The way KICKSTARTER frames it, their business model is the modern version of one of the oldest funding models for startups. The modern version relies on crowd-sourcing in lieu of patrons and allows creators, inventors, and entrepreneurs to raise capital while keeping 100% ownership of their product. In my experience the concept of startup folks keeping 100% ownership seemed like a fantasy. So, I’ve been exploring KICKSTARTER from its beginning in order to find out if quality products and sustainable businesses can emerge from fantasy. The experience of KICKSTARTER participants has been mixed but KICKSTARTER always makes money. In that respect, there’s nothing new under the sun.

Here are a few of the investments I’ve made on KICKSTARTER.com, with a short review for each:

 

SOCCKET

SOCCKET is the product of a couple young women-Social Science-undergrads who began to think of enterprise in the context of social. One of them pursued the dream upon graduation and a soccer ball that harnesses the energy of children at play so they can have a light to read-by at night is the result. There are now a host of similar products in the pipeline at UNCHARTED PLAY. You can never predict the final outcome of smart young do-gooders drinking lots of coffee.

SOCCKET is for kids in Third World villages with no electric power. Being an early investor earned me my own SOCCKET. Bob-the-dog charges it for me. My SOCCKET is a fairly crude prototype, but it functions as intended. Prototypes like this are what you can expect for your investment in a typical KICKSTARTER campaign.

I’ve written about SOCCKET in my blog: HERE.

 

SMARTWATCH

Pebble was the first useful functioning “smartwatch” on the market. Networks with your mobile phone. Useful for covert monitoring of incoming texts and incoming phone calls. I received one as an early investor and it has worked flawlessly for nearly a year. Large companies like Google, Samsung, and Apple may overwhelm this innovative little company. So far, I like my original Pebble far better than Google’s or Samsung’s. Great product. Hope they survive.

 

POORMAN’S SUPERCOMPUTER

Open source, up to 66 cores, 90 Gigaflops, consuming only 5 watts, on a board the size of a credit card. A poor man’s super computer. Still waiting for mine. With bated breath.

 

KICKSTARTER won’t deliver venture capital scale funds—you’ll slog through a series of prototypes before getting a market-ready product. The old “3.1” rule still applies (when Windows 3.1 arrived, “3.1” became the rule of thumb for the number of releases it takes to make a technology reliable). Nevertheless, KICKSTARTER gives you a chance to participate in early testing of some great products and above all, it’s fun.

After only 5 years, it’s likely you know someone who has their own KICKSTARTER campaign. It’s leading to an explosion of new products and expanding opportunity on a massive scale. Hard to say where this all leads…but it’ll be a different place for sure.