Teenager Exploits Little-Known Kickstarter Feature To Expand Limits Of Crowdfunding

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A high school student created a crowdfunding campaign for her innovative social network, Xirkl. In doing so, she discovered a completely new category of incentive rewards and a powerful, if underused, Kickstarter feature.

Teenage entrepreneur discovers hidden feature in Kickstarter crowdfunding platform.

Teen entrepreneur, Anneke DiPietro, encourages backers to reserve short usernames for Xirkl, a new social network.

Why not make user names available to our Kickstarter backers on a first-come, first-served basis? We could do that now.

Xirkl, a social media platform developed by fifteen-year-old Anneke DiPietro, began as a homework assignment and blossomed into a sophisticated business model. According to Ms. DiPietro, what makes Xirkl unique is that "any number of people can follow you, but you can only follow 21 people."

In designing her Kickstarter campaign, she realized one critical element would be determining the proper incentives to offer her backers. She wanted something practical and valuable. Coffee mugs or tee shirts – the typical crowdfunding giveaways – weren’t especially relevant and fulfilling these orders would consume time and money better used elsewhere. A free subscription wasn’t an option because the Xirkl service will be free to users already.

Ms. DiPietro knew that if she couldn’t figure out the right incentive package, she’d have to abandon Kickstarter as an option. Then she remembered a family friend who had a unique and quite memorable Twitter ID. “He was an early employee, so his Twitter handle was simply the first letter of his first name,” she recalled, repeating his single-digit Twitter address a few times out loud for emphasis. “Imaging having an Instagram or Gmail address with just one letter? Or even two or three letters? How great would that be?”

Ms. DiPietro realized that inside any social media or email network, a user name indicates status and prestige, especially if it’s short and personal. There can be only one “Bob” or “Jill” in any unique naming system so the people who get such names tend to be well connected, well to do, or both.

“I figured, why not make user names available to our Kickstarter backers on a first-come, first-served basis? We could do that now,” Ms. DiPietro explained from her Atwater Village home, taking a break from homework. “It doesn’t really cost us anything so the reward level is really low. You can get your Xirkl user name for $2.00. And Kickstarter provides us with an accurate timestamp when each person signs up, so there are no conflicts.”

Needless to say, the young entrepreneur cleared this with Kickstarter before she launched the campaign. As far as she knows, no one has ever used Kickstarter’s timestamp capabilities in this manner until now.

“Which actually surprises me,” Ms. DiPietro admitted. “It would be great for a campaign where you have a limited inventory of higher quality items; or an ordered value to the product like seats in a theater or something like that. Basically, anything that might lend itself to wanting a good place on line. I’m surprised the people at Kickstarter don’t promote this as a feature more. It’s pretty cool.”

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Quinn Cummings
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