The Kickstarter Hierarchy of Successfulness

Over the past couple months I’ve been working on something I call “The Kickstarter Hierarchy of Successfulness.” It is a framework that helps explain the most important factors to a Kickstarter project success. It is based on a lot of the research I have been doing over the past year as well as my own personal experience.

The name is a hat tip to Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness, whose book is an excellent resource and explains how ideas spread online.

This is just an overview and over the next couple weeks I’ll be taking a deeper dive into each of these. For now, here are four main factors that determine a projects success listed in order of increasing importance.

4. Explanation – The project must be simple enough that someone else can share it. Projects that have multiple parts are hard to explain and therefore spread slowly.

3. Offer – A project offers product or experience. Backers are either getting a finished product or are receiving an experience. Unless you have a working prototype in hand then you are offering an experience. Typically project offering almost finished products which are being pre-sold perform better than projects just offering an experience.

2. Engagement – The project must engage potential backers with an idea or story. A project either represents a unique, perhaps eve quirky idea or is telling a compelling story that is meaningful to a particular audience.  Projects that represent a unique idea get a lot more attention because they are easier and more interesting to talk about.

1. Audience – The project must have a specific audience. Project creators either have an audience before launching or are working to build an audience during the campaign. Project creators who have a built in audience before coming to Kickstarter will have a much easier time funding there project.

The framework dictates that the most successful projects will be those that have a built-in audience, represent a compelling idea, are in the final stages of development and are easy to explain. As my friend Cedric Victor has said “but that’s kind of difficult isn’t it?” The answer is, yes. It’s very hard to do. An example of one such project is the Pebble E-Paper Watch.

What if your project is not like this? That’s Okay. The Pebble is the exception, not the rule, and there are a number of things you can do to push the odds of achieving success in your favor. This will be the topic of future posts. More to come!

Published by


Separated from my family during El Salvador's civil war, by death and adoption, I was reunited with them at the age of 16. I do entrepreneurial art projects that are meaningful, relevant, and push me creatively.

2 thoughts on “The Kickstarter Hierarchy of Successfulness”

Leave a Reply