Crowdfunding, where we all get to participate in the financing of worthwhile ventures, is a revolutionary concept which is opening doors of opportunity to good ideas, creative innovations and interesting causes, and I will write about the exciting, constructive side of it very soon. But today I want to look at the silly side, the have-we-gone-off-the-rails side, because of not one but three items that appeared in the media yesterday.
First, I read in our Spanish online news source Voz Populi about the crowdfunded potato salad (more information in english here). It appears that people can really get behind potato salad. Not crazy about it myself, but maybe my taste buds are awaiting that sublime epiphany. Anyway, Zack Danger Brown, from Ohio, put up on Kickstarter (one of the principal crowdfunding platforms) his idea to raise funds to make a potato salad. If you donated $1 he would say your name while he made the salad. For $10 you could come to his kitchen to watch him make it. He hoped to raise $10 in a month, and as of right now, he is at $72,000, and looking for a new kitchen large enough to hold the 245 people that have donated $10 (and it will have to be long, slow salad for him to be able to say the names of the – so far – 5,000 people who donated a lower amount.) His latest published goal is that when the campaign reaches $3,000 (I imagine he’s having a hard time keeping up), he’ll rent a hall and invite the whole Internet to a potato salad party.
Now this is crazy. Come on, there are so many more worthwhile causes out there than a potato salad! However, this will end up going down in the textbooks as a perfect example of “crowd” funding, and of social media engagement. And of how we love the kitsch, the unexpectedly charming, the simple… We can grasp the concept of a potato salad, and hey, $5 (the average contribution so far) isn’t really that much. (Tell that to a homeless person.)
Second, I was stunned by José Antonio Gabelas’ post about the Jeremy Meeks case. Charged with possession of a firearm, for some inexplicable reason the police decided to post his photo on Facebook. It was only a matter of time before comments on his “hotness” came pouring in, and a crowdfunding campaign was started to raise enough money to pay for his defence (ok, by his mother, but still…). So far they’ve only raised just under $6,000, and most of that because he’s handsome. I mean, really? You can invest your money in an interesting venture that creates employment, gives hope to a community, offers a service that can improve peoples’ lives… Or, you can try to get a convicted felon out on bail because of his dimples, which obviously means he’s a good person deep down.
Third, the Spanish press today also reported on our political party Podemos (“We can”… original?) launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise €10,000 to sue two leading political adversaries for “spreading lies”. They reached their target in three hours. Now, raising money for constructive political causes, I’m behind that. But where does a lawsuit leave us? What’s more constructive: investing in a campaign to investigate how to improve the school drop-out rate (for example), or contributing to a lawsuit in which only the lawyers win?
Crowdfunding has made many amazing things possible (such as the wedding list of a local hero who saved lives by disarming a shooter – a grateful community hoped to raise them $5,000, the campaign rapidly passed $50,000). And I imagine that, as with any young and growing concept, it needs its stupid somewhat irrational “puberty” phase. But let’s not turn thinking people against it and make it so much harder for entrepreneurs, dreamers and people who want to make a positive impact to raise the funds they need. Let’s avoid a crowdfunding bubble.
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