Fred Hicks set out to raise at least $3,000 for the latest version of his production company’s tabletop game on Kickstarter, a Web site where entrepreneurs and artists solicit money from the public to support new projects. He walked away with $433,365.
“We managed to lay the funding groundwork for two years of follow-on products in support of the core offering,” said Hicks, a co-founder of Silver Spring-based Evil Hat Productions, which specializes in role-playing games. “In that respect, it worked very much as intended, but at a scale far beyond what we expected.”
The project is the largest to receive funding in the Washington region since Kickstarter was established in 2009, according to a spokesman for the Web company. Kickstarter announced this month that $1 billion has been pledged globally for projects listed on its site.
That figure includes $13.9 million that has been pledged to 2,571 small businesses, musicians, artists and others within 15 miles of the District who have sought support for their ideas on Kickstarter since it was founded.
Crowdfunding has emerged in recent years as a popular way for entrepreneurs and creative people to raise money for new ventures. It allows them to collect small sums from a large group of people, sometimes in exchange for a gift or, less often, a financial stake in their idea.
It provides entrepreneurs with an alternative to more traditional methods of funding an initiative, such as bank loans, donations from wealthy family members, investments from early-stage investors and, of course, withdrawals from their savings accounts.
“Going with crowdfunding gave us an opportunity to focus the attention of our existing fans and catch the eye of new ones while getting the money we needed for the project,” said Hicks, who has run five crowdfunding campaigns. “In this respect, crowdfunding can also double as a marketing campaign.”
But every project doesn’t get a check. About 45 percent of projects created in the D.C. region since the site was founded have reached their funding goal, a figure consistent with the global average, said Kickstarter spokesman David Gallagher. When a project doesn’t reach its goal, the financial pledges are returned to contributors.
A total of 84,575 people living within 15 miles of the District have pledged money to Kickstarter projects, although it is likely many of those projects were located outside the Washington region.
Kickstarter defines each of its geographic regions differently, making it difficult to compare one region to another. Kickstarter’s home city of New York has the largest presence on the site, Gallagher said.
Kickstarter got renewed attention this week when Irvine, Calif.-based Oculus VR, a virtual reality company that raised $2.4 million on the site in 2012, was bought by Facebook for a whopping $2 billion.
For some, the acquisition demonstrated that crowdfunding can give rise to commercially viable ideas. But others question whether the 9,522 contributors who helped the company get its start deserve a piece of the payout.
“I hope this doesn’t affect future altruistic Kickstarter campaigns and people looking to raise money for their service,” Washington sports team owner and former AOL executive Ted Leonsis mused in a recent blog post. “And if I were at Oculus Rift — I would do something meaningful to thank the Kickstarter community.”
Read about other new ,local ventures in Capital Business, The Post’s weekly publication focusing on the region’s business community. Go to capbiz.biz.