Kickstarter’s Oscar victory spells tough road for Asia’s crowdfunding scene
February 25, 2013 by Terence LEE
If there’s an Oscars-related story more fascinating than Anne Hathaway’s unsurprising win for Best Supporting Actress in Les Misérables, it has to be this: a Kickstarter-funded short film has won an Oscar.
Inocente — which tells the tale of a 15-year-old girl in pursuit of her dream of being an artist — won the golden statue for Best Documentary (Short Subject). It had raised USD 52,527 from June to July last year. That’s the sixth Kickstarter-funded movie to be nominated for an Oscar — with three of them receiving the nod this year.
The win is further indication of how far crowdfunding has come in the United States, but it also points to the challenges that beset Asia’s attempt to replicate the same level of success.
Also read: Overview of crowdfunding pioneers in Asia
Asia needs its own Hollywood
While the awards ceremony is a celebration of top talent in the American film industry, what is not revealed is that there is a large pyramid of producers, actors, screenwriters, and directors who are aspiring to reach the pinnacle.
The size of the US film industry is staggering — it contributes USD 175B to the economy and employs about 2.1 million workers. What this means is that there is a sizable amount of breakout talent waiting to be discovered, solving the supply side equation for a crowdfunding platform.
In contrast, the film and entertainment sectors in Asia is much smaller. Even if we combine the Korean and Bollywood film industries, they would still not have the clout and global appeal that the American counterparts have.
Geographical, language, and cultural differences might further limit the reach of Asian films, given the smaller size of their domestic markets.
The disparity between the entertainment industries of East and West is no accident. In certain Asian countries, pursuing the non-conventional path of a career in the arts industry is still discouraged by parents, who would very much prefer to see their children take up a stable job.
The education system, particularly in East Asian countries like Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan, also discourages kids from exploring their non-academic interests due to the intense pressure to ace examinations.
Even the entertainment industries itself are sometimes reflective of its cultural environment. KPop and Taiwanese pop, for instance, are produced with a industrial-like quality, resulting in manufactured sounds that don’t inspire much imagination. Scratch below the surface, and you would find that their respective indie music scenes are struggling.
As such, the pyramid of aspiring film and musical talent diminishes as economic and cultural strictures siphon away potential entertainers into careers in civil service, finance, and banking.
With less room to experiment, the pool of top-notch amateurs and film enthusiasts shrinks. That’s bad news for crowdfunding sites in Asia, where budding talents should form the bulk of its users.
A complex problem
As two-sided platforms, crowdfunding sites need both supply and demand to work. Unfortunately, restrictions on the supply side limit will also put a cap on demand.
With a lack of sufficient talent who are setting up fundraisers, these platforms will have trouble attracting enough donations. Limited contributions means less revenue for the platforms, hindering scalability.
It would seem like many of the obstacles is beyond the control of these platforms. The challenges facing the entertainment industry are identical to the ones facing the technology industry, another benefactor of Kickstarter in the United States.
Again, for platforms like Crowdonomic and Togather.Asia to succeed in funding tech startups, there has to be a strong pyramid of engineers, creatives, and designers who have the potential to upset the established order in the tech world.
There’s no doubt that these people exist in Asia. One example would be Zap in the Philippines, an exciting startup that I think is applying technology in a way that’s unique to its environment.
Asia’s crowdfunding sites would need to search harder to feature ideas like these, ideas that can both excite and attract mainstream attention.
Find out more about SGE’s research arm: SGE Insights, providing customized in-depth research reports to help you navigate the business of technology in Asia.
About The Author
Terence LEE - Editor
Terence writes mainly about technology trends and startups in Asia. He believes in crafting smart content: Not just a regurgitation of text, but well thought-out pieces that serve the reader using a combination of data, design, narratives, analysis, and visual impact. His articles have been published on Venturebeat, Yahoo!, Straits Times, Today, and The Online Citizen. He also co-founded NewNation.sg, a satirical news site covering Singapore affairs. Engage him on LinkedIn and Twitter.Read other posts by Terence LEE