Interview With BackerClub’s Mark Baker

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I had come across a recently announced site just for Kickstarter aficionados from a shout-out by one of the nearly 200 projects that I’ve backed. Thinking that it was worth checking out, I created an account and looked around the site taking a feel for how it all worked. While there’s not a whole lot currently there from a member standpoint beyond such staples as forums and the like, there is still plenty to be gleaned from it that I have yet to experience. And, as luck would have it, I managed to snag a brief interview with one of the co-founders of BackerClub, Mark Baker. Read on and if you’re still curious about it, consider signing up yourself. (Here’s the link: http://backerclub.co/)

Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about BackerClub. To start off, can you tell our readers a little bit about how the site works?

BackerClub allows those who have backed 50+ projects on Kickstarter to become full members.  With 25+ backed projects (and using a promo code of Join25) people can join as a “BackerClub intern”.  Members get the opportunity to see projects early before they launch.  Each project that is listed on BackerClub must offer early bird rewards plus an additional perk to BackerClub members.  These perks range from free upgrades to reduced shipping to free add-ons, or anything else create the project can think of.  There is also a forum in the community for those who are very serious about crowdfunding to dialogue.  Project creators benefit from being able to get their idea in front of a very active and influential group of backers and get valuable feedback.

BackerClub is the first of its kind that I’m aware of towards crowdfunding. Why did you decide to make it a place for people who have backed fifty projects or more? Why not open it up to anyone who’s backed at least one project?

We wanted this to be a community of very serious and committed backers.  We did feel that those with 25+ projects backed are also usually quite passionate about Kickstarter, so that is why we decided to allow this group to join as limited members.  With such a focused membership we felt that forum discussions will be very in depth, as is being proved out by the conversations already happening.  We also felt that the feedback this group of Kickstarter “experts” could provide to creator would be invaluable.

Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites have gained popularity within the past couple years. How do you feel about projects going this route?

Currently, we are focusing on Kickstarter projects because that is where we feel the most serious repeat backers are at.  We are open to adding other platforms to the community over time as well and will likely do so once the Club becomes firmly established as the go-to place for serious Kickstarter projects before their launch.

There are already a few projects listed on the Web site. How would those who would like to get theirs included go about having it featured on the site?

Any project that is active on Kickstarter or in the pre-launch preparation stage can submit to be included on the site.  The submission form is available at: www.BackerClub.co/submit.php

While there are some sections of the BackerClub that are expected, such as forums and the project list, one that has caught my attention very early on was the idea of having “lounges” for various tiers of membership. How did this concept come about and how well received has it been so far?

The private lounges are a fun idea that we are experimenting with.  Each member of the site is assigned a rank depending on how many projects they have backed on Kickstarter (1-7).  Lounges for various membership levels have unique opportunities inside them that only those members at the specific rank or higher can access. This month, most of the lounges include contests to win BackerBucks (cash to spend on Kickstarter projects), though the highest ranked lounge (those who have backed 700+ projects) is giving away straight cash rather than entries into a contest.  We have a lot of ideas for fun things to do in these lounges over time.  So far, there has been a lot of activity from the members using these lounges and accumulating entries into the contests.

While we’re on the subject of the lounges, throughout November you’re running a contest to “spin the wheel” to get entries into contests based on their tier. What other ideas are you planning on introducing in future months?

That is top secret. :)  Actually, we would like to offer things in these lounges in the future like free giveaways from Kickstarter projects that have been featured on BackerClub and possibly even giveaways for one-of-a-kind rewards that project creator specifically make for the lounges.  We are very open to community suggestions as well about the lounges and have setup a topic in the forum specifically for the lounges.

And while we’re on the subject of membership tiers, can you explain how they are calculated and why you decided to group them up the way you have?

Here are the membership rank criteria:
Intern: 25-49
1 Star Member: 50-74
2 Star Member: 75-99
3 Star Member: 100-249
4 Star Member: 250-399
5 Star Member: 400-549
6 Star Member: 550-699
7 Star Member: 700+

Before we go any further, I have to address the elephant in the room. The original launch of the site met with some resistance. Based on what I had read in the forums early on I wasn’t the only one who thought having us link our Kickstarter password was a bad move. I’m glad that you changed that policy, but why did you have it in the first place?

Our original approach was to have the members login with the Kickstarter credentials so that BackerClub could verify their ownership of their profile.  Our goal was to provide the most streamlined, simple process for registering that we could while still being able to verify identity.  We also were aware that other established Kickstarter support sites were already doing this, so we did not anticipate the response we received on our launch day.  The community made it clear that they would rather have a registration process that did not require sharing their Kickstarter credentials, even if it was more complex.  Actually, “Lobster” (one of our most active members so far) made some great suggestions that we ended using to create our current registration model.  Since the new model has been implemented we had smooth sailing in terms of users being able to register without any security concerns while we are still able to verify their identity.

Can you explain the “BackerBucks” concept and how it ties to the site?

BackerBucks translate into cash (US Dollar equivalent) that the members of the site can use for backing projects they love on Kickstarter. We are actually still in process in deciding how best to distribute this and let members “spend” the BackerBucks they earn. Money will be able to be earned in many ways on the site as we move forward. At present the most common way BackerBucks are earned is in the private lounges.

Do you have any plans on expanding the site any further than it already has? If so, are there any ideas that you’re considering implementing that you can share?

We have kicked around a lot of ideas, and likely will expand in ways that the community feels will add value, but for the time being we are focusing on doing what we have initially set out to do well.  We are encouraged at the participation in the forum and are seeing that as being equally as valuable to members as the perks and discounts they receive on great projects.

Before we go, is there anything that you’d like to say to our readers?

We are a very community minded endeavor.  We have already taken numerous suggestions from our members who posted in the forum and put them into practice.  In fact, we have several threads running where we have specifically asked the community to provide suggestions for setting direction in the site. We’d love to have you get involved and provide you ideas too!

  • Michael Shaw

    Great interview, Serena. I’m a fairly prolific backer and am still undecided on whether I’ll join Backer Club, but this gives me some great information as I weigh my options.

    • Ricardo Gomes

      BAKU BAKU REVIVAL is NOW on KICKSTARTER, Help UP and bring Baku Baku back to Life! http://kck.st/1Pr8Dy0

  • Max

    My mind boggles at the thought that in 2014 someone can not only ask you with a straight face to just hand over one of your passwords but actually act surprised when that sort of thing gets… frowned upon. Me, I just stick with “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member”…