Got a dream but no cash? The Internet can help

NEW YORK Fri Sep 4, 2009 12:40pm EDT

Flamingoes fly in Amboseli National Park near Mount Kilimanjaro, with an elevation of 5,895 meters (19,340 ft), March 22, 2007. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Flamingoes fly in Amboseli National Park near Mount Kilimanjaro, with an elevation of 5,895 meters (19,340 ft), March 22, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Radu Sigheti

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chris Waddell wants to climb Kilimanjaro in a wheelchair; George Del Barrio wants to make a film in Cambodia; Jeff Edwards wants to write a book about a science fiction writer: they want you to fund their dreams.

A website called Kickstarter.com is making it possible for people like this to raise sums ranging from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars to fund anything that captures the imagination of Internet users with a little money to spare.

It worked for Emily Richmond, a 24-year-old living in Los Angeles who plans to sail solo around the world for two years.

She has raised $8,142 from 148 people who will receive rewards such as Polaroid photos from the trip, an origami sailboat or a telephone call when she crosses the equator.

Landon Ray, who runs a marketing software firm called SendPepper.com, gave $500 after showing his 5-year-old daughter Richmond's video promising to keep donors updated by blog and send rewards such as a coconut mailed from a far-flung port.

"I thought this was a perfect learning experience for my daughter," Ray said, adding that he also dreamed of sailing the world himself, so it was partly about living vicariously.

Ray also plans to use his sponsorship as a marketing tool.

Many of the projects on the site are by filmmakers, musicians, artists and writers. Project creators set a time limit and a target. If they don't reach it, they get nothing.

COMMUNITIES ONLINE AND OFFLINE

Jason Bitner's pitch for $7,500 to pay for post-production of a documentary about the small Midwestern town of La Porte, Indiana, was so popular it raised $12,153.

The film is about an archive of portraits by a photographer who died in 1971. Bitner came across boxes of the pictures in the back room of a diner and has published a book. The film features interviews with the subjects 40 or 50 years later.

"This film is very much about community," Bitner said. "We decided early on we wanted to do community-based funding, sort of crowd-sourced things."

About a third of his 149 backers were friends and family. Others include residents of La Porte but also people from as far afield as Denmark and Australia.

Jonathan Scott Chinn, who is seeking $16,500 to make a short comedy-horror film called "Always a Bridesmaid," said the site was an efficient "creative marketplace."

"You're given the opportunity to make your pitch, and if it's really interesting, it will take off," Chinn said.

Independent singer-songwriter Brad Skistimas, 26, has been using the Internet for eight years to promote his one-man band Five Times August. He used Kickstarter to raise $20,000 to finance his new album "Life As A Song," due out October 13.

Donations amounted to pre-orders of the album, giving fans early access as well as additional material such as handwritten lyrics, photos and, for $1,000, dinner with the singer.

"It's a great way to get involved with fans," Skistimas said. "I was marketing to my own fans, so I said 'If you guys want more music from me, now's a great time to help me out.'"

Kickstarter co-founder Perry Chen said around $500,000 had been donated in the four months since it was launched, with more than 60 percent of projects achieving their goal. Until now the site has charged no fee, but from mid-September it will charge 5 percent of funds donated to successful projects.

Chen said so far there had been no scams that he knows of, though plenty of projects simply don't take off.

"The model works really well to prevent any type of misbehavior because the people who fund these projects; there's always a core group of the person's social network," he said. "Those are bridges people will work very hard not to burn."

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Walsh)

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