Kickstarter sucks at pre-orders (or: why we pivoted)

Kickstarter sucks at pre-orders! They’re a brilliant platform for art, movies, and other “creative projects,” but when that platform is perverted into a pre-order store, everything falls apart. Creators have to become experts at video production, fulfillment, and customer service, skills that get discarded after Kickstarter. Campaigns that cost $10,000 get rejected without a word of explanation.

And it’s not like the shoppers have it better. Browsing for pre-orders among the sea of art is downright difficult. Have you ever tried looking for new products? Sort by price? Delivery by Christmas? It’s impossible. And even successful campaigns are plagued with late shipments, low quality products, and in some cases, complete failure.

So, following the apocryphal advice, we imagined the future, and built it. A refreshing pre-order store for sellers and shoppers alike. We had three core commitments: fun to shop, guaranteed delivery, and easy to sell. To get sellers we hit up trade shows and our network. For shoppers, TechCrunch, Hacker News, and Reddit. And we launched with dozens of campaigns. Orders were rolling in. Things looked great.

Unfortunately, perhaps building a marketplace isn’t all “if you build it they will come.” We didn’t have anywhere near Kickstarter’s traffic and we weren’t growing. And without traffic, no amount of power tools and great customer service will convince a potential seller. The tipping point came when one of our friends asked if they should list on us. We faltered, and ultimately said we couldn’t honestly recommend it. We were demoralized.

After some soul searching, we decided to jump back to the present and focus on Step 1 instead. How can we get traffic? Let’s build the best possible site for shoppers. Everything we love about Kickstarter, and nothing else. Pre-orders from all over the internet, searchable, sortable, and fun. If this works, we can circle back and conquer the world later. (And if it doesn’t, our original plan was certainly doomed.)

Here it is. Swish.com. Feedback welcome.

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