Sponsor A Golfer On The Pro Tour

Our best investments have emergent use cases that the founders never considered when they launched them. Kickstarter is showing that in spades right now. When Perry initially imagined Kickstarter almost ten years ago now as a way to raise money for a music festival, he certainly never thought a golf pro would use Kickstarter to raise the sponsorship money he needs to play a season on the pro tour. And yet that is exactly what is happening right now.

I just contributed to Mike D's campaign to raise enough money to spend a year playing professional golf (and make a documentary about it). The rewards are particularly interesting and include golf lessons, a round with Mike D, and even an entire corporate outing. In a sense, Mike is taking the classic big brand sponsorship model and crowdsourcing it with Kickstarter. Awesome.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Brad

    I never would have thought of Kickstarter as a place to sponsor a golfer. You do a great job of explaining your portfolio company’s values.

  2. RichardF

    that is an awesome idea. It’s so tough starting out as a pro I hope this really catches on. Good for tennis too.

  3. awaldstein

    The light bulb on the power of Kickstarter is now on.The ability to fund food projects especially as a creative endeavor has caught my interest.

    1. fredwilson

      food is going to be a huge category on kickstarter because the rewards areobvious – food!

      1. ShanaC

        I could see tons and tons of people buying into the idea of yummy food

  4. mcenedella

    It’s one of the most interesting aspects of being the CEO of an Internet company these days: what do you do when you discover what the customers are doing with your product?The “emergent uses” often become the predominant uses of a product, and there is very little in the management literature or on the web about what to do when your customers are starting to use your product for something else and how best to support them.It reminds me of the Asimov story about the time he approached the professor after a lecture on Asimov’s work to correct mis-impressions about authorial intent, to which the professor replied: “What makes you think that just because you wrote the story you have any idea what’s in it?” http://bit.ly/fZ4NWJWith the participatory nature of the web and web users of our businesses today, I think entrepreneurs find ourselves in the same place: just because we started the business, what makes us think that we have any idea what it’s good for?Which is why this era is so unbelievably exciting and challenging a time to invent new things.

    1. fredwilson

      “what makes you think that just because you built the platform that you haveany idea what to use it for?”brilliant!

    2. Aaron Klein

      Shall I cop here to recently using The Ladders’s incredible post-signup e-mail program as a model for how to build one myself? :)The writing was incredible but the structure of the program was so well thought out that I’ve told a number of other startups about it.My apologies if that is hurting your conversion rates, but kudos on an excellent piece of your product.”Just because you think it’s about getting you paying customers…” ๐Ÿ˜‰

      1. mcenedella

        That’s wonderful to hear Aaron! Good artists copy, great artists steal. Very happy to be an inspiration ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. andyswan

    Just to clarify: Mike is NOT on the PGA tour…he’s on the third level “Gateway Tour” (2 tours under the PGA). That’s an enormous difference and I just don’t want any Fredlanders donating thinking they might see their guy on TV this year, etc.It’s still an awesome project and I think a shining example of Kickstarter’s promise….helping someone attempt their dream.A+ for Mike getting creative in his passion and Kickstarter being the platform to make it happen!

    1. awaldstein

      “Kickstarters promise” is really significant.After finally getting this through Mike’s dream (and I care not about golf) I’m realizing that Kickstarter can indeed be a huge force, and a huge business.

      1. Mark Essel

        Not just a business, but a market. Crowd funding is growing up all over, the more the merrier. Transforming attention into support and purchases rewrites the rules on product design and marketing.

      2. andyswan

        Right…you don’t have to care about something…..you just have to know that someone else REALLY cares about it.

        1. awaldstein

          “I support inspiration” would be a great t-shirt.

      3. Austin Clements

        Huge force indeed. They are already the go to place to fund any idea a person has been holding on to for the last few years. As more people realize that this is a platform to make their dreams come true with little risk, the number of projects will skyrocket. Think about the number of people who work a 9 to 5 but always wanted to ‘try something else.’ Wow.Even still, the more impressive part is the adoption of the service by the donors themselves. Many people are introduced to Kickstarter because a friend or associate is trying to get a project funded. But they quickly end up funding other projects in small amounts too. Being an early adopter and making an impact are much stronger motivators than they get credit for being. To me the rewards, though some are very cool, act mainly a cover to overcome a psychological hurdle that people create for themselves.

        1. awaldstein

          Good point…Now that participatory support is really possible (and easy), it’s becoming second nature.I give more to charity now that I can see and participate in the difference it makes through organizations like Donor’s Choice. Lots of small donations that make a difference.Supporting inspiration in bite size pieces through orgs like Kickstarter serves a similar behavioral drive for me.People like to feel responsible for an outcome. Making contributions/investments palatable and purposeful creates crowd ownership and pushes good nature forward.This will grow as your say. Donors will outgrow projects I bet which will prove the vitality of the system quickly.I’ve believed for a while that platforms like FB and other social nets gave expression to a behavioral need to share. Maybe Kickstarter is part of that as well in a unique way.

          1. whitneymcn

            That’s one of the things that I love about Kickstarter: backers often turn into enthusiastic advocates for the projects, not just credit card numbers.Whether it’s because you just love the project and want to tell people about it, or because you won’t get your reward unless N more dollars are provided to the project, Kickstarter’s structure gives you as a backer a reason to be active and public about your involvement with projects.There’s stuff I’d like to see added to Kickstarter (most recent desire noted here: http://bit.ly/eXV00a), but overall they’ve done an incredibly good job of shaping and developing the service so that everybody wins.

          2. ShanaC

            I see this as what’s old is new again. if you look at the history of most nonprofits, most of their budgets historically have not been from mega-donors. I also tend to think it is a bad model overall (if you megadonor says no, then what?). Small donors coming together is a much more stable option in the long term

      4. ShanaC

        *phew* me either

    2. fredwilson

      thanks for the clarification andy. i fixed the post

  6. markslater

    This is awsome.

    1. falicon


    2. awaldstein

      BTW Mark, didin’t know that Getabl was live. Checking it out now.

      1. markslater

        Hey Arnold -its not really live. What you are looking at is a set of notifications of our testing group which is internal right now – we are rolling it out to the pilot group in about 7 days ( so i am told!) – you’ll get the invite. The pilot is in boston – so you’ll only be able to communicate with boston merchants – but you’ll get to see how it works!

        1. awaldstein

          OK…when I saw you post on Om’s piece on the Interest Graph, I thought this was inching the gates open.

          1. markslater

            thats it! inching them open…behind the gate however we are swatting bugs like mad ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. howardlindzon

    Fred – go small on this one, he can’t fix that swing in two days. I think he will be at lindzonpalooza though with ryan so hopefully you show up

  8. kirklove

    For a second I thought it was Mike D of the Beastie Boys. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. Bill Diggins

    Great concept, I’m looking to raise money for TLC’s 20th anniversary package. They have won 4 grammys and are the biggest selling female hip hop group in history.

  10. paramendra

    This is really something.

  11. Wells Baum

    MIke D from the Beastie Boys?

  12. Howard Sherman

    Does anyone have a sense of what percentage of dollars pledged on Kickstarter wind up being collected?

    1. fredwilson

      default rates are negligible

      1. Howard Sherman


  13. dgay07

    โ€œThe customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells him.โ€ – Peter Drucker

    1. awaldstein

      One of my favorite definitions of marketing (most likely derivative):”Marketing bridges the gap between what the customer thinks they bought and what the company sold them.”

  14. Ryan Swagar

    Fred – Great post !! I have played golf with Mike D for the last 10 years and he is very deserving of these funds. I am stoked to see how the remainder of the year shapes up for him and I am sure the documentary will have some great footage of what it’s really like to be a professional golfer !!

  15. Tee to green

    Love it. Better yet, instead of lessons, production credits, or whatever, what about sharing in the prize money from potential victories? At least then, donors can achieve the feel great about supporting a deserving “project”, but even better about having some real skin in the game. Talk about hanging on every putt.At least then, donors can feel good about paying it forward, with the outside shot it might get paid back.

  16. Larry

    What appeals to me is the logo placement options.Someone needs to develop a site solely dedicated to getting your logo (or name) as part of promotional consideration for things like this. $10,000, what Mike is asking, is high for the masses so there could be options where you would pay less but get a photo op with the logo to hang on your office wall or put on your website. Or having just your logo in the preroll for a few seconds.

  17. Litty

    This is very cool. The comments are great and sparked an interesting idea for our business that I thought I would share.On Sportsvite (http://sportsvite.com) we have rec sports players and captains often writing in and asking us how they can be sponsored. The brands we speak to aren’t interested in activating a dozen folks at a time and it’s usually not worth our while to try to put together hyper-local deals for a local bar/busines. Maybe the way to do this is just to open it up a la kickstarter. Show all the teams in a community that are looking to have their team sponsored and make it available to local businesses. We’ve talked about “local listings” type of ads on our site but this seems so much cooler.

  18. Sheamus

    Fred, a related project that you might find interesting – and this could have been realised through Kickstarter, too – is The Dan Plan, one man’s journey to become a professional golfer (from a starting point of total amateur) in 10,000 hours of ‘deliberate practice’ (a la Gladwell).http://thedanplan.comOn April 5th, 2010, Dan quit his day job as a commercial photographer and began The Dan Plan. Logging in 30-plus hours a week he will hit the 10,000 hour milestone by November of 2015. During this time, Dan plans to develop his skills through deliberate practice, eventually winning amateur events and obtaining his PGA Tour card through a successful appearance in the PGA Tourโ€™s Qualifying School, or โ€œQ-Schoolโ€.I have no affiliation. Just found this pretty inspiring.

  19. Steve Tanner

    Ryan Moore on the PGA Tour has a related strategy. He ditched his sponsors and invested in a start-up clothing brand that he sports as his sole “sponsor.” It’s a brilliant way for him to be an entrepreneur and build equity while keeping his day job.I’m a 2x entrepreneur in the industry and argue regularly on my blog, (www.golfentrepreneur.com) that golf needs to accept and use technology to its benefit. Hopefully the young guns who grew up in the Internet age change the nature of the game like Mike D is doing.Thanks Fred for giving me a great example of this happening. I’m going to use it as inspiration for a future post.

  20. AndrewKnot

    Building a crowdfunding platform is probably the best solution in such cases. This could lead to raising the needed amount and getting people interested in your project, creating thus a community. Here you can find some thoughts on what makes crowdfunding different: http://www.businessplanjour…. On the other hand, for this case in particular, relevant information and advice can be found here: http://www.businessplanjour…. I wish him all the best and really hope he will manage to raise the money he needs. And I also hope that crowdfunding will expand as this is great way of getting people together and joining hands for the same ideal.