Signalling entrepreneurs’ credibility and project quality for crowdfunding success: cases from the Kickstarter and Indiegogo environments

Shuangfa Huang, David Pickernell, Martina Battisti, Thang Nguyen

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    34 Citations (Scopus)
    61 Downloads (Pure)


    In recent years, entrepreneurs have increasingly turned to crowdfunding, a new form of entrepreneurial finance, to fund projects. Whilst research has shown that signals originating from the entrepreneur and project can affect the outcome of crowdfunding, how different signals work together under different signalling environments remains underexplored. Drawing on signalling theory, we examine how signals of entrepreneurs’ credibility (success, failure, backer and industry experience) and project quality (preparedness and third-party endorsements) produce crowdfunding success in different signalling environments. We collected a unique dataset with matched projects listed on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but with different funding models, to represent two distinct signalling environments. Results based on qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) identify two distinct signalling patterns that show entrepreneur’s credibility and project quality signals can complement each other to produce crowdfunding success. In an environment with less uncertainty, entrepreneur’s credibility in terms of crowdfunding experience can also compensate absent project quality to produce crowdfunding success. In an environment with higher uncertainty, entrepreneur’s credibility and project quality need to be both present to establish the necessary legitimacy for crowdfunding to be successful. Furthermore, by integrating positive (i.e. success) and negative (i.e. failure) signals, we demonstrate how signal incongruence can enhance crowdfunding success. Plain English Summary Failure experience is an important signal in achieving crowdfunding success, but its effectiveness depends on other signals as well as the signalling environment. Our study shows how crowdfunding success can be achieved in multiple ways and that the path to success depends on the funding model of the platform used. For entrepreneurs to demonstrate credibility, backer experience and project preparedness are important. Both are under the control of the entrepreneur and well worth considering investing effort into. Importantly, the study also shows that demonstrating failure experience is important in achieving crowdfunding success. Failure experience can either replace the lack of prior success experience by demonstrating a track record of learning or it can enhance prior success experience by producing a more realistic picture of the entrepreneurs. Thus, the study offers practical implications for entrepreneurs on how to use different signals to increase the likelihood of success in reward-based crowdfunding.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1801-1821
    Number of pages21
    JournalSmall Business Economics
    Issue number4
    Early online date1 Apr 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2021, The Author(s).


    • Crowdfunding
    • Entrepreneurial Finance
    • Indiegogo
    • Kickstarter
    • Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA)
    • Signalling theory

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
    • Economics and Econometrics


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