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Good-o: Kickstarter Becomes Public-Benefit Corporation

Crowdfunding platform and dream machine Kickstarter are now a public-benefit corporation. Basically, they’re still a for-profit company but now a positive impact on society is part of Kickstarter’s legally defined goals too.

The announcement’s interesting because often large companies are beholden to shareholders and required to maximise shareholder value – i.e. make money. Obviously, this is not always compatible with, y’know, benefitting people who aren’t shareholders. So becoming a public benefit corporation looks to be a good thing, but will it particularly affect your experience of Kickstarter?

Looking at the mission statements which make up this PBC charter it’s things like creating tools and resources aimed at helping people bring their projects to life, never selling user data to third parties, not exploiting tax loopholes, being environmentally conscious, donating 5% after-tax profits to arts and music education and organisations fighting to end systemic inequality. There’s also provision for employees to pursue their own projects and so on. You can read the full list here – it’s decent stuff.

An over-optimistic part of me hopes that changes users might actually notice may come out of the part of Kickstarter’s charter saying they must “care for the health of its ecosystem and integrity of its systems.” But right now that looks impossible to balance with the terms of use which make it clear Kickstarter aren’t responsible for projects not being fulfilled.

The company insist “Kickstarter does not guarantee projects or investigate a creator’s ability to complete their project”, which has lead to a few people being bummed out by undelivered projects. If people are taking creators to court over projects which didn’t materialise, the ecosystem is a little unhealthy.

Yes, Kickstarter aren’t responsible for wonky projects, but they’re part of their ecosystem so it will be interesting to see whether becoming a public-benefit corporation has an effect on how involved Kickstarter are in individual projects. I don’t have a good solution in mind for this. It’s impossible – and probably undesirable – for Kickstarter to try to vet projects, and I suspect they’re not able to cover the cost of refunding things themselves. So… maybe expect nothing on that front. At least not directly. But perhaps the other elements will have a knock-on effect.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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