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May 22, 2017

Is Seed & Spark’s high crowdfunding success rate for real?

In our industry, it’s not uncommon to hear people making bold claims.  They declare that their film is going to make a fortune, that they will soon collect an Oscar and that their new start-up is better than anything else on the market.  

Normally I just ignore this hyperbole, but once in a while, I ask for proof.  Few people reply and even fewer can back up their claims.  Today’s article is about one company that can and did defend their bold claim.

Seed & Spark is a crowdfunding platform aimed at the film industry which claims to have “the highest success rate in the crowdfunding business”.  As regular readers will know, I have studied the world of film crowdfunding for a while, including a complete study of all film projects on Kickstarter over a five year period, so I was keen to test out their claim.

I emailed Seed & Spark asking them for the data and, rather surprisingly, they gave me granular level of detail to all their projects.  This is unusual.  Few companies are this open and transparent.

I have been through the Seed & Spark data and this is what I found…

A quick introduction to Seed & Spark

Seed & Spark was founded in 2012 by CEO Emily Best and to date has raised just over $7 million for film projects.

To date, there have been 744 projects launched on the site, of which 46% were short films, 35% were feature films, 16% were series-based and the remaining few projects include film festivals, compies, platforms, parties and VR experiences.

Seed & Spark’s success rate

Let’s look at their claim that they have the “highest success rate in the crowdfunding business”.  Based on my research of all their projects to date, I can confirm that Seed & Spark have a success rate of 75%. 

Let’s compare this with the industry’s biggest crowdfunding site, Kickstarter.  My research into Kickstarter concluded that their overall success rate for film projects was 43%.

Note: The Kickstarter data only goes up the third quarter of 2015 as that was when I conducted my research. 

I haven’t performed deep analysis of other crowdfunding platforms but we can certainly look at what other sites are claiming.

  • Ulule say that their Film and Video projects have a 72% success rate.
  • Pozible say they have a 57% success rate, although that’s for the whole site, not just for film projects.
  • According to Wired, Tubestart (a platform executively covering film and video projects) has a 32% success rate.
  • I spoke to IndieGoGo‘s Head of Creative, Marc Hofstatter.  Although the company does not release figures publicly, he stated that their success rate for film projects is “around 30%“.
  • The sWired study mentioned above found that 13% of RocketHub projects were successful.

So, on the face of this slightly patchy and disjointed data, it does seem that Seed & Spark are the most successful platform for filmmakers. I stand chastened for my initial cynicism!

The projects on Seed & Spark

Before we end this topic, I thought it would be useful to discuss a little more about the projects on Seed & Spark. First up, genre. Each project is assigned one or two genres (45% have one and 55% have two), the most common of which is drama, accounting for 42% of projects.  Other popular genres include comedy (27%), documentary (18%) thriller (8%) and horror (6%).

The chart below shows the number of successful and unsuccessful projects of each genre, along with their overall success rate.  Romantic comedy, experimental and mystery projects have the highest success rate, although the number of these projects is low so their average success rate could change significantly with just a few additional projects.

To date, the average pledge has been $113, although this shifts a lot each month, depending on the projects available on the site.

The five most successful film projects on Seed & Spark are:

  • Ordinary Women – Goal: $200,000, followers: 4,152, genre: Animation, History.  This is an animated series about women in history who “defied history” and every short is animated in a style determined by that individual woman’s story.
  • Greatest Hits – Goal: $150,100, followers: 128, genre: Documentary. Documentary about music photographer Chris Cuffaro and the famous musicians he photographed.
  • Money & Violence Season 2 – Goal: $100,000, followers: 1,720, genre: Crime. Series about living in Flatbush, Brooklyn “where all they respect is ‘Money and Violence’.” A story about surviving on the streets, which follows an ensemble cast. 
  • LUMPIA 2 – Goal: $75,000, followers: 316, genre: Action, Comedy. A sequel to a Filipino-American feature film starring former UFC fighter Mark Munoz.
  • Groupers – Goal: $75,000, followers: 1,580, genre: Comedy, Drama.  A slightly weird story about a young woman who kidnaps two homophobic hate-mongers who believe sexuality is a choice, ties them up in the bottom of a pool, and refuses to release them until they can prove homosexuality is a choice. 

One of the successful Seed & Spark projects was to provide funding for… Seed & Spark!  Launched in May 2013 by S&S CEO Emily Best, the project was entitled “Seed&Spark’s Seed&Spark!” and successfully raised $31,966. 

It brings to mind the (far less serious) projects over the years that aimed to use crowdfunding to buy crowdfunding platforms.  My favourite is the 2015 IndieGoGo project entitled “I want to buy Kickstarter“.  The project was summarised thus:

It’s always been my dream to own the most successful crowdfunding platform. With your help, that’s possible by way of this less successful crowdfunding platform.

It confidently offered just three levels of rewards – $5 got you a drawing of Guy Fieri, $10 got you a nude drawing of Guy Fieri and for $200 million you could become CEO of Kickstarter. Sadly the campaign only raised $148 towards its $2,000,000,000 goal.

Further reading

This article was focusing on the data side of Seed & Spark.  If you would like to know more about their platform or their journey, then here are some useful places to start:

  • Forbes article from the time the site was first launched in 2012 with an explanation of the platform and its intentions.
  • Film Courage interview in which Seed & Spark CEO Emily Best talks about how to successfully crowdfund a film.
  • Film Inquiry interview with Emily Best talking about how Seed & Spark started and how crowdfunding campaigns work.
  • Seed & Sparks’s “100 days of diversity” project, seeking to promote diversity in film and television by promoting projects that actively increase representation and inclusion.  And here are the results of that campaign: The long road to changing the world

Notes

Personally, I’m such a cynic that when I read an article so glowingly positive it sounds like an advertorial, I expect cast iron statements of independence. Therefore, here is my Shermanesque statement

I was not paid, rewarded, induced or coerced into writing this article.  Some of the raw data came from Seed & Spark, but I did my best to independently verify everything I could and never found anything amiss.  The S&S team had sight of an advance copy of the article in order to point out errors but did not edit any of the findings or opinions.  

All the data and stats were correct at the time of writing.  I am not going to update them (other than to correct errors), so by the time you’re reading this the success rates could have changed.

Epilogue 

I’m extremely grateful to the Seed & Spark team for their help in the researching of this article, especially Emily and Max. They opened up their data and answered questions in a very generous and open way.  It’s always heartening to see companies who are not afraid to provide evidence of their claims and I’m happy to support those that do.

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19 Responses

  1. Matthew Prince May 22, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

    I have tried to use Seed and Spark but they only allow campaigners to operate with American bank accounts so no one outside of the US can run a campaign, but you can donate from anywhere in the world. Also it seems many of their projects are geared towards hipsters.

    • Brett May 22, 2017 at 9:51 pm #

      It would be good to see the average age of campaigners (and also of course outside that bracket) How many people over 40 are pursuing funding for projects on these type of platforms? How long have they been doing it? Or under 20? Is it a swarm of ‘hipsters’ pushing Seed & Spark? Is the new age of film/video/style/social media totally in the hands of that sub-culture? Interesting. Great article.

      • Stephen Follows May 23, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

        Glad you enjoyed it. Yes, that would be great. I’ve not yet had that kind of data but keen to look into it.

      • Mary May 24, 2017 at 10:03 pm #

        Well, I’m 85!

      • Marc Unger November 15, 2018 at 12:10 pm #

        Happened to come across this article while researching Seed and Spark… I’m 53 and last year we used to Indiegogo to help fund our eight episode series Thespian… Raised around $10,000 and now we’re available on Amazon and Amazon Prime. So, no, age is not an issue.

  2. Marc Burrage May 23, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

    Does success mean it was just successfully funded, or that it also was successfully produced?

    • Stephen Follows May 23, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

      Good question. Successfully funded. I’ve not yet looked into the success rate with regard to delivering the final film. It’s something I’m keen to do, but would take a lot of people and resources.

  3. Gladys May 23, 2017 at 1:10 pm #

    With that in mind it would be really interesting to see the demographics of gender and age and who are the backers.

  4. Sebastian October 5, 2017 at 8:58 pm #

    Great to see Seed & Spark have so much crowdfunding success as a niche site. Definitively offers much more for film projects and continues to back the stats.

  5. John Lubran January 19, 2018 at 5:05 pm #

    As someone famous once suggested, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Often averages calculated from statistical totals suggest figures that hardly actually apply to real people. One of the most significant things it would useful to know about Seed and Sparks data is if it turned out that the typical ( I hesitate to say ‘average’ ) campaign goals of their customers were much lower budget than for other platforms such as Kickstarter and Indigogo? It’s much easier to raise a micro budget than it is for a feature project. Are we in danger of trying to compare apples with oranges?

    Analysis of other forms of crowd funding where large numbers of individuals (thousands even) donate money and where facilitating websites provide little or none of the funds raised is harder to discern. These types of project are almost always highly aspirational on a socio-political-ethical level and access supporters through their own group structures and facilities. Supportive response rates from these group members are many times greater pro rata than general crowd funding through facilitating companies and yet are relatively under the radar of the film and media industry.

    • Stephen Follows January 19, 2018 at 5:10 pm #

      Good point, but no, S&S success rate is not down to budget level.

      In my opinion it’s a mix of a few things. They are a niche platform and so can spend time with each filmmaker more than Kickstarter ever could. They run training and know a lot about film. Finally, their reputation is likely to attract more serious filmmakers, in the same way a top film school will receive the best applicants.

  6. Jeanne Harris January 22, 2018 at 6:37 am #

    One low-budget indie film I did was funded on Speed & Spark, everything from props to meals to equipment. Great idea!

    • Tim Eavey April 4, 2018 at 3:45 pm #

      How was your experience? About to dip the toe into the ‘crowdfunding pool’ and would love to hear your story.

  7. Hanna Sawka January 22, 2018 at 7:18 pm #

    Thank you, Stephen! This is very useful, as I’ve been on the fence with going with Kickstarter, where my project could be part of a curated page, or with this platform. The information here is helping to shape my decision. Please keep up your excellent work. I was glad to participate in your surveys in the past and now being able to use information you have analyzed makes me feel even better about having done so.

    • Loch Phillipps March 12, 2018 at 10:01 pm #

      I 2nd this. Great work Stephen and I also appreciate your responses to some of the suggestions/questions above. Stats are science and so ever evolving with new data. Very handy for a filmmaker like myself who is debating which crowdfunding site to use.

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