Last Minute gifts for entrepreneurs that you won't find anywhere else

By Kym McNicholas , written on December 24, 2012

From The News Desk

One thing I know about entrepreneurs is that they like supporting other entrepreneurs. So, why not give them the gift of funding a fellow innovator. Crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Crowdfunder are great places to find cool new products and services that entrepreneurs would love to support and even be the first to try. Offer $1 for a big solid ‘Thank you” or any level of backing for even bigger rewards. I picked out some of my favorite campaigns (and rewards) to help save you the search.

This list, for the most part is not in any particular order, except for this one: SIA, a new Scotch Whisky drink. It’s my top choice for a gift to give this holiday season. First off, Scotch and whisky tasting is growing in popularity, especially here in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Secondly, it’s not often that you find true innovation in the alcoholic beverage industry in terms of flavor, and this product is truly unique in my opinion. Plus, who wouldn’t want to support a woman, Carin Castillo, taking on the big boys of beverage? Finally, and this was the biggest selling point for me, and why I actually bought this for my younger brother, it's that for $100, you receive a private invitation to an exclusive launch/tasting party in San Francisco or New York with SIA on her!

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[Click on image above for campaign site]

The design of actual tangible products you can hold in your hands is back in Silicon Valley. With the advent of the Internet and the smartphone, people have gone web site and app crazy. It’s so easy to build an app or a site in one weekend, see if it works, and if it doesn’t then move on to a different idea. So for for the most part, many entrepreneurs have moved away from designing the higher-risk, hold-it-in-your-hands products. Yes, there are exceptions. But over the past few years we’ve seen a resurgence of companies focusing on the tangible, including SOMA, a new innovative all-natural water filter system. The company has created a glass carafe, compostable water filters, and a subscription model that ensures customers always have purified water in the fridge.  The campaign is $23,000 over it's $100,000 goal, with 18 days left. But there are still rewards offered for new backers. For at least a $50 pledge, a backer could receive the glass carafe and a six-month subscription for the compostable filters.

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[Click on image above for campaign site]

Do you think you’re favorite entrepreneur is ‘hot’ (Cheesy, I know)? Confirm it with this iPhone powered Smart Thermometer by Atrium Engineering. It works with the iPhone, iPad, AND Android platforms, and DOESN'T run out of batteries, unless your phone dies. You can use it to test the temperature of the turkey, or any liquid. It’s for the techy who probably loves to cook or is into chemistry. For a pledge of at least $49, the reward, if the project is a success, is one smart thermometer in either black or pink.

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[Click on image above for campaign site]

If you have a favorite entrepreneur who has kids, and they’re looking for new ways to engage with them, then investing in ATOMS Express Toys by Seamless Toy Company, Inc., will be a fun gift. They’re building 13 modules such as light sensors, motors, exploding bricks, etc., which can actually bring “LEGOS’ and other toys to life, making monsters move and even castles blow-up (They're great for pranks). For a pledge of at least $29 backers could receive a "Prankster" set, and for $49 or more, their "Monster Construction Set. The more a backer pledges, as with all of these campaigns, the bigger the reward, if the campaign promise is fulfilled.

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[Click on image above for campaign site]

If you’re favorite entrepreneur is stuck in front of their computer screen, whether it’s on their computer or phone, a sleek new stylus might help their hands take a break, especially if they’re a creative soul. The unique feature on the DREAMER stylus is you can switch between two different modes whether you want to write or draw. A pledge of $29 or more could get you at the very least one colorful plastic MINI DREAMER. This campaign recently launched so it has more than a month to go, and more than $30,000 to raise before it's complete. The creators have sunk all their money into the prototypes so they need the cash to make a few detail adjustments on the product and for volume production.

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[Click on image above for campaign site]

Have you heard the word “Cloud?:  It’s the buzz word d’jour.  Lots of companies want us to trust them with all of our data. But for those of us who are concerned about putting our personal information -- pictures, videos, documents, in the cloud, and having access it on demand, then Transporter could help take the power of information ownership back into our own hands. That is, if these creators live-up to their promise. This one requires a hefty pledge to actually be one of the first to own a Transporter: For $269, a backer could get:
One Transporter (1TB drive). Share, access, and protect up to a full terabyte of data. That's enough space for 1000 HD movies, 200,000 songs, or 500,000 photos. Completely private. No subscription fees, ever.
For a mere $5 pledge, you can at least reserve your favorite entrepreneur's username and they can buy the Transporter later.

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[Click on image above for campaign site]

This next one is in honor of Google Ventures’ Kevin Rose (Founder of Digg), and his passion for tea. If you didn’t know, he’s a certified tea taster. Handcrafted Tea by Gaia Tea in Brooklyn, New York, is a great gift for the entrepreneur who simply needs to savor the moment. They're giving away mugs, T-shirts, and tea bags filled with leaves by hand for the different levels of backing. The money raised in this campaign will go towards new packaging and a hand-held heat sealer to keep their tea leaves fresh. For a $2 pledge, the reward is tea leaf samples, the reward for a $15 pledge is a tea box filled Rose Chair or Green Nirvana tea, and for $300 they'll send you everything your favorite entrepreneur will need to hold a proper tea tasting at the office or in their home.

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[Click on image above for campaign site]

For the social entrepreneur – the one who just keeps on giving, Crowdfunder has a couple of great projects I found, which I actually invested in as well during my search for these cool gifts.

LSTN is a new music company, which for every pair of headphones sold, it helps restore hearing to a deaf child. Its products are made out of reclaimed wood. This funding project not only helps the LSTN team scale their business, but also helps them go to Africa to see the impact they’re having on the kids who’ve received a custom hearing aid from them. For a $20 pledge, the company is offering to just give a custom ear piece, in your gift recipient's name, to a child in-need. For $35, they'll do that plus send them a pair of their reclaimed wood earbuds, and for $85, on-ear headphones. LSTN has already contacted me to send me mine.

LSTN earbuds

[Click on image above for campaign site]

Another “For Purpose” business is This Shirt Helps. For every soft, environmentally friendly shirt you buy for someone, they donate a portion of the sale to a cause of their choice (From a list they provide on the campaign site).  A sampling of the impact:
  • 582 People Receive Clean Water for a Year directly through filter distributions
  • 3 Well projects completed and a 4th in progress
  • Helped raise over $110,000 to help rescue and rehabilitate victims of sex trafficking
This Shirt Helps

[Click on image above for campaign site]

And finally, the gift we also wish we could not only give, but also receive, especially those who value true innovation – The LIFX. It’s a WiFi enabled, multi-color, energy efficient light bulb. Even more, you can control it with your iPhone or Android. Oh, I do want one of these. Trouble is that the project is already funded [Insert sad face here]. I guess we'll all have to wait till the product hits the market. At least you can pre-register for one here.

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[Click on image above for campaign site]

The fine print: Don't forget to read it. Remember, with all of these campaigns, there’s no guarantee the products will be 100 percent funded. If they’re not 100 percent funded, your card won’t be charged and you won’t receive the ‘rewards’ listed for your backing.  But these are still a fun gifts. Most of the ones I’ve chosen have either been completely funded and are just continuing to tack on more backers, or are close to their goal.

Also, make sure to read the risks and challenges of each project because even if they’re 100 percent funded, or 1000 percent funded, the entrepreneur may still not be able to fulfill their promise of the reward. Still, I would argue that every entrepreneur would love the gift of, at the very least, supporting another entrepreneur who’s making a product they believe in, whether or not they're able to live up to their promise.