Kickstarter Saving Hardware Innovation?

Scott Francis
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About 6 months ago I became so impressed with the Kickstarter process that I wrote:

Yesterday’s post on the Cosmonaut has me thinking about how new products are developed and released into the wild.  We focus so much on startups and processes in the software and virtual world, but Kickstarter has exposed a new process for physical products

And wondered out loud if this is the new process for products.  If you’re wondering what an improved process can do to the value chain, this is a great example in my mind of what a difference a better process can make.

Fast forward to last week – and several projects surpassing $1M raised (including Elevation Dock, and Pebble)… And here is an article from Mashable (How Kickstarter is Saving Hardware Innovation) that echoes the sentiment:

Pebble Technology, the startup behind Pebble Watch, couldn’t find venture capitalists to back it. But within 28 hours of putting the project on Kickstarter, it had raised more than $1 million.

Pebble isn’t the only hardware startup to run into fundraising roadblocks before finding success on Kickstarter.

For those who don’t know, Pebble has since raised over $10 million.  That’s not a misprint. It also echoes one of the key points from our original post:

But it’s more than just funding opportunities that Kickstarter affords for hardware startups. By exposing new products to an engaged audience early on in their development, it also allows them to develop products more like software companies — proving market demand and incorporating feedback as they go.

Being able to run a “Lean” hardware startup in the mold of the Lean Startup is something fundamentally new – because Kickstarter gives the startup a chance to reach a critical mass of potential customers (a marketplace of interest).

There are those that think Pebble was a special case – and perhaps it is – but the number of projects cracking the $1M mark is increasing in number and frequency.  The consensus is building that Kickstarter has changed the game – by being the marketplace.  All the other pieces of the puzzle were there before – willing consumers, small manufacturers, and able designers.  But access to funding and product feedback was lacking before Kickstarter put the mix together.

If Kickstarter isn’t saving hardware innovation, it sure is revitalizing it.

Author’s note: We just received delivery of our second funded Kickstarter project- Skallops.  The kids are already building very interesting card castles.