Thanks to Dan Woychick of Woychick Design for tipping me off to Flattr, a new “micro-payment” resource that is currently in beta stage, but seems to be gaining momentum and visibility. I think it offers some intriguing possibilities for design-driven start ups. The basic concept is similar to the social network, Digg, in that you are “voting” your approval by clicking the Flattr button; the difference is that you are also making a small financial contribution out of your Flattr account with each vote. The minimum monthly balance is only a couple bucks, and at the end of each month, your account balance is divided by the number of Flattr votes you cast, so your individual contribution could be pennies per vote if you are an active Flattr-er (or you could cast fewer, more valuable, votes). Flattr micro-payments are then transferred by Paypal to the content provider receiving the vote. This video gives an overview of the concept:

The top rated site on Flattr right now is Chaosradio Express which has received more than 2,000 Flattr clicks. The Flattr site lists top content, as well as newcomers and undiscovered gems. Flattr’s Swedish co-founder Peter Sunde discussed the project in a BBC interview: “We want to encourage people to share money as well as content. It’s a test to see if this might be a working method for real micro-payments.”

While Flattr is a long way from reaching critical mass, I see it as another example of the growing micro-financing trend that also includes Kiva, Kickstarter, and Pepsi Refresh, in which funding opportunities are becoming more direct and intuitive, and where the “crowd” can make a great idea into a big winner.