Home Base: New York
Year Founded: 2009
Power Stat: Last year, Kickstarter raised just shy of $100 million in funding for its projects.

If you did a deep dive into the sea of Kickstarter around the site's launch in 2008, you would have unearthed lots of quirky descriptions of projects begging for funding. And while there are still plenty of he's-making-what? surprises, the user base has grown massively—backers pledged just under $100 million in 2011. "All 13 categories saw at least a million dollars in funding, but the biggest dollar amounts are film, music, and design," says Yancey Strickler, who founded the company along with Perry Chen and Charles Adler. Some of those projects raise real money (see: the TikTok and LunaTik watches that brought in a $942,578 haul), and Kickstarter is helping them discover an audience post-production too. Take, for instance, the film festival, now an annual event. As Strickler explains, "My goal was to create one, mass-viewing experience—800 people watching your movie, clapping, and cheering. What we can provide as a brand is a reason for people to gather to see these things." One social phenomenon Kickstarter discovered is that potential investors really connect with the idea of funding people as much as projects. They like the idea of connecting on that level. And the most successful projects all have videos that feature the people asking for you contributions.

What makes a super-user: "The most prolific backer from 2011 backed 724 projects. We [took a look at] the top 10 backers for the year, and I'm in that top 10—a few Kickstarter employees are." —Yancey Strickler

The real dark-horse category: "Board games alone raised, I think, $3 million last year. We talked to someone who works in that world, and he was saying that the board-game industry had not changed since the seventies until Kickstarter—that this has dramatically reconfigured how their world works. We focus on the top-level categories—the real headline kind of stuff—but we are seeing within niches the way Kickstarter has served an audience that already exists and has been ignored." —Yancey Strickler

The most mind-blowing project out there: "It's called the Global Village Construction Set. This is going to sound ridiculous. This engineer has built a guide for people to build the basic machines you need to start a civilization. You can build something that will turn mud into bricks. You can build something that will make wells. I was like, 'All right, we've hit some kind of milestone with this one.'" —Yancey Strickler

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