Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Kickstarter Handbook: A Real Life Guide

We highly recommend this new guide to Kickstarter to anyone who is contemplating or planning a Kickstarter fundraiser.... Read this book before you launch. It is a small volume filled with practical advice and real-life examples of both successful and less-than-successful Kickstarter projects.

Author Don Steinberg begins with the basics of a Kickstarter campaign, such as what kinds of projects do and do not qualify, then segues into strategies for setting funding levels and reward structures, ideas for publicizing a campaign, and tips on how to plan ahead for the fulfillment stage. And as the title says, he provides real-life stories of successful Kickstarter campaigns and the people and ideas behind them.

Chapter 11 is one that the would-be, first-time Kickstarter will definitely want to study carefully: "Learning from Failure: Kickstarter misfires, redemptions, and second acts." Steinberg interviews several Kickstarters who initially failed, then retooled their ideas and eventually succeeded. In the chapter opening, he points out that the 2011 success rate on Kickstarter was 46%... that's truly phenomenal, but on the flip side, the majority of campaigns failed that year. Steinberg would be remiss if he didn't present the downside of the story... Experience is the best teacher, as Benjamin Franklin famously pointed out, so Steinberg has included Chapter 11 because it's best to learn from the experience of others.

Kickstarter is a powerful tool with global reach, but it is not a magic money machine. Read this book before you launch a campaign, learn from it, and your odds of success will improve.

Note: Crossposted from the Cool Stuff We Like blog.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Spark Core: Arduino-Compatible "Wi-Fi for Everything"

Spark Core Board
The "Spark Core" from Spark Devices is an open-source, Arduino-compatible board  designed to greatly simplify the task of adding wireless Internet connectivity to things, especially DIY projects. The Spark Core Kickstarter project just closed on June 1st, and was a huge success with over 5,500 backers pledging $568K, vastly exceeding its $10K funding threshold.

The essential Spark Core components are a 72MHz ARM Cortex M3 microprocessor, a Wi-Fi wireless module, and a USB interface. Microprocessor input and output pins provide interfaces for controlling and communicating with the target hardware. The user develops software for the Spark Core with the popular, easy-to-learn and easy-to-use "Wiring" software development platform. Programs can be uploaded through the Wi-Fi or USB interfaces.

As an aside, for further information on the concepts and ideas behind the Spark Core, we recommend this TechCrunch article on the Internet of Things (IoT).

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Kickback Machine: A Research Tool for Kickstarters

The Kickback Machine is a research tool that allows Kickstarter candidates to compare successful and failed Kickstarter projects side-by-side so that they can get an idea of what works and what doesn't work. It's taglines are clear warnings to those who have dreams of Kickstarter success and glory: "Do your homework" and "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

The Kickback Machine is the brainchild of Dan Misener, a radio producer and tech writer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Misener got the idea for the site a bit over a year ago when he realized that Kickstarter makes it hard for the reader to find the records of failed projects. (He was quick to note at the time, however, that he doesn't think there is anything "nefarious or ill-intentioned" in this, just that it's "an interesting design decision" when it comes to how failed projects are or are not displayed.) Note that The Kickback Machine's project records go back only to mid-June of last year.

The Kickback Machine gives the reader tools to search for and browse projects by Kickstarter categories. Readers can further refine the search to view only successful or unsuccessful projects in the category, and to further filter by goal (i.e., dollar amount). For example, we searched for successful projects in the Comics category with a goal of approximately $10,000 and got these results.

In collaboration with Daniel Woelfel's CanHeKickIt project, Misener added a checkbox option last October to the projects display page that replaces each project thumbnail with a chart of its funding trajectory, so you can see the progress of its funding over time.

For more interesting news about Kickstarter, also keep an eye on Dan Misener's blog using his "kickstarter" search tag.

Tip of the hat to the Digital Trends blog.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

FilaFab Desktop Extrusion System for 3D Printing Filaments

FilaFab Prototype Extrusion System
Edward Clifford of the UK has developed a filament extrusion system for recycling scrap plastic into filament of the type used in 3D printers like the MakerBot Replicator. It can also use PLA and ABS plastics in pellet form, which can be purchased in bulk quantities. The goal is to give the 3D printer user a means to create his or her own filament at lower cost.

Clifford launched his FilaFab Kickstarter project on April 22 with a goal of raising  £4,000. Two days ahead of its June 1 closing date, the project has over 70 backers pledging a total of almost £18,000 (approximately $27,000US).

He claims that the system can extrude filament at a rate of 1.2meters per minute (47inches per minute), at an average power consumption of 210W. Check out the short video below to see it in action. Clifford has more videos of the system at the project's Kickstarter page.

Update: The FilaFab Kickstarter project ended June 1st with a total of £21,323 pledeged by 89 backers, over five times its funding goal. Congratulations to Edward Clifford on its success.

Monkey Light Pro Bicycle-Wheel Display System

Monkey Light Pro Fire & Lightning
Through the science of the "persistence of vision" phenomenon, the Monkeylectric Monkey Light Pro display and animation system transforms bicycle wheels into an animated color display. The  Monkey Light Pro Kickstarter project was launched May 22 and will close June 21. The funding goal is $180K, and as of this writing (May 29) 255 backers have committed over $108K.

The system consists of four double-sided LED light bars mounted to the spokes at 90degree angles. As the wheel spins, the color and brightness of each individual LED is modulated in real-time by a microprocessor control system. A two-axis accelerometer and four magnets enable the microprocessor to sense wheel angle, direction, and speed in order to orient and stabilize the image at speeds from 10mph to 40mph.

The microprocessor control system can store up to 1000 image frames in its memory. Images can be downloaded to memory via Bluetooth wireless. The system comes preloaded with artwork created for it by professional artists, such as Yoshi Sodeaka and Shelley Eshkar. If the Kickstarter project is a success, Monkeylectric says they will be commissioning more artwork. We wonder if there will be a development system for customers to create their own custom artwork...

Monkeylectric claims that the onboard lithium battery can power the LEDs at full brightness for eight hours, and up to forty-eight hours at lower brightness. The battery is recharged through a standard USB interface.

This one is great fun and we wish the Monkeylectric team great success with their Kickstarter project.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Gluten-Free Vegan Beers from Moonshrimp Brewing of Portland, OR

Dan McIntosh-Tolle of Moonshrimp Brewing
Moonshrimp Brewing of Portland, OR launched a Kickstarter project one week ago with the goal of raising $24,000 to fund the equipment needed to begin brewing gluten-free, vegan beers. Moonshrimp has signed a lease and put money down on a facility, now they need funds for license fees, plumbing, brewing vats, and brewing supplies. A week in, they've got thirty-four backers with a total commitment of just over $4,000.

Daniel McIntosh-Tolle, the founder and brewmaster of Moonshrimp, is a trained biochemist and craft-brewer who was diagnosed with Celiac disease six years ago. Celiac disease is an immune reaction to gluten... unfortunately for those with suffer from Celiac disease and are also beer lovers, gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.

Dan started brewing his own gluten-free beers at home three years ago. Now with a facility leased and licenses applied for, and a battery of three year-round brew recipes and a couple of seasonals to work with, he hopes to get Moonshrimp up and running to bring gluten-free beers to the (apparently) growing numbers of people who can't stomach gluten. Dan promises also that the brew environment will be carefully controlled to keep other allergens from contaminating the beer.

Moonshrimp plans to bottle its beers in 22oz. bottles for distribution to local markets. Currently there is no plan to open a brewpub or tasting room.

We will keep an eye on Moonshrimp's progress here over the coming weeks. The closing date for this project is June 20th.

UPDATE: Moonshrimp met its funding goal... it was close... 135 backers pledged $24,165 to push it just a bit past the $24,000 goal.

On a sidenote, CNN recently cited Portland as the number one beer town in the US. There are currently fifty-two breweries in the city, and a total of sixty-nine in the greater Portland Metro area... being residents there, we've had the opportunity to patronize more than a few ourselves! The Portland craft-brew community has a track record of cooperation and mutual assistance, so we are sure the Moonshrimp crew will find encouragement for their efforts here.

Lady Sabre & the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether

Lady Sabre
Writer Greg Rucka and artist Rick Burchett are household names to comics and graphic novel fans. Both are veterans of DC Comics and Marvel, multiple Eisner Award winners, and have worked on the most prestigious titles, such as Batman and Superman.

Two years ago Rucka and Burchett teamed-up to create a steampunk-adventure webcomic, Lady Sabre & the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether, which has been enormously popular. A few weeks ago they launched a Kickstarter project with a goal of raising $27,500 to bring the series out in print; they met that goal within just eight hours of opening the campaign. With eight days to go until their June 5th closing, they now have over 2,000 backers who've pledged just shy of $100K.

Greg Rucka has been an active Kickstarter participant for over two years.... according to his Kickstarter profile he has backed twenty-six projects since joining in March 2011. Now he's on the other side as a creator.

You can read the first episode of the Lady Sabre webcomic here.

Update at project close: The project closed today, June 5th, with 2,901 backers committing just over $143K.

Welcome to Kickstarter Watch!

It's our mission here at Kickstarter Watch to keep a close eye on the Kickstarter website as new projects come online, and bring to your attention those that we think are the coolest of the cool. We'll also periodically put up posts about completed, successful projects that we found interesting, and analyze the results.

We are interested in the full spectrum of Kickstarter projects, whatever category they may fall into, from technology to film to art.

We are not affiliated in anyway with We are just enthused about this phenomenal breakthrough that has enabled innovation in a truly unprecedented way, and want to share that enthusiasm with you. We hope that you will visit us on a regular basis, or even sign-up as a follower via your favorite means, such as email notifications or Facebook. 

Who knows, you might even find one here that you'll want to back. 

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