I'm very happy to announce that Kickstarter is live! I first mentioned the project back in September, and have been privileged to sit on the board and advise their development for the last ten months.
Kickstarter aims to let creative people of all kinds -- journalists, artists, musicians, game developers, entrepreneurs, bloggers -- raise money for their projects by connecting directly with fans, who receive exclusive access and rewards in exchange for their patronage. Like Josh Freese and Jill Sobule, the site allows creators to have multiple tiers of rewards (e.g. $20 for the book, $50 for signed copy) with optional limits for each.
The model is simple: a project creator sets a fundraising goal, deadline, and an optional set of rewards for backers. If the goal's reached by the deadline, then everyone's charged via Amazon Payments and the backers get their goodies. If the goal's not reached, nobody's charged. It's all or nothing.
If you want to raise money to build an iPhone app, make a run of t-shirts, or print a book, you can do it with absolutely no risk or up-front costs. If there's enough demand for your idea, you'll be able to sell every copy before you've spent a dime.
Kickstarter also offers publishing tools, where creators can post project updates with audio and video, either publicly or for backers only. For projects without a physical reward, exclusive updates could be a great incentive for people to get involved. Check out this project for a good example.
Anyway, I'm thrilled to see what people come up with! For now, anyone can back projects, but you'll need a Kickstarter invite to be able to create your own project. (You can get an invite from an existing member, or sign up to get notified when Kickstarter opens to the public.)