Kickstarter is a Web platform for funding projects in music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields. People post project proposals on the Kickstarter Web site along with a financial goal. The public is invited to pledge financing for the project, and Kickstarter holds the pledges in escrow until the goal is reached.
The funds are only collected if the project meets its financial goal within a set time.
The folks who pledge funds do not get equity in the project, like a venture capitalist would, but they can get perqs like T-shirts or products, depending upon how much they pledge.
TouchFire set a fund raising goal of only $10,000, and 3,146 people pledged $201,400 -- twenty times their funding target. (Since it was oversubscribed, the first production run is sold out, but you can place an order for one from the next batch at touchfire.com).
People also like the idea of Kickstarter. As of October 11, over a million people had backed projects, 166,823 of those had backed more than one, and they had pledged over 100 million dollars. To put that in context, the 2011 fiscal year budget for the National Endowment for the Arts is $154 million.
I sent my check and got my kit. There was no Kickstarter process to hold our checks in escrow, we were enthused about the Altair and trusted MITS. Those were different times.