Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
Commentary
7/3/2014
01:45 PM
David Wagner
David Wagner
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

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?

Next Page

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
Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
vnewman2
100%
0%
vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
7/3/2014 | 6:00:01 PM
Ricky the cockroach
Perhaps folks named Ricky will throw some money at the project, just so they can see their name in a book.

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...

This book reminds me of an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie makes up an excuse to meet up with Big's Ex-Wife just to see what she is like. Source: IMDB:

Barbara, Mr. Big's Ex-Wife: I didn't know you were into children's books.

Carrie: Well, who doesn't love children's books?

Carrie: [in her head] Five minutes of bodice-ripping material out the window. So, I did what any writer would do... I pulled an idea out of my a$$.

Carrie: Well, my story's about a little girl... named Cathy. Little Cathy.

Barbara, Mr. Big's Ex-Wife: And what makes Little Cathy special?

Carrie: Well, um, she has these magic... [looks at cigarettes in her purse]...cigarettes.

Barbara, Mr. Big's Ex-Wife: She has magic cigarettes?

Carrie: Yes, "Little Cathy and Her Magic Cigarettes". And whenever she lights up, she can go anywhere in the whole wide world. Like Arabia or New Jersey! Of course that's going to be worked out.

Barbara, Mr. Big's Ex-Wife: You want to write a children's book about smoking?

Carrie: Yes, it's a children's book for adults.
jastroff
100%
0%
jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
7/4/2014 | 9:48:21 AM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
I'm debating whether to kick in some $$ to Shipman for her Ricky story. But I digress...

Was wondering if it were possible that the Handy Reach by Donald Walters to help you pull down the strings on your attic stairs will reveal where your creepy relative [brother] [cousin] hid all those bodies. Watch out for unintended consequences. Stephen King, listen up, a tool for your plot lines...

Teqball will be the next big thing, and is a client of Sterling, Draper Price.

I'm running out to get a Qwerkywriter – the best thing I've seen next to those fake pay phones that hang on the wall. It's wonderful!

>> Is there anything really big and special going on Kickstarter?

Well, there remains, and will always be, Kickstarter itself.

Happy Fourth @dave
David Wagner
100%
0%
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.

danielcawrey
0%
100%
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. 
SaneIT
100%
0%
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.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/8/2014 | 1:49:06 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
@SaneIT- Right, I agree. But did you see this? A guy has raised over $40,000 to make potato salad. Not a new kind of potato salad to sell as a product. He just always wanted to try to make potato salad. He asked for $10. He got $40,000 and counting.

Sometimes it isn't even about the idea, but the presentation. My favorite was what he offered if you gave him $1: I will say your name out loud while making the potato salad.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/9/2014 | 7:08:35 AM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
Yes I saw the potato salad project.  What's cool is that he's not just taking the money and running, he's going to have a get together for the supporters.  My fear is that this is going to cause a ripple effect into serious projects.  There will no doubt be a rash of people trying to do another viral Kickstarter and it's going to make the serious ones look like used car salesmen.
Alison_Diana
50%
50%
Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
7/9/2014 | 9:36:35 AM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
The potato salad project annoyed me -- not so much the guy who set it up, but the people who supported it. I mean, c'mon folk! And of course, there was then a flood of copycats seeking funding for all sorts of different salads and food. Must say, if I had a serious, good idea on Kickstarter and nobody was funding it, I'd have been heartbroken!
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/9/2014 | 4:03:19 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
@alison- It annoyed me and amused me at the same time. I was so conflicted I think it showed that i was mostly just jealous. Ultimately, what I decided is that what he was rewarded for was his writing. I don't know if he should get $70,000 (and counting) for the writing. But what he did was entertain us. He spoofed Kickstarter, and people "paid" to read the story.

Basically the way some artists have been putting out their records for free and telling fans to pay what they want for them.
Alison_Diana
50%
50%
Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
7/9/2014 | 5:02:11 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
Yes, I think that sums up my attitude too, @Dave! 
PedroGonzales
50%
50%
PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
7/9/2014 | 9:39:38 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
I wouldn't fund any of the projects.  I mean, they don't sound that useful.  Even the one from MIT,  I'm still waiting for the helmet that would read a pet's thoughts.  That idea would make millions.  I'm sure there are other good projects out there.  May be I should come up with my own silly project, I bet will make money.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/10/2014 | 1:27:40 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
@Pedro- Please do. Because A) I'd love to see one of our community make tons of money b) I'd liek to then interview you on your secrets and c) If it didn't work, I think it would be fun examining what went wrong.
SunitaT0
50%
50%
SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2014 | 5:29:21 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
@pedrogonzales: Some projects need to be funded, like interesting approaches with the 3D printing needs to be explored to see what projects can be made useful in our daily lives.
We should only browse those kinds of ideas that appeal to us by making our lives better. Not funding some insane and amateur idea is a nice start.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/10/2014 | 7:24:47 AM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
@Alison_Diana, that's how I feel.  If I had a kickstarter project that I had put a significant amount of time into and I thought I had a really great product that I could get off the ground if only I could raise 10K or so I'd be really let down that some guy got 70K to make potato salad.  Can you imagine how excited a small business would be to get 70K in a week? 
Alison_Diana
50%
50%
Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
7/10/2014 | 9:52:08 AM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
I wonder if a backlash against these funding sites is beginning to occur. Sometimes I get a little tired of being hit up by GoFundMe requests to help acquaintances fulfill their personal dreams -- things like attending divinity school (especially coming right after repeated requests for sponsorship in a charity that requires a set amount in order to participate in a walk).
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/11/2014 | 7:11:59 AM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
I see GoFundMe a little differently than Kickstarter.  The GoFundMe stuff tends to be charity or donations to an individual so they can do what they want to do not an attempt to raise funding for a product launch that offers the participant a tangible object.  I don't mind charity but I do mind when a company is skimming part of the funds from donations.  I don't mind people having dreams but I do get irritated with GoFundMe requests like "Awesome Weekend in Vegas" where they want me to fund their vacation.  Sorry I don't care how you spin it that just doesn't fly with me.  As for more legitimate fund raising using similar sites what bothers me is that it would be just as easy to set up a PayPal account and manage the whole thing yourself and the fees lost would probably be significantly lower.
SunitaT0
50%
50%
SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2014 | 5:27:33 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
@Alison: These funding sites need better advertisement approaches. Constantly annoying a user for a donation may (and does) lead to minimum amounts of money procured by the funding website. Moreover, these campaigns are region specific, and in some countries they do not work. In India most of the IT people seem to care about such campaigns and only a small percentage of them donate anything for such websites. Marketing approaches comes with advertisements and advertisement approaches should be region specific.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/9/2014 | 4:04:57 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
@SaneIt- No doubt you are right about that. I fear the "Redditification" of Kickstarter where the funniest post gets the most funding. But if it happens, no doubt Indiegogo or some other copycat will take the "serious business" and the community will move on. 

I'm guessing that crowdfunding sites will be like social networks-- all the cool kids will jump around every few years anyway.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/10/2014 | 7:18:15 AM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
Hopefully Kickstarter puts some stops in there soon though.  It's funny to see Reddit mentioned because I do think that's 90% of the problem.  The hivemind is driving the funding and it doesn't stop to think about what it does to legitimate projects.  The Kickstarter model is a tough enough sell in the first place, it doesn't need to become another r/RandomActsOfPizza/.
vnewman2
50%
50%
vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
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...
SaneIT
50%
50%
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.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/8/2014 | 1:53:11 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
@vnewman2- You might be right. Also, who knows VC people with millions of dollars? It sometimes takes years to build those kinds of investment contacts.
vnewman2
50%
50%
vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
7/8/2014 | 8:05:46 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
@David - so true, I mean, typically they want a business plan and a well-thought out presentation - why bother with that when you can just hit up a bunch of people who think, "that looks totally cool!" :)
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/9/2014 | 4:01:13 PM
Re: Ricky the cockroach
why bother with that when you can just hit up a bunch of people who think, "that looks totally cool!" :)


@vnewman- It makes me wonder if we're pitching to VC's wrong. Maybe all we need is a good youtube movies, some pics of the prototype and a catchy short description.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/8/2014 | 1:37:22 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?


@danielcawrey- Well, i think the quickest answer to your question is that 12 publishers passed on Harry Potter. Even experts don't always see the value in somehting.

But a longer answer is that i don't think Kickstarter is an investment site. I think of it more as a preview site. You get to buy somehting before it is out. If you are an investor, you get a stake in the company. If you are on Kickstarter, at most, you get the product or a thankyou card or a t-shirt or whatever.

I can see 250 people buying the Qwerkywriter, but I can't see Qwerkywriter selling so many copies an investor would want a stake in the company unless they thought the guy who made them had a bunch of similar ideas.

For a VC to be interested, he needs to see thousands if not millions of dollars in an idea. For a Kickstarter to work, all someone needs to see is a few bucks or a product they'd liek to buy.
David Wagner
50%
50%
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. :)
soozyg
50%
50%
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.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/8/2014 | 1:41:44 PM
Re: regarding the helmet
@soozyg- Well, I get that, I suppose, if you assume that it can do more than it can do. For instance, if you thought it could steal your passwords or something.

But an EEG shouldn't hurt your brain. In a way, all they are is super sensitive volt meters. They measure the electrical signals from the scalp. And they can't pick out details. Only the aggregate which means things like mood.
soozyg
100%
0%
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?
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/8/2014 | 1:44:38 PM
Re: city planning?
@soozyg- For the city planning to work it would requires dozens or hundres of people travelling through the same space to get an accurate read. For instance, i don't find parks relaxing at all. Too much open space. Not enough happening. I like to be in busy places, If you only went by me, we'd demolish parks and replace them with laser tag stadiums (an awesome idea!).

Ultimately the individual stress of a person on a given day would get washed out in the larger stats.
zerox203
50%
50%
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.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/8/2014 | 1:52:14 PM
Re: A Tiptoe Through Kickstarter
@zerox203- Thanks!

Interestingly enough, I saw a great presentation at the Games Developer's Conference by a guy who has funded video games through Kickstarter. And he basically said that Kickstarter was a terrible place to fund video games. He said you are actually better off getting money in a bank you've never worked with before than Kickstarter.

He said the problem with Kickstarter is that you're basically begging. And people have reached a begging limit on the site. So game developers have to increasingly give more and more to get people involved. For instance, the right to design a level or name a monster.

He said that basically, if you want to fund a game on Kickstarter now, be prepared to give away the game design to your investors. I can't swear to the accuracy of this, but it was a compelling argument.
David Wagner
50%
50%
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?
kstaron
50%
50%
kstaron,
User Rank: Moderator
7/24/2014 | 1:50:45 PM
Love the keyboard, hate the empty accounts
I now want the querky typewriter keyboard. It's adorable. Always wanted an old typewriter but wondered where i'd put it. Using it as a tablet keyboard would be awesome.

One hint for new kickstarters, especially that cockroach story woman without a penny invested. Take a low level investment and pledge it yourself, get your friends to kick in a few bucks (heck ask that to be your birthday present). Get the seed money in there. It's like a tip jar. no one's going to add the first dollar, but if there's a five in there already the'll add two.
Transformative CIOs Organize for Success
Transformative CIOs Organize for Success
Trying to meet today’s business technology needs with yesterday’s IT organizational structure is like driving a Model T at the Indy 500. Time for a reset.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest September 18, 2014
Enterprise social network success starts and ends with integration. Here's how to finally make collaboration click.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.