Last night, shortly before I went to bed, a friend from my Halo days tweeted a link to a Kickstarter project for a brewery starting up in Austin. This was, as they say, relevant to my interests.
For those unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it’s a great idea: artists, inventors and other creative types can “crowdsource” the funding of their projects. Rather than find a few large investors, a mass of people from around the world can help fund a project in exchange for various levels of rewards (think PBS pledge drives). If the amount of money they need to make the project is reached then everybody’s credit cards are charged and the project moves forward. If not, no harm, no foul and nobody is charged anything. This way the backers of a project know they aren’t contributing to omitting that has no chance of succeeding.
Kickstarter gets all kinds of projects. I’ve helped fund a book on punk mathematics, a series of music videos for a Syracuse band, a statue of Robocop, a documentary, a video game and most recently a board game. I… I like Kickstarter.
Breweries fit right in with their ethos, I think. If you don’t think brewing is creative then you’ve obviously never made beer. The first brewery to be successfully funded this way was Mystery Brewing in North Carolina. Others had failed before, and since, and others have been funded as well. I’ve been studying the charts using my mind and my imagination, and so I think I have a few things I think I can contribute to those looking to help fund a brewery this way, even though we have not done it ourselves. (Though I have put in a lot of research into this, haven’t I? Hmm…)
The size of your goal matters. Rogness is asking for $60,000. That’s a lot. It’s over $15,000 more than Mystery received, and they’re the most successful Kickstarter brewery to date. Only three have made it over $40,000.
Why is this important? It’s the all-or-nothing aspect of Kickstarter. If you ask for $20,000 and get $60,000, you get $60,000. If you ask for $60,000 and get $50,000, you get nothing. The reasoning for this is so that you have enough money to do what you’re trying to do: if you need $40,000 to record an album and you get 10, well then you can’t record an album (numbers pulled out of my ass). For a brewery, though, no Kickstarter so far has been for the entirety of the money needed: it’s in addition to other, more traditional means of fundraising. That’s because starting a brewery takes a lot of money. If Rogness is fully funded, they still wouldn’t be able to pay for the cost of our brewery buildout alone. That says nothing of our equipment and fermenters — some of the smallest and cheapest you can get — or of how much rent we’ve been paying since we moved in.
Rogness is no different: they say they already have their location, brewhouse and fermenters. It sounds like they’re moving ahead regardless of whether or not the Kickstarter is funded, though, in which case I probably would have aimed a bit lower. How much you get, however, also depends on my next point:
Spread the word. Mystery Brewing is in North Carolina. I know people in Rochester who helped fund it. It’s because the idea was novel, and homebrewers like the idea of living the dream. Some breweries have done a great job of pimping their Kickstarter url, and other not as well. Rogness should be okay on this front if for no other reason than one of the founders is Forrest from Austin Homebrew Supply, one of the biggest homebrewing stores in the country. I think he’ll do okay for himself.
Incentives are key. Most of the Kickstarter projects I’ve backed have been for a combination of wanting to support the project and because I wanted cool stuff. Two of them have been for $1, which are obviously entirely the former (although don’t think I didn’t want that wind up Creeper toy from the Minecraft documentary). I’m not trying to grade Rogness on their proposal; just use them as a jumping off point. For a brewery, I think you need a combination of tangible benefits — every project ever gives out a pint glass eventually — and more “experience” rewards, like brewmaster dinners. This way you’re not entirely bogged down in having to pay for tangible benefits.
$1. Having a low minimum donation level is a double edged sword. On the one hand, you’ll probably get people who otherwise wouldn’t donate. Do you think I’d have dropped any significant amount of money on helping to build a statue of Robocop in Detroit? On the other, people who may have donated $5 or $10 might be satisfied with a $1 reward. If 10% of the people would, you’re breaking even. This conundrum requires statistics and research, and I have neither. I do have hearsay, which is a kind of evidence. I’m just pointing out the issue, not claiming I have the solution for it.
Right. Well. That’s Kickstarter, as I see it. Chances are this post won’t have been useful to many people, but I love the site and I love breweries, so I’ve thought about their connection probably more than I need to. It’s worth pointing out that in addition to the Rogness Brewing Company there are two other breweries currently seeking funding: Beardedladybeer‘s “open source brewery” in Pen Argyl, PA, and Leisure Sports Brewing, a nanobrewery in Pittsburgh. If you like what they have to say, maybe toss a few bucks one of their ways.