In essence, it's an open sourced patronage program for projects. What kind of projects? Pretty much anything, but they're currently focusing on relatively small artistic endeavors. Here's a description of the pledge mechanism from their FAQ:
We believe that...
• A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.
• A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.
Here's the Kickstarter DNA:
1. REWARDS! Project creators inspire people to open their wallets by offering smart, fun, and tangible rewards (products, benefits, and experiences).
2. ALL-OR-NOTHING FUNDING! Every Kickstarter project must be fully funded before its time expires or no money changes hands.
1. It's less risk for everyone. If you need $5,000, it's tough having $2,000 and a bunch of people expecting you to complete a $5,000 project.
2. It allows people to test concepts (or conditionally sell stuff) without risk. If you don't receive the support you want, you're not compelled to follow through. This is huge!
3. It motivates. If people want to see a project come to life, they're going to spread the word.
Kickstarter is focused on creative ideas and ambitious endeavors. We're a great way for artists, filmmakers, musicians, designers, writers, athletes, adventurers, illustrators, explorers, curators, promoters, performers, and others to bring their projects, events, and dreams to life.
It sounds a lot like the late, unlamented "Fundable" website, but without the dishonesty, incompetence, and outright fraud so tellingly documented by Mary Robinette Kowal.
From my perspective Kickstarter seems like it would be ideal for the kind of short run projects of 100-150 items that I enjoy doing. My humble wares are purposefully designed for a niche market that has very specific tastes, which is a natural match for the pledge model of patronage. While I might be able to take advantage of some economies of scale by increasing production up into the 200-250 range I can't see the market reliably supporting anything much larger.
Since you are my niche market I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. Would you feel comfortable pledging for something like the Miskatonic prop set if it could result in better prices because of larger runs? Keep in mind that it would also necessitate some delays. Based on prior experience and some guesstimating it would probably take three to four weeks for goodies to be in your hands after the fund drive is completed. That's assuming it takes a week for me to get the funds and pay for production, followed by another two weeks for manufacturing and shipping, and another week for packages to travel from Propnomicon headquarters to you via the post.