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Crowdfunding allows founders of for-profit, artistic, and cultural ventures to fund their efforts by drawing on relatively small contributions from a relatively large number of individuals using the internet, without standard financial intermediaries. Drawing on a dataset of over 48,500 projects with combined funding over $237 M, this paper offers a description of the underlying dynamics of success and failure among crowdfunded ventures. It suggests that personal networks and underlying project quality are associated with the success of crowdfunding efforts, and that geography is related to both the type of projects proposed and successful fundraising. Finally, I find that the vast majority of founders seem to fulfill their obligations to funders, but that over 75% deliver products later than expected, with the degree of delay predicted by the level and amount of funding a project receives. These results offer insight into the emerging phenomenon of crowdfunding, and also shed light more generally on the ways that the actions of founders may affect their ability to receive entrepreneurial financing.
5. Discussion and conclusion
Crowdfunding represents a novel way for founders to raise capital for a wide variety of projects. Given its rapid rise, the dynamics of crowdfunding have been largely unstudied. This paper offers some exploratory insights into how crowdfunding works. Projects generally succeed by small margins, or fail by large ones. Social capital and preparedness are associated with an increased chance of project success, suggesting that quality signals play a role in project outcomes. Geography also appears to be linked to the nature and success rates of projects. Finally, the vast majority of founders attempt to deliver products promised to funders, but relatively few do so in a timely manner, a problem exacerbated in large or overfunded projects. While these results are intriguing, they represent only a first foray into the phenomena of crowdfunding, and they have a number of limitations. First, this paper only addresses reward-based and patron-based crowdfunding, rather than equity or other forms of investment model crowdfunding. Scholars have argued that the motivations of backers who act as patrons and customers are similar to those of investors (Agrawal et al., 2010), but there are likely to be differences in how these crowdfunding markets operate. The future regulation of equity crowdfunding, the design decisions made by crowdfunding sites, and other developments are also likely to further evolve crowdfunding in ways that may change the dynamics between investors and backers. Additionally, crowdfunding may be a phenomenon of short-lived importance. Currently, many industry observers believe that crowdfunding will grow in importance for new ventures, especially with the legalization of equity crowdfunding in the US (Espositi, 2012; Karabell, 2013). However, even if crowdfunding continues to make up a small proportion of new venture funding, the results of this exploratory study suggest that a number of findings should be of interest to entrepreneurship scholars.