Why it might not work: App.net

A short post by Gordon Bowman turned me on to a $500K crowdfunding campaign for app.net, a user-fee supported version of Twitter. Even though they’re only three days into a 30 day campaign, app.net is already instructive but mostly for the mistakes which may doom it.

  • Target market: We can guess at who app.net’s campaign’s target market is by the rewards they’re offering: for users, pre-pay first year and guarantee access to your handle; for developers, get access to developer toolchain. They’re aiming for early adopters and hardcore technology people. This might make sense for a $50K raise but for $500K you need a broader base.
  • Video: Given their target market, the manifesto-like nature of the video is appropriate but it works to keep the band of people who might be interested in this project artificially narrow. It is probably 45 seconds or a minute too long and lacks a sense of humor and, surprisingly, a sense of community.
  • Creation myth: The disappointing thing is that there does seem to be a compelling creation myth behind app.net: The founder, Dalton Caldwell, wrote what was apparently a well-received blog post about what Twitter could have been but you have to dig through FAQs to find this out. The passion behind the post and the responses needed to come through.
  • No sense of community: This is ironic since they’re trying to create a new community. One of the nice things about the various crowdfunding platforms is that they give campaigns the tools to create a community out of their backers. I couldn’t even find a Twitter feed to follow!
  • No visuals: Dalton’s blog post was written on July 1 and this campaign went live about two weeks later. They did themselves no favor by rushing into the action without putting together at least mock-up of what app.net will look like.
  • Platform: One of the FAQs asks why they’re not on Kickstarter and the answer is that this does not fit Kickstarter’s definition of a project. I wonder, however, if they investigated other platforms that would’ve been excited to host such an audacious campaign. In any event, I have the growing sense that platformless campaigns are a tough road for two reasons. First, there is a growing community of people who give to crowdfunding campaigns regularly and the place to find them is at the platforms; going platformless takes you a step away from your most likely backers. Second, I suspect that the market discounts slightly platformless campaigns since there may be a higher chance of it being a scam.

If I were the app.net guys I would consider hitting ‘pause’ on the campaign, catching my breath, thinking through the plan for their campaign and start again.