Is Donald Trump trying to copy Kickstarter?

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 11.40.33 AMCrowdfunding sites are on the rise, and Donald Trump wants a piece of the action. Trump is drumming up business for Learning Annex founder Bill Zanker’s new crowdfunding site, FundAnything. The new site had a launch party at Trump Towers this week, and Trump promised to fully fund certain projects he finds admirable.

If you take a look at how FundAnything works, beyond the Trump endorsement, it’s all too similar to Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Zunker told AllThingsD that he wants to bring crowd-funding to people outside of the creative and tech fields: ““What I’m trying to do is bring crowdfunding away from the Brooklyn hipsters and bring it to the masses.”

Is there anything (again, besides Trump) unique about FundAnything? At first glance, it seems like a pretty blatant competitor and (let’s be real, rip-off) of the other major funding sites. But that doesn’t mean it’s not without its merits and comparative strengths.

The interface appears pretty simple – not to harp, but much like the aforementioned crowdfunding sites. To create a Kickstarter campaign, you have to be a resident of the U.S. or U.K., so FundAnything may offer an advantage to international go-getters looking to raise money; in addition to the U.K, you can also use it in Canada, Australia, and all countries that accept the Euro. In this way it’s more similar to Indiegogo, which is more internationally-minded than Kickstarter. And FundAnything’s choice to make hardcore right wing-capitalist-hairpiece Donald Trump its public face may appeal to a certain crowd … and cue crowdfunders like Anonymous that they should stay on Indiegogo.

Another difference: Kickstarter says its campaigns must “be a project,” and offers more specific guidelines to certain campaigns, while FundAnything seems to take its title literally. You can fund pretty much anything you want, although the Terms of Service prohibit stuff like essay mills, weapons, tobacco, and a number of other unsavory campaigns.

Your initial reaction to FundAnything might be an eye-roll; it seems like businessmen are just trying to cash in on the success of other crowdfunding platforms. But really, what’s so bad about that? Kickstarter is a for-profit company, along with many other crowdfunding enterprises. If anything, the addition of a new player on the crowdfunding field will make current platforms introduce new incentives for campaigners. Maybe the addition of another company that takes a 5 percent or higher slice of your proceedings will serve as a catalyst for a crowdfunding model that takes a slimmer piece of the windfall.

Of course, FundAnything will only keep other crowdfunding sites on their toes if it’s a success. And although it has the high-voltage celebrity endorsement of Trump, since it doesn’t offer anything substantially different than Kickstarter, it’s hard to see why someone would go with the lesser-known platform. Zunker seems to think Kickstarter is exclusively the domain of in-the-know urbanites, but there are people from all over on the site, and high-profile campaigns like Zach Braff’s recent outing and the Veronica Mars movie gave the site plenty of exposure (even if they were kinda crapping on the original spirit of Kickstarter.) Plus, Kickstarter just released an easy-to-use iPhone app, so it seems to be filtering into the mainstream just fine.

FundAnything offers a new option in the crowdfunding game, but it doesn’t give campaigners or funders any specific reason to choose it over pre-existing platforms. Maybe if Zunker and Trump could figure out a way to make sure campaigners made good on their promises, they’d have a winner on their hands. 

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