Matt Lowe hasn't been in Clovis long, but he is a relative groundbreaker for Clovis with a small online dream. Lowe, a second lieutenant at Cannon Air Force Base, is a few weeks into an attempt on the crowd-funding website kickstarter.com to fund Micro Wars, a game he and friends have been tackling for months.
"A few of my best friends back home in Virginia and I have been working on this gaming project as an aside for months now, coding in our spare time," said Lowe, stationed at Cannon less than a month. "We figured we'd be able to get the project done ourselves, but hit some roadblocks in the code and realized we'd need some financial help to move forward on the project."
For Micro Wars, a massively multiplayer online game (MMO), to advance, Lowe said some of the coding has gone beyond the knowledge of their circle. They figure that will run in the neighborhood of $3,500, and sought out Kickstarter to move to the next level.
Kickstarter, founded in 2008, is one of the more popular websites for crowd funding -- a process by which members of an online community are small-scale venture capitalists.
Project creators are given a project page, which includes a fundraising goal and deadline, a video and written summation of the project and a list of funding rewards. The video usually plays the role of a pitch, with the creator explaining the problem, how their invention solves it, what funding is needed and what rewards are offered.
Creators cannot offer investment opportunities or stock options in the company, and can only provide physical rewards. Most projects have reward levels starting at $1 in trade for backer updates, with higher levels including promotional items, first runs of the items or even invitations to hang out with project staff. As Micro Wars is an online game, rewards offered include a game account, account credits and a custom character for various reward levels between $1 and $100.
Justin Kazmark, a member of Kickstarter's communications team, said that project backers are on the hook for pledge amounts only if the project meets its fundraising goal. Some Kickstarter projects don't come close to a funding goal, while others reach $1 million in their first day.
If a Kickstarter project is funded, Kickstarter takes a 5 percent cut for hosting duties, and Amazon Payments takes a cut somewhere between 3 and 5 percent for processing the payments. Kazmark said more than 26,000 projects have been funded, with $295 million pledged in the site's history.
Projects funded on Kickstarter include numerous debut albums, furniture, documentaries, and computer/cell phone accessories. Projects not accepted by Kickstarter include charity drives or pleas to help with surgery expenses.
Lowe found Kickstarter through a web search for upstart Internet companies, and backed a few small ones before setting up his project creator page. Micro Wars -- the only project listed under Clovis on the site -- is in Kickstarter's small project category, with a $5,500 fundraising goal by Aug. 30. The money, Lowe said, would be used to hire a programmer.
"What is required of the programmer for hire is not too intensive for someone whose job encompasses coding," Lowe said. "We're stuck on an intermediate kind of level, and not something that requires a ton of brainpower to solve, just a few years of experience. The small funding amount reflects that."
With a little more than three weeks to go, the project is at around 2 percent of its fundraising goal. If the project is not backed, Lowe said he and his friends will continue to work through the game issues -- and have already had backers volunteer their services -- but would likely have to shelve the project for a while due to time constraints.
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