Let's Talk Kickstarter

Specifically, let’s talk Kickstarter as it’s being used (sometimes very very successfully) to fund individual (or a small group of individuals) product designs.

The first big story we heard was the Glif iPhone Tripod:

Then the Nano wristwatch:

(being discussed over here:
Scott Wilson's Apple Watch)

From that discussion:

Which got me thinking. Does this change things for the better? Or will this just simply add more noise to an already jam packed market place?

Do you see small businesses turning to Kickstarter to fund projects instead of using the traditional bank loan or investor backed systems?

I definately see this changing things. By providing a legitimate medium for collecting funding (I could never show up on this forum and say “hey guys, Paypal me $10k! and I’ll make this thing I rendered!” it effectively can act as both a capital gathering mechanism and a sales mechanism in one.

The issue that I think will come up is when people fail…IE someone comes up with a brilliant idea then grossly underestimates what the tooling etc will cost. I think the reason the Nano wristwatch will work is because Scott already had this in the works judging by all the prototypes, so the design was mature. Judging by the fact that hes saying he will ship in a month, tooling is already cut and worked out it’s just a matter of building them.

It’s very slick…now wheres my box of good ideas…

I think it will be a market for fun and gimmicky ideas, you know those that people don’t quit their job for. However, there is a screening process, so the quality will remain at a certain level. Further more, to succeed it needs to go viral, and that is unlikely to happen with something like an inclusive potato peeler or some other brilliant Design. It’s no coincidence that Glif and nanowatch made it big - you need to carefully consider who is likely to even find out about your project.

Does anyone know what happens next? As I understand the money is transferred when the project is 100% funded. But after that point, what’s stopping Scott or anyone else from taking the cash and forgetting about the whole thing? Is there a legal obligation to actually meet all the pre-orders? Any obligation to even try?

Just a thought, but what does everyone think about the likes on MNML submitting projects to Kickstarter?

I love Kickstarter, I think it’s great, very positive. Though I’ve always seen it as something for those at the bottom of the pile to the ball rolling.

Which is why I’m surprised, and slightly disappointed, to see MNML there, surely a company with 3 offices worldwide can rustle up $15,000 to get a project like this going.

The beauty behind Kickstarter is it’s truly democratic, putting any restrictions of this sort in place would be a shame. But I can’t help feel that this money could have gone to someone who needed it more, no matter how great MNML’s nano watch is (it does look very cool, no surprise that they destroyed their target).

Would be interested on everyone’s take on this.

Is it right established companies take advantage of this sort of this sort of platform? Should they know better?

$15 000 is $15 000. The key here is minimizing risk, and having pre-orders guarantees you will cover any manufacturing costs before starting production. It also allows you to gauge if there is any market demand for what you are making.

If you don’t meet your minimum goal to cover costs then you don’t have to make anything and don’t receive any money, no one loses.

$15 000 is $15 000.

Really? $15,00 is the same to a lone-designer/ recent graduate vs. an established company with the likes of Microsoft as a client? I have to disagree I’m afraid.

If you don’t meet your minimum goal to cover costs then you don’t have to make anything and don’t receive any money, no one loses.

You say nobody loses, but you have to wonder whether the $100,000 MLMN raised would have gone to a project who may not have the backing of a world-renowned design firm behind them.

It’s an interesting debate, one I’m yet to make a solid judgement on, but your argument fails to convince me.

I get what you’re saying, but at the same time you’re kind of contradicting yourself. That’s what true democracy in theory is about, letting everyone get a fair whack at it. From Joe Shmoe to a multi-national company, and the people are voting with their wallets.

Everyone likes a “grass roots” story, I made this in my basement and I’m a millionaire now story, even if it isn’t completely true. I’d be interested in seeing where Kickstarter is a year, 5 years from now. They’ve had a lot of successes recently, but I’d be interested in seeing what happens during their first big publicized failure, and seeing how that affects future donating.

I love the idea of the site, and I love the fact that it’s affording people the chance to bring great ideas to fruition, but I don’t think this wave they’re riding is going to last forever. I’d like to see it be a continued success, but the pragmatist in me says otherwise.

We’re still in the honeymoon phase, let’s see what happens when we have our first big fight.

It’s doing what home cd burning did for basement producers. CD’s allowed producers and DJ’s to get their music to more people and not have to wait for a big record company to press vinyl for them just to be able to play something live. Sure more junk can potentially put out, but it will allow someone with a good idea to get it made if enough consumers see the idea is valid. Traditionally, that consumer would never get a chance to even see the idea before it went through the corporate vote as to whether it’s worth pursuing or not.
I wanted to do this about a year ago with a product I designed but in the end after studying it more decided that it was too niche of a product to be worth it. But the idea was exactly the same as this, put out the renderings, show the mockups, and take preorders to see if it will sell. No preorders, no wasted money investing. I think that’s much safer than the traditional, invest a ton in molds for a product you don’t really know someone is going to buy. And then you have to sell x amount to make up your tooling costs with a bunch of unwanted stock sitting in a warehouse somewhere.
Preorders to see if it’s wanted, and then make it when you know you have definite money from sales coming in has always seemed like a good way to go to me.

Also, I thought it was really interesting when a year ago Stéphan started a post here about his Lumi printing process that was Kickstarter funded and he received some flack for approaching it as “the little guy trying to make it”

Your approach is the epitome of childish unprofessionalism.

So now we might start seeing more big guys playing the little guys, and vice versa.

I hate to use such an over used cliché but I feel like it’s a case of “Don’t hate the player, hate the game”

In some ways it’s sort of how I feel about designers hating on competitions so badly for being spec work. Yes, morally I get it, but practically, if a designer really fears that their position in the profession could be demolished by the establishment of spec work and competitions, they probably won’t going to make it anyways, but that’s another conversation though…

So I quizzed the founder of MLMN Scott Wilson on twitter about this. This is what he had to say; TwitLonger — When you talk too much for Twitter

@designsojourn @jasecoop Good “?”. Actually not. We are a 6 person studio. Funding tooling, minimum order quantities from factory, travel to factory, etc costs more than a small firm can cover/risk. $100k+. Plus this is the new way things will be funded in the future. Empowering creatives of all levels to make their vision without the need for big corps. I hope this inspires designers everywhere. Plus it’s just preorders. Old school way for designers/inventors was to give away over half your company for money.

Firstly, MLNM look far larger than 6 from first impressions. I guess that’s the magic of all ID consultancies, often seems to be the case.

A lot of respect for Scott for replying. And it has altered my perspective on it all. As a soon to be graduate who would love to use a service such as this (can’t since I’m British) coupled with most of the Kickstarter applicants I’ve seen happening to be lone-designers/students etc I question an established companies upper-hand to those without the backing of a team/company. Though Scott highlights the difficulties of funding for small companies, which makes sense.

In conclusion, the internet is awesome. :laughing:

As an old friend of Scott, to be fair, he’s like 6 people’s worth himself. Guy is a machine, amazingly fast and every solution is very good.

So it sounds like pretty much everyone has the same take here:

Its a good way to gauge interest in your product, provided you’ve taken all or nearly all the necessary steps in planning the production, and not have to risk so much of your own (or investors) money. I agree that most everything we’ve seen lately has been an astounding success (locally, I’ve seen artwork commissioned, and documentary films completed), but there haven’t been any major publicized failures.

But will there be? I mean, even if this watch turns out to be a dud when you get it home out of the package (not that I think it will be at all) isn’t it sort of a “buyer beware” sort of scenario? You weren’t forced to donate more than the product costs, and in many cases people haven’t. Could there be a major failure? Certainly. But will that stop the site from working as it has been? Doubt it.

Nice work getting a direct response. The fact that Mr. Wilson can fund his project, and you a complete stranger to him, can ask him a very specific question and get a very specific answer does make the internet awesome.

Have been thinking about the Kickstarter model and took a look today at Scott’s watch project. The video and seeing the prototypes really sell the concept. What stuck with me was the “don’t know whether to laugh or cry” quote, I know the feeling.

Reasons to laugh:

  • Great reception for a great design.
  • 2000+ current subscribers with an average commitment of 72 dollars. Likely trending towards 4000 by the start of next week.
  • 200K+ dollars of commitment.
  • Lots internet buzz and a growing number of google page results 20,000 currently for “+tiktok +lunatik”

Reasons to cry:

  • Christmas is really close.
  • Thousands of individual customers with no way to group them in terms of shipping. Whereas normal production to distributors may have several dozen customers in disciplined companies, the new micro model has thousands of enthusiastic end users.
  • Thousands of individual requests and expectations from many of individual attention.
  • Everything that is needed to get the project made ASAP, trip to Hong Kong and Shenzen.
  • Plastic tooling and making sure the plastic mechanism does not open when the wrist is flexed with a tight band, even Rolex had a problem with breaking welds on metal bands. Demands of shipping to thousands of customers in a restricted time frame make this more critical.
  • Packaging design for shipping.
  • Instructions printed.
  • Website designed.
  • Dealing with the hundreds of requests from people writing tech blogs for a free sample in exchange for a review.
  • Interview requests.

Lots of details and lots of customers, some of whom may have little problems and require attention. The next step after getting kickstarted is to manage the throttle!

Bulk shipping to Amazon fulfillment centers and having them manage the distribution is one way to go. Handling a huge burst of product enthusiasm is a demanding and stressful thing, great learning process and a whirlwind. Handling on the individual end user level makes it an order of magnitude higher.

Hence my question - what obligations do you have after receiving the money? The temptation may be to make more money, but 100k for a couple of renders is not bad either.

Bulk shipping to Amazon fulfillment centers and having them manage the distribution is one way to go. Handling a huge burst of product enthusiasm is a demanding and stressful thing, great learning process and a whirlwind. Handling on the individual end user level makes it an order of magnitude higher.

I contributed to another project and noticed that you pay through Amazon. Does kickstarter have a distribution deal with them in place?

The beauty behind Kickstarter is it’s truly democratic, putting any restrictions of this sort in place would be a shame. But I can’t help feel that this money could have gone to someone who needed it more, no matter how great MNML’s nano watch is (it does look very cool, no surprise that they destroyed their target).[/quote]

Huh?!@ Someone who needed it more? That makes no sense because this is not some kind of charity. This is market forces at work. They have a better mouse trap and a product people want so they get more buyers and investors.

If the idea is from a rich guy but dumb as heck, he gets no $$$. It’s not about who needs it more, it’s about how many people (consumers/investors) value the idea and for the designer seeking funding, minimizing risk in upfront expenses and maximizing market exposure/buzz.

Most design firms are not ultra profitable businesses compared to their clients. Just because someone wins design awards or designed products for big name brands doesn’t mean they are zillionaires. Most design firms just get one time hourly design fees so self funding a project like this through to production is a large expense and a somewhat risky proposition made less risky with Kickstarter. It’s a great way to test out an idea and get preliminary orders to justify moving ahead.

I love the idea of Kickstarter to get the up-front money for good ideas… and like said before, it’s completely democratic and ruled by what people want to buy. I don’t care if Minimal is pitching this or if it’s an individual - I’d like to have product (though it does look big and wonder about strap in person.) If anything, I’d be MORE willing to go with a professional designer pitching his ideas, for the following reason:

The service is new, and I’ve only seen 3 pitches cross my path - what happens when every student and home inventor has their work on there? Part of me thinks it’d be great, that you could stumble across a concept on Yanko that you love, put money down on it, and if it happens enough you could own it. With 10, 20, 100, 1000… X the number of pitches, it might come down to how an idea is marketed and (blog) promoted before it get’s good investment - similar to finding $ now

Another downside is that good execution is essential, and running a business can be tricky. There are many things that an inexperienced concepteur might stumble on, especially without an investor having a strong voice in decisions and looking out for their money. This approach would leave it all in the hands of a designer with unknown experience, and with a pile of cash to manage. Not only the distribution could be sticky, but also mechanical design, production, maybe even software… not to mention the chance of personal greed happening

All that said, nothing would make me happier than great design firms putting out products that ordinarily wouldn’t ever be produced. I hope more step up

You can read through their FAQ’s it explains things a lot clearer. Basically if you take the money and run they have the legal right to hunt you down. Is it possible? Yeah probably, but if you screw over thousands of nerds on the internet you can be willing to be there will be a manhunt if you don’t just flat out flee the country. Plus the amount of projects that recieve that much overage of funding is very, very low. Many of these projects are only asking for a few grand.

And yes - Amazon.com handles distribution of the pledge money. Would be nice to see if they could set it up to handle physical product sales too.

here you go, insta-distribution.

Oh I know they’re capable, I just don’t think that would directly work with the current way Kickstarter is setup.

IE right now there are 2000 or so orders for 4 SKU’s of product (watch 1, watch 2, limited edition watch 2, and jumbo pack) that have already been recieved and paid for.

I think Amazon fufillment is basically you as a retailer just sending your customers to amazon to purchase the product directly through them, and they provide the payment to you for a fee.

What I’m not sure is how you would be able to get those orders which were already placed into a more efficient system. I’d be interested to know how Kickstarter handles all that data, if you can export it all to a common format it actually may not be that bad since theres software that will automate postage.

You can set it up like that, but FBA also has an option where they just act as a fulfillment center. You ship them a pallet of product, you pay a monthly storage fee (roughly $0.50/cubic foot), and then you pay them a flat rate to ship it to the consumer (and you can automate that process with your online store). The product doesn’t have to be listed on Amazon.com, and the whole thing can be invisible to the consumer. What’s really cool about it is Amazon gets an awesome UPS rate, and they pass most of it on to their FBA customers. Unless you’re doing very big volume, it’s actually cheaper to use FBA than it is to take it down to UPS or Fedex and ship it yourself. It certainly beats using the kitchen table as your shipping room.