we received about the [blockchain] protocol,” they continued. “We saw a need to create another surface for feedback and conversation with our community so that they could be involved in our direction and our decision making — not just about the protocol but about all the topics that are top of mind for us and our community. We hope to continue this dialogue with our second cohort of the council this fall.”

So successful were the council’s proceedings that Kickstarter has announced the formation of a second Community Advisory Council. Applications are due by July 18, and the position includes a $5,000 honorarium for each member.

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