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7/3/2014
01:45 PM
David Wagner
David Wagner
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Geekend: A Tiptoe Through Kickstarter

Kickstarter is place where dreams go to become reality ... and to be mocked by the Geekend.

A lot of wonderful things have been funded via Kickstarter, and a few not so wonderful things. Kickstarter is a place where people try to make their dreams come true, but dreams can be strange, funny, horrific, and brilliant all at the same time. With that thought in mind, I'll highlight some actual projects looking for money on Kickstarter and, as gently as possible, either crush or encourage those dreams.

Let's start with Life's No Joke When You're A Cockroach, a book by Marion Shipman. It isn't so much that Shipman wrote a book in which a cockroach is a protagonist (which she did), or even that she sends the cockroach on vacation to Miami (which she did), or even that the cockroach falls in love (which he does). It is this dreamy trailer that totally puts it over the top:

Every Kickstarter includes a section on risks and challenges so that potential investors understand why an ROI isn't always a sure thing. Here's Shipman's gem in that section: "When you have an idea that you believe in you must let no obstacles change your dream keep jumping over the hurdles and keep trying and remember that the no's are delayed yes's." Aww...sweet. Too bad not a single soul on the planet had given her a penny when this story went to press.

Some dreams are a little more easily realized than others. Take the Handy Reach, designed by Donald Walters to help you pull down the strings on your attic stairs or ceiling fans.

Congratulations, Mr. Walters. You just invented the world's most complicated stick.

Some people really use their heads while coming up with something (you'll see that later). Others use their feet. These soccer enthusiasts have invented a game that looks absolutely wonderful if you happen to be Lionel Messi and absolutely horrible if you happen to be the rest of us. It's called Teqball, and it's played just like ping pong except with a soccer ball and your feet.

We can excuse them for boring terms such as "a double mistake," because it looks amazing if you know what you're doing. But we Americans are more likely to break our legs on the table than actually kick a ball. That's why we're out of the World Cup.

Sometimes you see something on Kickstarter that's really silly but you've just got to have it. For loyal Geekend readers, I present the Qwerkywriter. The Qwerkywriter is an 86 mechanical key USB keyboard that has a holder for your tablet that looks just like a ye olde typewriter.

The Qwerkywriter is for those people who want all the old fashioned blisters of old style typing with none of the efficiency of modern touchscreens. No, seriously, it's a tribute to the beautiful designs of mid-20th century typewriters. In fact, it's so beautiful that the developer already has sold 224 of the 225 first-run keyboards and met the funding goal of $90,000. If anyone is looking to give me an early Christmas present, buy me the 225th.

Of course, all of these products are relatively low tech. Even the keyboard is just a refit of an existing keyboard. Is there anything really big and special going on Kickstarter?

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David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/8/2014 | 1:32:21 PM
Re: Exo
@Rich- Hrm...not exactly the best use of the forums here. But if it is legit, it is a concept worth funding. I've covered various exoskeletons and brain controlled devices for several years. It seems like we're getting really close. I'm blown away by it.

I wonder if we'll notice interesting consequences when we start using mind control for non-body part devices. For instance, when I play Candy Crush, i will often make a move and then my eye will see something it should have seen before and I'll wish I could take the move back. How would that work if you had a mind controlled car? I want to turn right, no left! *crash*

Would speeding up our mechanical world around us to the speed of thought make the whole thing go out of whack or would we work more smoothly?
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/8/2014 | 1:27:05 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
@jastro- Silly, jastro, no one keeps bodies in the attic anymore. When the zombie apocolypse comes, your house isn't safe. :)

The best thing to do with the bodies of your loved ones is to get rid of the bodies with acid like in Breaking Bad. No evidence and they don't come back as zombies. Look at what we learn from TV.

David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/8/2014 | 1:22:44 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
@vnewman2- It works because both cockroaches and 2nd hand smoke cause childhood asthma so we should make both. :)



I was intrigued by the statement at the end: I can't help but wonder, what kind of mistakes has the author made in life?? I'd give some money to find out...


Maybe you should offer to kickstart her autobiography instead. :)
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/8/2014 | 7:20:53 AM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
@vnewman2, That's probably a good guess.  I know people who have great ideas but don't go anywhere with them because it's more trouble than they want to deal with.  Kickstarter puts the control back in their hands and lets them work at a pace that they are comfortable with so I can see the draw in contrast to submitting ideas to a traditional investor.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Moderator
7/7/2014 | 2:50:33 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
@danielcawrey

 "If some of these ideas are so good, then why did traditional investors turn them down?"

I'm guessing that no one had previously turned them down because they probably never went do traditional investors in the first place, either because a. most people wouldn't know how to secure investment capital in a traditional sense and b. why would you bother if you can post something to the internet and perhaps achieve the same end almost instantaneously.

That's my guess...
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
7/7/2014 | 10:23:26 AM
Re: A Tiptoe Through Kickstarter
I was wondering when we'd get a bona-fide Kickstater-themed Geekend post. You've certainly written about crowdfunding before, Dave (it's a hard topic not to), but I was hoping we'd get to jump in the deep end sooner or later. Here we are, although I suppose we could go a lot deeper than this - there's some pretty crazy stuff out there, and Kickstarter can be a fickle and mystifying place. Sure, Ricky the cockroach might not be the best idea, but 0 dollars? And the typewriter keyboard got $130,000... and the mind-reading helmet that could change the world got $12,000? There's a lesson about human nature in here.

It's no secret that video games are a big draw on Kickstarter, and the Geekend seems like as good a place as any for a tie-in on that subject. The Ouya (which I own) famously raised 8 million  dollars on Kickstarter, and then subsequently came out and more or less sucked the big one (I still have mixed feelings about mine). My nominee for craziest game Kickstarter has to be 'bob's game' ; in development for the better part of ten years and supposedly made by just one guy (named Bob), the game has a storied history of 'viral' (or terrible) marketing, setbacks, and crazy rants from the developer all leading to people questioning if the game ever even existed. Yet, somehow, Bob managed to raise $10,000 for the game on Kickstarter just this May... and has since gone radio silent. I'd love to play the game, but at this point I'm having fun just watching the story unfold.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/7/2014 | 7:27:12 AM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
I don't see Kickstarter as much of an investment vehicle.  Most of the funds I see put in to a Kickstarter project are to buy the actual product should it get enough funding to pull off.  I've made one off items to solve problems around the house because I hate paying people to do things that are relatively easy or I have someone shock me with what they say it will cost to service an item.  Could I mass produce and sell some of those items, probably.  Can I afford to build thousands of units in the hopes that they will sell, not even remotely.  So that is where I see the strength of Kickstarter, people will ideas that won't require too much funding but more than they can easily pull out of pocket to start a company.
soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
7/6/2014 | 10:26:35 PM
city planning?
"One of the potential long-term goals could be to collect the information anonymously and see how city layouts affect way of life or how public spaces could be better designed to improve well-being."

What if your reactions have nothing to do with the place you're in? Suppose you feel stress because you're in a rush to get your child and then happiness/relief when you find a great parking spot. Would those two brain readings are a result of your personal life, not related to the city. Would that really help with city planning?
soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
7/6/2014 | 10:23:34 PM
regarding the helmet
"Of course, there's one major problem: No one would want to wear the dorky hat if not on a bicycle or similar vehicle."

I would think the other major problem is the technology that is actually reading the brain. That makes me nervous. Not sure I would want anything reading my brain for more than a few seconds.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
7/5/2014 | 4:43:33 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
I think that crowdfunding is a great way to see if an idea can get traction with people. But I am wary of it as an investment vehicle. If some of these ideas are so good, then why did traditional investors turn them down? That's the caveat I have always been concerned with in regards to crowdfunding.

Sometimes, it's not even the idea that is the problem. Process, marketing and other factors can come into play and doom a potential project. 
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