Crowd funding is an online marketing platform that allows artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs of all types to obtain money from donors in order to fund their products and ideas. Crowd funding first made an impact in the U.S. in 2003 with the rise of ArtistShare. The site was originally launched for musicians to get donations to create digital recordings but has since evolved to include film/video and photography projects. ArtistShare operates on a rewards-based platform and along with donation-based, debt-based, and equity-based make up the four main types of crowd funding sites.
Rewards-based crowd funding offers just that, a reward for one’s donation. Usually based in tiers such as a $20-$50 donation rewarding one with something small like one’s name listed as a donor on their site or downloadable content for their finished product (assuming one would want to purchase it when it becomes reality) or a $500+ donation rewarding one with the actual product (usually at a discount) when it’s released. Kickstarter is the most prominent of the rewards-based platforms since its launch in 2009. As of October 2015, Kickstarter had hosted more than 265,000 campaigns with a 36 percent success rate of projects obtaining full funding. (Freedman & Nutting, 2015)
Donation-based crowd funding is used primarily for charitable purposes. These range from disaster relief efforts to paying an individual’s medical bills to even something as simple as funding a local organization’s annual picnic. The rewards that one would obtain from this platform do not extend beyond internal self-gratification in knowing that money went to (what one would determine to be) a good cause. The most prominent of the donation-based platforms is GoFundMe, which according to their website has raised over $3 billion since their launch in 2010.
Debt-based crowd funding is also referred to as peer-to-peer lending or market lending and functions as a personal loan where borrowers will apply and if they’re approved they receive an amount of money from investors that they must pay back with interest. While this is quicker and generally cheaper than a bank loan, only a small percentage of applicants actually get approved. The leading platform, Lending Club only accepts around 10 percent of applicants. (Freedman & Nutting, 2015)
Equity-based crowd funding is essentially investimg into company stocks. Originally under Regulation D, only accredited investors could participate but that was changed with the implementation of Title III. (Freedman & Nutting, 2015) This form of crowd funding is extremely regulated and has been amended and otherwise altered several times to accommodate demands and policies.
Now that there’s an established understanding of what crowd funding is, here are some examples of crowd funded campaigns and their results.
The Pebble Time smartwatch actually exceeded its predecessor, the Pebble: E-Paper Watch, as the most funded campaign in Kickstarter history. With an initial goal of $500,000 the campaign also became the fastest to get funded with $1 million raised within the first hour. The campaign ended up raising $20,338,986. (Zipkin, 2015)
The Pebble Time smartwatch boasts an impressive color e-paper display as well as a battery life that lasts up to 7 days, with the Pebble Time Steel lasting up to 10 days. The smartwatch is also waterproof and has the new edition of a timeline interface that will show the highlighted events of the user’s day. It supports any of the 6,500+ Pebble applications and can be used with iOS 8 or above on the iPhone 4 or newer as well as all Android 4.0+ phones. (Pebble Technology, 2015)
At the time that it was funded, the Coolest Cooler topped the list of most funded campaigns on Kickstarter and is now only behind Pebble Time. The fact that it raised $13,285,226 with only a $50,000 goal is made even more surprising because just six months earlier the original launch of the campaign failed to reach its $125,000 goal. The inventor, Ryan Grepper, sites several reasons why he believes the first campaign failed, including not having a fully functional prototype, a long and narcissistic commercial, and time of year among others. (Clifford, 2014)
The Coolest Cooler is “a portable party, disguised as a cooler” (Grepper, 2014) and includes features such as a removable waterproof Bluetooth speaker, a USB charging port, and bottle opener. However, the most notable feature is the 18v battery powered rechargeable blender, which was the starting block for the invention.
The World’s Best Travel Jacket
With just a $20,000 goal, the World’s Best Travel Jacket was able to raise $9,192,055 to place it among the top Kickstarter campaigns of all time. (Zipkin, 2015) Also referred to as the Baubax travel jacket, it comes in 4 different styles and boasts 15 features. These include a neck pillow, a blanket, and a variety of tech pockets. A couple of notable tech pockets would be an iPad pocket and a pocket for a portable charger.
In an effort to bring the focus of video games back to the television as opposed to the recent mobile gaming trend, the campaign for the video game console OUYA was launched in 2012. The campaign successfully blew past its $950,000 goal with $8,596,474 in funding (Zipkin, 2015). OUYA was marketed as a less expensive gaming platform that would allow developers to actually create their own games. This is one case where the product didn’t live up to the hype as OUYA went through many struggles and eventually was forced to alter its path and allow Alibaba to invest $10 million with plans to integrate OUYA into their Tmall set top boxes (Alois, 2015).
Famous musician, Neil Young, founded PonoMusic with the intent of bringing sound quality back to portable music players. The 2014 campaign raised well over their $800,000 goal with $6,222,354 (Zipkin, 2015). This campaign actually took to two platforms, Kickstarter for the hardware and Crowdfunder for equity. The idea for PonoMusic was that one would hear the music as the artist had intended it but once the product got to the public, the reviews did not align with the PonoMusic vision. While they are still working on fulfilling their promise through various updates, it’s yet to be seen whether or not it will ever become a full reality.
Form 1 3D Printer
In 2012, Formlabs launched the campaign for the Form 1 3D Printer. The campaign raised $2,945,885 with a goal of just $100,000 (Alois, 2014). An idea formed by researchers at the MIT Media Lab, the Form 1 3D Printer offered a low-cost 3D printer without compromising on professional quality. They accomplished this through the use of Stereolithography, which is the process of hardening liquid resin with a laser one layer at a time (Formlabs, 2012). This is typically the gold standard for professionals and can be very expensive but through their efforts they were able to make it affordable. What would’ve cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars before has been made available with the Form 1 3D Printer for only about $2,000 (Formlabs, n.d.).
The Dash Wireless in Ear Smart Headphones reached full funding in March of 2014. The campaign raised $3,390,551 against a goal of $260,000. This campaign promised a product that had to that point only been an effort in futility. The team at Bragi LLC wanted to create a wireless Bluetooth in ear headphone that could also do body tracking and even store music (1000 songs) directly on it. These features would allow users to get real-time updates on body metrics such as heartrate or running pace, connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth, or play music through the integrated 4GB memory (Bragi LLC, 2014). There have been delays in the production but it seems that early backers getting their product soon is a very promising notion.
There are many different types of crowd funding and platforms for each one. At this point one would find a great number of successful and not so successful crowd funding efforts. As we move more and more into a digital world the options seem limitless as it pertains to the ways we will be able to use crowd funding in the future.
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Mollick, E. (2015, January). The dynamics of crowdfunding: An exploratory study ☆☆. Retrieved November 01, 2016, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S088390261300058X
Zipkin, N. (2015, December 28). The 10 Most Funded Kickstarter Campaigns Ever. Retrieved October 31, 2016, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235313
Pebble Technology. (2015, March 27). Pebble Time – Awesome Smartwatch, No Compromises. Retrieved October 31, 2016, from https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-time-awesome-smartwatch-no-compromises
Clifford, C. (2014, August 27). 7 Secrets From the Man Who Turned a Kickstarter Flop Into the Most Successful Campaign Ever. Retrieved October 31, 2016, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/236882
Grepper, R. (2014). COOLEST COOLER: 21st Century Cooler that’s Actually Cooler. Retrieved November 01, 2016, from https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ryangrepper/coolest-cooler-21st-century-cooler-thats-actually?ref=most_funded
Alois, J. (2015, March 08). Where Are They Now? The Top Ten Tech Kickstarter Crowdfunding Campaigns – Crowdfund Insider. Retrieved November 01, 2016, from http://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2015/03/62969-where-are-they-now-the-top-ten-tech-kickstarter-campaigns/
Formlabs. (2012). FORM 1: An affordable, professional 3D printer. Retrieved November 01, 2016, from https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/formlabs/form-1-an-affordable-professional-3d-printer?ref=most-funded
Formlabs. (n.d.). The Form 1. Retrieved November 01, 2016, from https://formlabs.com/3d-printers/form-1-plus/
Bragi LLC. (2014). The Dash – Wireless Smart In Ear Headphones. Retrieved November 01, 2016, from https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hellobragi/the-dash-wireless-smart-in-ear-headphones?ref=nav_search