Crowdfunding has become so popular lately that it’s hard to imagine that it is as yet a new phenomenon, which is still to establish itself. Crowdfunding has had its share of hits and misses. Here, in this two-part series, we bring to you the story of crowdfunding’s biggest hits. Let’s get started with the crowdfunding success stories.
You have probably heard of the 3D printer FORM1 and read about how it is projected to change manufacturing as we know it. Well, a team of researchers from MIT Media Lab decided to do something about it, creating the first affordable, professional 3D printer, targeted at the masses called FORM1. The project saw over $3 million pledged from over 2,000 backers and was a resounding success. TikTok is a creation of young Chicago designer Scott Wilson who converted the iPod Nano into a watch using the TikTok wristbands. Wilson had only planned to raise $15,000, but the project became viral on the social media and he ended up raising over $1 million! This is just an example of the crowdfunding phenomenon at its best. Today, TikTok wristbands are sold by all major retailers, including by Apple.
Crowdfunding first gained popular and mainstream use in arts and music communities. The first instance of crowdfunding was in 1997, when fans underwrote an entire U.S. tour for the British rock group Marillion, raising US$60,000 in donations by means of a fan-based Internet campaign. The idea was conceived and managed by fans without any involvement from the band, although Marillion themselves used this method successfully to fund the recording and marketing of their 2001 album Anoraknophobia, the first crowdfunded recording. They continued to do so with subsequent albums Marbles (2004), Happiness is the Road (2008), and Sounds That Can’t Be Made (2012). In the film industry, independent writer/director Mark Tapio Kines designed a website in 1997 for his then-unfinished first feature film Foreign Correspondents. By early 1999, he had raised more than US$125,000 on the Internet from at least 25 fans, providing him with the funds to complete his film. In 2002 the “Free Blender” campaign was an early software crowdfunding precursor. The campaign aimed for open-sourcing the Blender raytracer software by collecting $100,000 from the community while offering additional benefits for donating members. Crowdfunding gained traction after the launch of ArtistShare, in 2003. Following ArtistShare, more crowdfunding sites started to appear on the web such as IndieGoGo (2008), Kickstarter (2009) and Microventures (2010). However, Sellaband, started in 2006 as a music-focused platform, initially controlled the crowdfunding market. Research suggests that this can be contributed to creators and funders, who perceive the platform to be more valuable when there are more members. Later, Kickstarter gained popularity for its wide-ranging focus. Both platforms prohibit equity funding. Though Sellaband offered revenue sharing, a type of equity crowdfunding, for three years after the platform’s founding. It was later controlled over by a German company and heightened security restrictions. The phenomenon of crowdfunding is older than the term “crowdfunding.” The earliest recorded use of the word was by Michael Sullivan in fundavlog in August 2006.
Pebble: You may be aware of the smartwatch revolution – smartwatches are all around us, with even Apple and Samsung making their own smartwatches. But the first company to really bring the idea of the smartwatch to the public was Pebble. Pebble had to resort to crowdfunding to raise funds as because of lack of support from traditional sources. And guess what, raise funds they did – over $10 million from 70,000 backers – which was 100 times that of what they had initially planned to raise. Pebble’s crowdfunding success story is stuff that legends are made of.
Pebble Technology Corporation raised $10.3 million through a Kickstarter campaign running from April 11, 2012, through May 18, 2012; this was the most money raised for any product on the site at that time. Best Buy, an American consumer electronics corporation, began selling Pebble smartwatches in July 2013, and sold out within five days. On December 31, 2014, Pebble sold its one millionth smartwatch. In 2015, Pebble launched the Pebble Time and Time Steel with Kickstarter, raising $20,338,986 from over 75,000 backers, breaking records for both on the site. On May 24 2015, Pebble Technology released Pebble Time, the second generation of the Pebble smartwatch, and on August, released the Pebble Time Steel. Their third generation, named the Pebble Time Round, was announced on September 24, 2015. The Pebble Time Round, the thinnest smartwatch ever made at just 7.5mm, had a round screen, making it look more like a regular watch. It had the same hardware as the Pebble Time and Time Steel, albeit with a smaller battery to accommodate the smaller frame.
Elevation Dock is a sleek docking solution for the iPhone, which ran into several problems in the initial stages, because of changes made by Apple to the iPhone. But the Oregon based company raised over $1.4 million on Kickstarter and has never looked back since. It remains a big Kickstarter success story. Amanda Palmer’s $1 Million+ Music Deal is a talented young musician who lacked the backing of a major music studio and so had no money to produce her record. So here’s what she did – raise money on Kickstarter – over $1 million of it. She only wanted to raise $100,000, but her campaign caught on like crazy and she ended up raising several times more.
Some of the most successful campaigns on crowdfunding sites are run by games and app developers. But there wasn’t a campaign run by a company that wanted to develop a game console till Ouya came along. Ouya needed money, lots of it and that’s what it did, raising $8.6 million. Ouya has some significant backers such as Minecraft developer Marcus “Notch” Persson, Robert Bowling and Brian Gargo from Robotoki.
Ouya is an Android microconsole developed by Ouya Inc (formerly Boxer8). Julie Uhrman founded the project in 2012. She brought in designer Yves Béhar to collaborate on the design of the project, and Muffi Ghadiali as VP of Product Management to put together the engineering team. Development was funded via Kickstarter, raising $8.5 million and becoming the website’s fifth-highest earning project in its history at the time. Units started to ship to Kickstarter backers on March 28, 2013. The console was released to the general public on June 25, 2013, and features an exclusive Ouya store for applications and games designed specifically for the Ouya platform, of which the majority are casual games targeted at or used by a mass audience of casual gamers. Out of the box, Ouya supports media apps such as TwitchTV and XBMC media player. It runs a modified version of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and is open to rooting without voiding the warranty (developer models ordered during the Kickstarter campaign for $699 or $1,337 come pre-rooted). The console’s hardware design allows it to be easily opened up, requiring only a standard screwdriver for easy modding and possible hardware addons.
Diaspora: We are all familiar with the social media revolution, but have you considered the idea of an open source social network? That’s what Diaspora is all about – the world’s first open source social network. To create Diaspora, it was, first of all, important to build an open source personal web server. Four young programmers from New York University decided to take up the task, and used Kickstarter to raise money for the project. They ended up raising over $200,000 and guess who was one of the most enthusiastic backers of the Diaspora project? Mark Zuckerberg himself!
We continue with our narration of the biggest crowdfunding success stories. Crowdfunding has received a lot of coverage in the media. Is the hype justified? Yes it is – as you will find out from these crowdfunding success stories. Let’s get started!
Sedition Wars: Many board games developers take to crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Crowdfunder to raise money for their projects. Much of this has been inspired by the great success achieved by one Sedition Wars. Sedition Wars fought against the notion that only video games developers could raise money on crowdfunding platforms and succeeded admirable, raising over $1 million with the money coming from over 4,000 backers.
The Canyons: The Canyons is an art film project financed by some well known names in entertainment, such as noted author Bret Easton Ellis, actress Lindsay Lohan, and producers Braxton Pope, and Paul Schrader. Pope, Ellis, and Schrader shall be financing part of the film The Canyons in order to retain creative control, and the rest of the money is to be raised through crowdfunding. The project has been a great success so far. Braxton Pope, Bret Easton Ellis, and Paul Schrader were originally involved in a film project, Bait. When the project lost its financing, Pope, Ellis, and Schrader decided they wanted to make a lower-scale film. Ellis was in charge of writing the script. After it was completed, Pope suggested raising money via Kickstarter. Throughout May–June 2012, the film raised $159,015, with a goal of $100,000 in funding. The budget for the film was $250,000 and the actors were reportedly paid $100 a day.
Ministry of Supply: T-shirts from outer space – how about that? That’s what the Ministry of Supply set out to do, borrowing unique technology from NASA to create high performance T-Shirts for athletes. The project was launched on Kickstarter and success was quick to come, with $430,000 raised from over 2,700 backers. The Glif: The Glif is an iPhone tripod mount and stand and it raised over $137,000 on Kickstarter. The project became a big hit and the advanced publicity received meant the product got a lot of free advertising, which led to its success soon after being launched in the marketplace.
The Olympic City: The Olympic City is a unique crowdfunded photography project that aims to see what happens to the cities where the Olympics are held, after the games are long gone. This was one of the most successful art projects on Kickstarter and raised over $66,000 from over 1500 backers. The Order of the Stick: The Order of the Stick is a popular webcomic which is being self-published by creator Rich Burlew since 2005. Burlew found it hard to keep the older books of the webcomic in print and so raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter to make their printing financially feasible.
Anomalisa: Anomalisa is an animated film which has established names in the entertainment industry backing it, including Charlie Kaufman, the writer of Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mindstarted. Anomalisa was supposed to be Kaufman’s first animated film and thanks to $400,000 raised on Kickstarter, this will soon be a reality. Kaufman talks about how crowdfunding has allowed him to create something outside of the typical Hollywood system.
Wasteland 2: Games projects are always popular on Kickstarter and none more so than Wasteland 2, which is based on a 1988 Electronic Arts game of the same name. Wasteland 2 was a huge success, raising over $2.9 million from just over 61,000 backers.
So, these are some of the biggest crowdfunding success stories. We hope you enjoyed reading them.