Last year, Kickstarter, concerned about the public thinking they were a shop, made some changes.
In short, in September they banned technology projects from running without a working prototype, and they banned the offer of multiple items as a reward.
That these changes have killed the Kickstarter technology arena for (some) new starts is clear.
At time of writing, there are just 64 tech projects running. There are 13 groups, and technology is now 11th out of that 13 – only Dance and Photography have fewer live projects!
I’ve got a great project, but making an initial prototype will take a small fortune – the required part is £1000, making the project (without labour, an additional large cost) cost around £1150. For the prototype. However, getting the part actually made in-house would cost a fraction of that if making (say) 50 off, making it viable to sell them at £250 each and still make a fair profit.
Also, not being able to offer two or three items (some people and companies would want several, judging by past funded projects) kind of cripples the fund raising. Suddenly you can’t have a repeat buyer?
This is what Kickstarter was about. Allowing people to get that initial funding and get started.
There is suddenly a selection pressure against technology projects that are monolithic. A lot of the current projects are kits, to offer a set of items is allowed, and so they can get smaller funding sums by offering a sub-set of the whole. An example is here: Makeblock A single expensive item is unlikely to offer more than a few rewards. Indeed, I’m backing a cool thermal imager at the moment, and I’d actually like two, but now, no mechanism exists! (Fortunately, it is cool enough that it is well over funded.)
So, where can you go now?
For electronic projects funding there is Tindie. This is a site that allows pre-sales, which allows a designer and maker to get some idea of demand before starting production. It doesn’t seem to offer the sort of “start bump” of cash in that Kickstarter offered, though. And, again, it requires you to have a working product that is ready to go – it just stops you worrying about buying in the parts in bulk, keeping your costs low, rather than allowing you to fund R&D.
Another site is (for the UK) UnLtd who offer help for UK based social entrepreneurs. This might suit your idea.
If you are already big into social networking, you could perhaps use Twitter or LinkedIn (or even Facebook) to gather funds.
http://startupweekend.org/ looks like it might suit some ideas. Take a weekend out to get started in a high pressure environment and get your internet idea running on two legs almost immediately.
A physical product might be better suited by Quirky.com which seems to be a crowd funded system rather like Kickstarter, which has a range of products it has helped to get off the ground. You pay $10 to float your idea, and if it makes it through, you’ll reap the rewards, while they basically do everything else.
Another site you could try is Ulule.com which is very like Kickstarter, though smaller and based in Paris (France, not Texas!) They have a fair number of projects on the go, and have funded 1512 projects at time of writing.
IndieGoGo claims to be the largest crowd-sourced funding site in the world, though I confess I was barely aware of them before researching this blog post! Looking at their site, they do indeed seem to be very international. A hive of activity, with lots of projects going on, and somewhere over 16,000 funded projects backs up that claim.
This is, of course, assuming you have already exhausted asking your family and friends, who may be able to help with money, but just as importantly, they might be able to help with time – looking after your kids so you can get on and work, or sticking stuff in boxes for shipping when a big deadline looms, or even technical advise, be it your website or your business plan.
Other physically present helpers include your local Hackspace. Did you even know you probably have a local hackspace? These are community run spaces that bring together like-minded people who want to create. I’ve visited a few in the UK. NottingHack is probably the most successful UK space when it comes to getting ideas into manufacturer, with some brilliant people and some brilliant products. The London Hackspace is also very helpful, and one of the leading lights has just got one of his projects funded on Tindie.
(I’ll be adding more about Hackspaces to the site as time goes on, so do pop back!)
Of course, Kickstarter is still a very valid route. If you can get a prototype working and meet the requirements, then it is almost certain to reveal whether or not your idea really has traction. It is just that the barrier to entry is somewhat higher now. Your local hackspace could well be the answer to getting that prototype made though, so don’t worry!