As makers it’s now hard to imagine a world without Kickstarter and, along with it, the rewards-based crowdfunding that it popularized. The site, and its imitators, has totally changed the way raising capital for a project works. In the process it also created a new whole industry, one that has grown up with and around the site, advising on how to optimize and publicize crowdfunding campaigns.
Perhaps because it became popular around the same time as the Internet of Things entered the public consciousness, Kickstarter has quickly became the incubator for novel connected device projects, and as a result over the last couple of years it has been easy to mistake Kickstarter for an electronics store. Enough so that to those of us focused on technology sometimes forget how much the site also means to other sectors, like the arts.
However the site, which launched just over seven years ago, also sometimes shows its lack of maturity as a platform. Which is where last week’s call for projects by Kickstarter’s Design & Technology team may well come in. The call, inspired by Y Combinator’s request for startups, asks for projects in three areas: desktop fabrication tools for creatives, boundary-pushing projects in science, and ‘delightful’ design projects.
The first Kickstarter project I ever backed myself was Kicksat. The man behind it, Zac Manchester, is therefore — at least in a way — responsible for the large amounts of money I’ve spent on the site since then. I guess I really shouldn’t hold that against him, or at least forgive him for it, because, to me this project is still the poster child for boundary-pushing projects on Kickstarter.
However it’s not alone. While it was an early example there have been several other projects putting spaceflight in the hands of hobbyists, including the crowdfunding of the ISEE-3 reboot project to cover the costs of getting back in contact with a long lost satellite.
Amongst makers, though, it’s probably the tools for creatives that’s the best known category. Despite high profile failures — 3D printers seem especially prone to fail as crowdfunding projects, enough so that I won’t personally back them any more — Kickstarer has highlighted a growing renaissance in desktop fabrication. This was really evident at Maker Faire New York last fall as the buzz around desktop fabrication tools, most of which have been crowdfunded — like Glowforge and Wazer — seems to have grown to an interesting pitch.
Increasingly curation of projects on Kickstarter, and the other crowdfunding platforms, is going have an affect on the type of project that’s successful, and you have to wonder if that’s going to affect the egalitarian nature of the beast? However if you’re a project creator with an project that fits within the call, you should definitely get in touch with Kickstarter.