"Miracolo," a new musical, has an 86% chance of reaching its Kickstarter fundraising goal. "Grandma Sally Zombie Killer," a movie idea looking for $80,000 on the same site, has only a 1% chance. That's not me saying so—I quite like zombie flicks. That's according to Sidekick, a sophisticated new prediction engine for Kickstarter campaigns.
Sidekick is the invention of Vincent Etter, who is a bit like the Nate Silver of crowd-funding. A Ph.D. candidate from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, in Switzerland, Etter has taken data from thousands of previous campaigns and come up with a model to estimate potential for success. He says he can predict whether a campaign is going to fly within four hours of it going live. Three out of four times he says he is right.
The model looks at factors like the number of backers already and the amount of cash pledged, as well as other projects supporters have been involved with. It also takes social media activity into account, for example analyzing how often the campaign page URL is included in Tweets. Etter recently explained the research in a paper written with Matthias Grossglauser and Patrick Thiran.
Etter says the tool can help campaigns to fine-tune as they're going along, upping their game if need be. Sidekick doesn't give reasons for why campaigns will be successful. But it does provide early warning to those that are on the wrong trajectory.
Reached by email, Etter suggests campaigners do some groundwork before going live on Kickstarter. "Build some attention before, prepare your social networks, and when you launch the campaign, make sure that the news spreads," he says. "Successful projects tend to have three times more tweets than failed ones."
Also—be patient. According to one of Etter's models, Kickstarter campaigns only need to reach 25% of their goal by the middle of the funding period to be more likely than not to succeed. "This means that you shouldn't give up, a lot comes at the end of the campaign," he says.