Crowdfunding

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    Crowdfunders beware — your crowd can become an angry mob

    As crowdfunding increases in popularity, it’s being used for more than just the funds. Crowdfunding has become a way to gather attention and customers for new products. There is built-in demand forecasting, and a time-sensitive mechanism for drumming up press coverage. Companies like Romo and Lively have raised capital from venture investors, but they still launched crowdfunding campaigns, not for the funds, but for the crowds. The problem with the crowd, though, is that it can easily turn into…
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    Hardware crowdfunding grows up and out of Kickstarter with new specialized platforms

    Kickstarter was built for creative people — filmmakers, songwriters and artists. The fact that tech projects and gadgets have found a home there is just a very lucrative bonus for the company. Since it’s genesis in 2009, Kickstarter has facilitated $881 million worth of pledges. Tech is its fourth-largest category, beating out music, art and publishing with $96 million in pledges. The problem comes when those tech projects bring their own unique commercial challenges, which many amateur inventors aren’t prepared to…
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    From prototype to production: How Dragon Innovation’s “Kickstarter for hardware” aims to change consumer tech

    Scott Miller’s early days in the hardware world were a tinkerer’s dream. In the mid-90s, he worked on MIT’s first “robofish,” a robot that swam like a tuna. Then Disney Inc. decided, briefly, that it was really into robots, so it hired him and 12 colleagues to operate an independent startup office out of Boston. “They gave us an insane budget,” he recalls, which he used to purchase top-of-the-line equipment and build impractical but very cool things like a…
  • route66

    Route 66 rides into the crowdfunding age

    It’s a fact: American cities don’t have enough money. More and more we read about cities filing for bankruptcy, or being saddled with budget deficits. These economic woes mean that necessary urban renewal projects sometimes get thrown to the wayside. Now cities are looking for new ways to fund urban renewal projects. For example, there’s Springfield, Missouri. Springfield is the third largest city in the state, with a population of about 160,000. It houses a dilapidated national…
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    Subbable: Subscription crowdfunding for rabid YouTube fans

    Two brothers — Hank and John Green — have produced online videos since 2007. Known as the VlogBrothers, they gained notoriety for their work on early Web shows such as “Brotherhood 2.0″ and “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.” They caught Google’s eye and got funded as part of the YouTube Original Channel Initiative. In their current series “Crash Course,” the duo teach high school courses for free in a frenetic, fun,…
  • Hyperloop2

    Elon Musk’s Hyperloop is possible. But is it plausible?

    Elon Musk has a knack for identifying problems, dreaming up solutions, and then throwing himself and his employees at both until a previously ludicrous idea becomes a working, odds-defying technology. See PayPal. See SpaceX. See Tesla. The Hyperloop project, which proposes that a series of vacuum tubes enable commuters to travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 30 minutes, only benefits from the first two steps of Musk’s three-part process. He identified the problem (traveling sucks)…
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    Naval Ravikant’s advice for getting your startup featured on AngelList

    On Friday I interviewed Naval Ravikant, founder of AngelList, as the guest of our PandoWeekly radio show. We talked about today’s deadline for the proposed general solicitation rules, which the SEC’s advisory committee has since recommended a 45-day extension. (Companies can begin to “generally solicit,” if that’s a verb, and will be grandfathered into whatever rules are officially put in place.) As a result, companies raising funds on AngelList can publicly show that they are doing so.…
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    Tech Shop Menlo Park’s Indiegogo campaign is failing

    TechShop Menlo Park, the hardware workshop that was the birthplace of Square, among other inventions, has to move. It has until October 31st to clear out of the building it has leased since its inception. In an email to the community, TechShop founder Jim Newton said, “In spite of our best efforts, negotiations have failed to produce even a short term extension of our lease to early 2014.” TechShop needs to raise $2.5 million to move and build newer, better…
  • ravikant

    Listen to PandoWeekly with Naval Ravikant of AngelList

    Next week we’ll finally experience some of the results of of the JOBS Act in action — startups (and venture funds) will be able to engage in general solicitation, i.e., advertising that they are fundraising. They still can’t raise money from just anyone, but they can at least talk publicly about it, after jumping through a few hundred hoops. Naval Ravikant, founder of AngelList, has been vocal about the dangers of some of those hoops proposed by the SEC. He…
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    Not all ideas make billion-dollar companies. Here’s how SmallKnot handled that reality

    You may remember Smallknot from TechStars NY’s 2012 class of startups. The company, started by two former securities lawyers, aimed to help small, local businesses crowdfund small projects. I was into the idea, calling it a heartwarming take on the crowdfunding craze. But with projects ranging in size from just $2000 to $10,000, the idea had obvious questions of scalability. I’d heard earlier this year through the rumor mill that Smallknot had shut down, but the company’s site was…
  • Belly Flop

    When a Kickstarter flop isn’t actually a flop

    Lively was a promising hardware startup with a great idea. The company had developed affordable monitoring units to help baby boomers care for their aging parents. Its use of a cellular hub with sensors is an elegant (and, at $149, cheap) way to avoid sending loved ones to a nursing home. So, like most promising hardware startups, the company took to Kickstarter in April. The unusual thing, though, was that Lively didn’t exactly need crowdfunding. The…
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    SoMoLend and equity crowdfunding: What does this say about the industry?

    The last few weeks have not been pretty for peer-to-peer lending platform SoMoLend. According to the state of Ohio, the company behind the platform (SoMoLend Holding LLC) may have have committed many instances of securities fraud. In response, the city of Cincinnati cut off the lending platform, along with many banks and organizations that had previous ties to it. Perhaps most telling, SoMoLend’s CEO Candace Klein resigned. Is all of this a bellwether for the future of crowdfunding? While one company…
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    Apple fanboys crowdfund a giant statue of Steve Jobs

    The Statue of Liberty. David. The Great Sphinx. And….Steve Jobs? If a couple Apple fanboys have their way, a giant Steve Jobs statue may be headed stateside. The duo have launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a Jobsian sculpture to be built and erected somewhere in the Bay Area. They got a quote from four or five designers, and set the campaign minimum to $50,000 — the price for a lifesize figure. The more money they…
  • shuttr

    Shuttr raises over $50,000 on Kickstarter to help people take better selfies

    Sometimes I wonder how many products were developed for the sole purpose of taking better selfies. Did Vine add front-facing camera support just because Jack Dorsey wanted to take six-second video selfies? Did Instagram finally add video support so people could up the ante by taking 15-second video selfies? Was Snapchat really created so people could take nude selfies without worrying about ‘em making their way around the Web? Those are the questions that haunt my lamest nightmares.…
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    Which is worse for crowdfunders, naiveté or honesty?

    Contributing to a crowdfunding campaign is risky business. Sometimes projects don’t meet their deadline; sometimes the finished product doesn’t live up to the promise of all those demo videos, wishful descriptions, and promotional images; sometimes you think you’re backing the production of some delicious beef jerky and you’re really just pledging money to a scammer’s bank account. Murphy’s Law comes out in full force as soon as someone parts with their cash in exchange for a promise. This principle…
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    Thieves and scams: the problem with crowdfunding

    Last week I received an anonymous tip about a potential scam on Indiegogo. The device in question, “Micro-Phone,” purports to be a credit card-sized cellular phone that contains a new “locator” technology: “Locating your child, partner, or best friend, anytime, anywhere is now a cinch,” brags the text at the top of the page, “thanks to Micro-Phone – a sleek, discrete and affordable GSM mobile phone.” The campaign has been extended 30 more days, but is close to tripling its…

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