Kickstarter creators: stop using funded.today and spammy marketing services

When I worked at Kickstarter, one of the perennial issues that came up in our community was when creators became a little too enthusiastic about promoting their project.

Kickstarter has their own internal policies of how to deal with this (and plenty of creators have been shut down for getting too aggressive), but earnestly broadcasting your project versus spamming folks continues to appear to be a difficult balance to strike for some creators.

These days, spamming people about Kickstarter has evolved into its own unsavory ecosystem of services emailing strangers about projects.

One of the worst offenders is funded.today.

On Friday, they spammed random users and for some reason, they CC’d my public email address. This meant random users were replying to me thinking I was involved in funded.today:

Another blunt response from an unhappy funded.today spam victim:

As of writing this post, I am continuing to get angry replies from strangers thinking I had something to do with their email.

This is sleazy and bad.

I have no idea who Samantha Adams is, or why she CC’d me, but she appears to work at funded.today and has needlessly associated me with her spam campaign. Maybe it was an honest mistake and she meant to BCC me — Samantha had previously emailed me about some other project to which I replied “unsubscribe”. Regardless, it appears that there is no way unsubscribe from these emails, which may be a violation of the CAN-SPAM act.

But, also like regular spam, this tactic probably pays off for some percentage of creators, and this is how funded.today continues to stay in business. Those creators also appear to be willing to suffer the reputational cost of hiring spammers to promote their project.

Let’s make it not worth it.

We, as the Kickstarter community should take a stand and get proactive fighting this kind of behavior.

Here are some ideas for the community:

  • Creators should not use funded.today or similar services: paying a 3rd party to spam random people is bad for your reputation and rewards worse behavior by others
  • If you have had a negative experience with such a service, post about it — most of the anecdotes I’ve heard from creators about funded.today is that they are pushy and ineffective.
  • As a backer, refuse to back projects that are promoted to us in this way.
  • As a regular person spammed by one of these services, please report the project to Kickstarter for spamming (it’s a link at the bottom of every Kickstarter page).
  • If you must post a link to a project you’ve heard about through such a service, remove the ?ref=CODE from the URL so the spammers won’t get credit for the referral.

Here are some ideas for Kickstarter:

  • Make it a public policy to shut down projects that are paying for spammers like funded.today
  • Blacklist referrals code used by services like funded.today — this will compromise their business model as it’ll remove the tracking necessary to bill clients.

There are decent agencies out there that help creators promote their project to journalists and others in more professional ways, but even that strategy is reaching diminishing returns. Ask any journalist about the last Kickstarter project they’ve been emailed about and they’ll probably just roll their eyes. Which is perhaps why funded.today is now just spamming regular people like myself.

It turns out the best way to market your project on Kickstarter is just to make something people want. Trying to growth hack your numbers by hiring an agency to spam strangers is the same as a startup paying for app installs: it’s sleazy, probably doesn’t work, and the best projects definitely don’t need to do it.

So skip the risk to your reputation and just do your project outreach the right way: by yourself and to people you know.

Know of a project that has used funded.today or have you been spammed by them? Have other ideas on how to fight this scourge? Let me know in the comments.