Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tech Column: Kickstarter to Kickstart Your Dreams

by Bill Adler

Kickstarter is genius. Kickstarter, www.kickstarter.com, is a crowd-sourced service to fund business and creative projects, both large and small. Gone are the old days of asking your relatives, friends and --worse!-- a bank for starting capital. Now you can tap into the world for capital to get your business going.

I've contributed funding to a number of projects, including some music CDs, an innovative flashlight, and the now famous Pebble smartwatch. The makers of the Pebble watch, http://kck.st/OGx48x, set a goal of $100,000 on Kickstarter and received over $10 million! Not all projects are so successful, or even reach their funding goals, but those that do have an added boost: The funding is achieved through pre-purchases, so the business has a built-in customer base from the moment it starts.

As an early adopter, you're promised a product before anyone else gets it, and often at a substantially reduced price. Or some other tangible benefit that's tied to the product. You could invest in the production of the documentary film, "I Am Big Bird," http://kck.st/QaJvZJ (only nine days left in the funding campaign), about the life of Caroll Spinney, who has been Sesame Street's Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since 1969. For $15 you receive a digital download of the film's soundtrack; for $50 you receive a BlueRay disc; for $100 you get a DVD signed by Carroll Spinney.

You could fund a nano-satellite called SkyCube, http://kck.st/MtvCe8. For $1 you get to tweet a single 120-character message from space. For $60 you can tweet sixty 120-character messages from space. Or you could fund Myan Shoes, "Cool and unique shoes made with hand woven textiles by Mayan descendants of Guatemala,"  http://kck.st/OIIIQx. Your pledge of $90 gets you a pair of these great looking shoes.

Your investment is protected because you're not billed until the project reaches its funding goal. If the project does reach its funding objective, then the next step is that it moves into production and you get what you invested in. Kickstarter gets 5% of the money raised, and Amazon, which does the payment processing, collects about another 4%. The percentage is taken out of the business' end, not added onto your payment as a fee. Businesses retain 100% control over the ownership of their projects.

Sometime in the near future, Cleveland Park's own Baked by Yael, home of delicious bagels and other baked goods, www.bakedbyyael.com, will be launching her own Kickstarter project. I don't want to spill the beans --or rather spill the cake pops-- and reveal everything about what's coming from Baked by Yael. I can say that she will be seeking list members' input. So keep your eyes open for a message on the listserv from Yael Krigman about her very exciting Kickstarter campaign.

Kickstarter is a fun way of getting involved with a new business even before it exists -- and to receive a product that you helped create.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

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