I think not many Malaysians are aware of a program called Kickstarter. This is a form of crowdsourcing - instead of getting funding from Venture Capitalist or Public Equity, individual or group of individuals could form a project and source for funding from the public - from people who are willing to donate a few dollars to a few hundreds if they believe/buy into your plight. If you donate (the term is pledged), you are called project backers and typically backers get the product at the minimal price that they pledged.
There were many Kickstarter projects - two MIT guys made a 3D-printing pen that allows artists to draw 3D art instantly. Or a group of actors/directors get millions of funds to produce a show called Veronica Mars, a cult favourites. Even popular icon like Chris Roberts and Richard Garriott ran successful campaign to get their video games funded - this is now the preferred method instead of going to a publishers, who are all business and have no passion for games. These video games icon get to make games they wanted to make and get the input from fans of their games - the fans can now provide creative input because they are also backers.
It's a pretty quaint concept.. I have also backed a few projects myself.
Most of the projects I backed are video games and is delivered digitally upon completion meaning there are no physical products. As such, the pledges I made are pretty minimum. But I do have one physical product and is the most expensive of all. At $150, it is a smart watch called Agent. This watch connects to the iPhone. When the phone ring, the watch vibrates and informed you of who called. Very useful for guys who put phones into the pocket and usually missed calls. If you get incoming SMS, the phone will show you SMS, meaning if you are in a business meetings, you don't have to play with your phone and received evil eyes from your manager. A glance to your watch and you can read the SMS. The phone also have different faces which you could download so if you like a Star Trek theme watch, you can do so. On top of that, it allows you to link to apps, eg if you have the Nike running apps on your phone, now your watch can show you the distance ran and the heartbeat and so on.
Pretty cool. And because they are sourcing for funds, $150 is already a special price. When the Agent watch go into production and start selling to public, they plan to retail at $200. So, backers have some risk and do get some rewards.
There is no guarantee that a Kickstarter project will succeed. Which is why it is called a donation, not a purchase. If they failed, you lose your donation, so you gotta choose the product you pledge wisely - which is why I think this concept may not be popular in Asia. Normally you would watch a video of the project owners doing a business pitch to you, as though you are a VC and if you buy their idea, a simple click and you made your pledges via amazon.com. As the project progress, you get to received updates and sometimes provide input as to what you think of certain features.
I have enjoyed my pledges so far.. but I think I will now awaits the products to be completed so I could play the games and show off the watch. 2014 will be an interesting year!
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