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Munchkin publisher CEO among members of Kickstarter's community advisory council

Reining in the crowdfunding platform’s blockchain dreams will only be one of their expressed duties.

The advisory council will meet six time per year to help guide Kickstarter towards the best decisions for its users and creators, but the company is not beholden to their decisions.
Image credit: Kickstarter

Kickstarter has announced the 12 members of its inaugural Community Advisory Council, a group composed of independent creators and backers that will reportedly assist the crowdfunding platform on future developments, including the company’s continued development of a blockchain-powered website. Among them is Philip Reed, the CEO of Munchkin creator Steve Jackson Games and prolific Kickstarter project backer.

According to the announcement from Kickstarter, the advisory council will meet virtually six times per year in two-hour increments to discuss proposed changes or improvements to “the campaign/creator experience, the backer experience, reward fulfilment, new and emerging technologies, and other services Kickstarter could offer in the future.” Each member will be paid an annual US$5,000 for their work, and the first gathering is scheduled to take place on June 29th.

Kickstarter first raised the prospect of an advisory council back in March of this year as part of its response to resounding criticism over the crowdfunding giant’s decision to invest in blockchain technology. Many prominent creators and a large contingent of backers called for Kickstarter to abandon any such plans, it continued forward saying the advisory council would be tasked with reminding the for-profit business “to think about how we should engage with new technologies, including blockchain”, according to the March 16th blog post.

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The other 11 members of the council hail from vastly different fields, including comics, clothing, technology, music, print publishing and even a producer on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Ivan Askwith, Annette Azan, Ellia Bisker, Stefanie Black, Kat Calamia, Jose Cardona, Thomas Negovan, Tony Patrick, George Rohac, Philomena Schwab and Philip Winter join Reed on the council, all of whom will spend their first meeting providing feedback to Kickstarter that will reportedly “help us orient our roadmap for feature development.”

What’s notable about the members is their range of what might be considered success. Some have oversaw campaigns that raised as much as US$9,000,000, while others fall closer to tens or a couple hundred thousand dollars in total funding. A prominent criticism of Kickstarter is its recent focus on courting larger projects from established companies who use crowdfunding as a risk-free way to seed new projects or secure pre-orders, a practice that eclipse smaller independent artists who rely on the built-in advertising and Kickstarter’s established audience for success. Hopefully the broad experience will keep the platform from leaning further away from its grassroots users.

Another big hope is that the council will be able to explain how exactly Kickstarter plans to use the proposed blockchain technology. Since its December 2021 announcement, the company has been frustratingly vague about practical applications of the framework that powers cryptocurrencies, NFTs and other Web3 pipe dreams. In fact, Kickstarter went silent for months regarding these plans, only speaking up in February to confirm that they would not allow NFTs on their platform - an easy pitch given the popular opinion of the destructive financial scheme was already trending overwhelmingly negative.

Two members of Kickstarter's community advisory council expressed optimism and excitement for advocating on behalf of users, despite ongoing concerns over the company's blockchain plans.
Kickstarter's plan to adopt blockchain technology has spurred many tabletop creators to disavow the platform in favour of Gamefound, Indiegogo, Itchfunding or self-publishing options. | Image credit: Kickstarter

The closest the public has seen of answers came from The Beat’s interview with COO Sean Leow, wherein he claimed blockchain technology would allow Kickstarter to solve many current problems, though specifically pinpointing the process remained difficult. Leow did say that the then-proposed advisory council would not make decisions on Kickstarter’s behalf and that the company would not necessarily abandon blockchain development, even if all signs pointed at its inability to help creators and backers.

“I don’t think that we’re expecting to have the advisory council vote one way or another, they’re part of helping us solve the problems that we laid out in the FAQ. I don’t know if reversibility was in there,” Leow told The Beat.

Leow also said that Kickstarter would be “testing and working out in the open”, and while the advisory council would be the perfect opportunity to prove that ethos to its users and creators it remains unclear if their meetings will be recorded or posted publicly online. Dicebreaker has reached out for more information and will update this story accordingly.

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