#ReWriteTheCode smashed its crowdfunding goal in a matter of days, successfully funding a documentary that will investigate the intersection of race and gender in the tech industry.
Kathryn Finney and the team at digitalundivided are invested in not only starting a serious discussion about the lack of diversity in tech, but also moving it forward through the lens of black women who have founded tech companies.
They launched their Kickstarter on June 1 and reached their goal of $25,000 in less than 40 hours and more than doubled it by the time the campaign was over. In all, they’ve raised $55,406 through Kickstarter and their Indiegogo campaign, which as of July 23 is still running. Their success was based on years of preparation and a whole lot of hustle once the campaign went live.
Finney took the time to answer questions from Through the Cracks via email.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Through the Cracks: When did you realize that you needed to produce this documentary?
Kathryn Finney: Earlier this year we started #ProjectDiane, a self-funded data project to identify black women founders of tech or tech-enabled companies. We originally planned to just share the results with the larger tech community through a series of infographics, but realized that we were afforded a unique opportunity to really illustrate the situation by putting a human face to these numbers.
Through the Cracks: What have you learned so far about gender and race in tech companies?
Finney: We have been immersed in the conversation of intersectionality in tech for over three years and generally knew that black women don’t receive as much funding as their other racial and gender counterparts. But it really hit home when we were able to recently quantify that. According to our analysis based on data from CB Insights, black women received less than 0.0001% of the total venture/angel funding over the past five years. It’s mind-blowing, and it underscores even further the need for #ReWriteTheCode to be made and seen.
Through the Cracks: Do you have timeline for production and release?
Finney: We started pre-production the first week in July. We will be filming throughout the fall and hope to have it finished in time for festival season 2016.
Through the Cracks: You reached your crowdfunding goal rather quickly. Can you tell me what work you put in to make your campaign successful?
Finney: It actually dates back WAY before the campaign launch – three years prior, to be exact. Since the start of digitalundivided in 2012, we have worked to establish our network and have engaged thousands of people through our programs like START and FOCUS. As a result, we had an existing network prior to the launch of the campaign.
In regards to the #ReWriteTheCode Kickstarter, our efforts can be summed up in two things: ask early, and ask often. As early as May, we reached out to all of our friends, shared our campaign goals and start/end date. Throughout the campaign, we also tweeted out to other potential supporters, such as Kickstarter backers who have supported other similar projects.
Through the Cracks: How important is it to build a network prior to your campaign?
Finney: A good network is the backbone of any campaign, especially for one that is not product-based. Beyond direct financial contributions, they can amplify your campaign’s message and vouch for your cred. There are a few Kickstarter campaigns that rely on virality to draw support from random strangers on the Internet, such as the Potato Salad KS, but in general, your first hundred or so backers will logically come from people who already know you and your work.
Through the Cracks: What was that first 36 hours of the campaign like?
Finney: During the first 36-48 hours of the campaign, our team was in “all hands on deck” mode round the clock so we can keep the momentum going: thanking early supporters on Twitter, seeking more supporters via social media and plain ole e-mail, posting progress updates, etc. That was how we were able to hit our $25,000 goal in less than 40 hours.
Through the Cracks: What does your backer group look like? Were you surprised by anyone/groups who supported the campaign?
Finney: Well, for one thing, it wasn’t purely black and female. Nearly 25 percent of our backers were male, and our biggest individual contributor is a young, white, and male tech entrepreneur. Majority of our backers were women in tech who messaged us to say that their personal experiences resonate with our work.
Through the Cracks: Your donor group was significantly outside of Silicon Valley. What do you make of that?
Finney: It isn’t very surprising, considering that our demographics (urban female entrepreneurs) are situated outside the Valley. However, I think this also speaks to how Silicon Valley would rather not hear the “outsiders’ version” of the tech diversity situation. The furor over the dismal diversity statistics is bad enough, but it gets more discomforting and real when you put a face and a story to those numbers. It ruins the collective illusion of meritocracy in the industry, or that efforts thus far in tech inclusion have been plenty sufficient in addressing the issue.
Through the Cracks: What sort of validation did you receive from such a successful campaign?
Finney: As a company, digitalundivided has always been valid. It was more validation for those who are challenged by diversity in the tech space.
Through the Cracks: You have another campaign running on Indiegogo. Is that where people should go if they want to contribute?
Finney: Yes. Even after announcing the successful funding of #ReWriteTheCode documentary on Kickstarter, we’re still getting TONS of e-mails from people who’ve only heard about the campaign recently but wanted to show their support. We decided to go with Indiegogo at this point so we don’t have to worry about hitting certain monetary goals in order to keep the pledges. Any additional amount we raise until Aug. 31 will be used to do cooler things to expand the campaign and possibly adding a San Francisco shoot if we’re able to raise enough.