For most entrepreneurs, getting more than 900 times the amount of money you were seeking for your Kickstarter project would mean a ticket to easy street, your face on the cover of magazines, and the start of an inevitable march to riches and success.
For Zack Danger Brown, it means potato salad. Lots and lots of potato salad.
The Columbus, Ohio man felt a hunger to create something over the long Fourth of July weekend--specifically, a hunger to create potato salad. There was just one problem: While Brown had enjoyed his share of potato salad over the years, he had never actually made the side dish. And as any home cook will tell you, potato salad is fraught with peril. Do you make it creamy or with a vinegar dressing? Do you throw in bacon? What kind of herb situation are we talking about here?
Brown could have taken the coward's way out, opting to make a macaroni salad. Instead, he turned to a place that's supported many a maker in their time of need--Kickstarter.
"I'm a risk averse guy, and I think that's why crowdfunding exists," Brown told me via email on Monday.
Last week, Brown launched his Kickstarter campaign to crowd fund the potato salad he planned to make. His target goal of raising $10 seemed ambitious given the risks involved ("It might not be that good. It's my first potato salad."), but the market responded. As of this writing, people have pledged $9550 to Brown's Kickstarter; there are still 25 days left to raise funds.
"Crowdfunding mitigated my risk!" Brown said.
Who's to say why people have helped Brown blow past his crowdfunding goal. Perhaps it's the rewards promised to backers, which include having Brown say your name out loud as he makes the potato salad if you pledge just $1 to receiving a potato salad-themed haiku if you start throwing $20 bills around. Perhaps it's the promise of a pizza party that Brown pledge to throw as a $75 stretch goal. (There will be no potato salad served at the pizza party, according to the project's FAQ.) Perhaps potato salad is more popular than any of us who prefer cole slaw ever realized.
Brown and his potato salad could also be the beneficiaries of streamlined new rules for getting your Kickstarter project greenlighted by the crowd-funding site. Last month, Kickstarter unveiled a Launch Now feature that removed some of the human element from the project approval process while also trimming its rules for projects to pass muster. Brown isn't sure if his potato salad plans benefited from an expedited review--"Took as long as I imagine it takes," he told me in our email exchange--and Kickstarter hedged when I asked for a comment on the project.
"There's no single recipe for inspiration," a particularly clever spokesperson told me.
At any rate, the rising tide of Brown's potato side has yet to left the boats of other would-be cooks who are turning to Kickstart to fund their culinary ambitions. A rival project promising "the best damn sandwich in town" went live Monday but has yet to raise a single pence toward its £20 goal. Does this mean side dishes now trump sandwiches? Get the data wizards at FiveThirtyEight.com working on that after they settle that burrito question.
As for Brown, these are his salad days. The success of his project has inspired him to come up with more ambitious plans--he'll now make four potato salads instead of just the one and plans a "kick-ass party in Columbus."
Originally, Brown had promised a taste of his potato salad to project backers, but with 1,372 backers and counting, that may be difficult. Also, potato salad does not keep very well in the mail, even with overnight shipping. "I think we're going to invite people here to taste this delicious salad," Brown told me. "Hopefully we can find a way to get the whole internet to Columbus, Ohio!"
And if he can't initially, he could always crowd-fund it.