Kickstarter-funded projects at CES

The Verge has a long write-up about the Kickstarter-funded projects exhibited at CES. The new prevalence of Kickstarter-funded tech ventures might show us a model of how the path of technological progress — especially for consumer products — might become more democratic.

If you don’t know about Kickstarter, here is the basic idea: Someone has a project in mind but not enough money to do it. For example, maybe the project would cost $50,000. The person starts a Kickstarter project and asks for support. People pledge monetary support, but they only have to pay if enough other people pledge so that the project reaches its threshold, in this case $50,000. A benefit of this system is that it is safer for donors. They are less likely to end up spedning money on a project that never even gets rolling.

In the article, some of the projects in question were high tech “smart” watches, mobile phone accessories, Bluetooth-enabled stickers (for locating easily lost items), and an electric skateboard.

It seems that these new Kickstarter-funded projects will result in a wider array of available products. This means there will be more possible paths along which technology can evolve. Furthermore, the paths will be more often chosen according to the actual needs of consumers, instead of just whatever the large tech companies think they can sell. A consequence of this will likely be happier consumers. This makes Kickstarter a positive development from a utilitarian perspective.

Also, Kickstarter gives innovative people an opportunity to make money by working creatively on their own projects. That means they are less dependent for their personal income on large companies, organizations, or governments that decide what projects developers and engineers are to work on. This seems positive from the perspective of Kantian ethics. Kickstarter allows gives people autonomy and allows them to have work where they are not treated as mere means to someone else’s ends.

10 Responses to Kickstarter-funded projects at CES

  1. I really like the concept behind this program, especially since it goes hand in hand with the idea of having a dollar vote like we discussed in class. Additionally, I believe with this program available, more people are going to start publicizing their ideas. As a result, more products will be designed and technology will be able to develop even faster than it currently is.

  2. I like Kickstarter also. Now people who have good tech ideas can have these ideas become actuality. It is also cool because donors only have to pay when the project reaches its threshold. A lot of people (myself included) do not want to risk their money and donate a cause that might not even become a tangible force, however Kickstarter actually encourages more people to become donors and pledge, because there is the off chance that the project may never get enough pledges.

    To be honest, I am tired of the big tech companies (Apple, Google, Samsung) “telling” us what to buy. Since these companies are so big, more people are likely to listen to them and buy their products, because these companies do not give the little guys a chance. However, with Kickstarter, the little guys ARE given a chance. They are given money to build projects that in some ways are a lot cooler than what the big tech companies are making, just because the corporations think they can just make whatever they want and people will automatically buy them. Not only are the little guys being given a chance, the big tech companies are being sent a message that shows what people really want. The little guys will become bug guys, and the big guys (big tech companies) will start making products that the people really want.

  3. I have some familiarity with Kickstarter inc. Their rewards for pledging model is definitely a unique way so that a backer feels they receive some compensation for their donation. Looking over some of the other projects, I don’t see anything to where I am excited enough to want to commit funding for a project. And if I did comment to a project, it seems pointless that I would then have to purchase it again after completion.

    Overall it is definitely refreshing to see some people’s dreams come to life without having to sell all their rights to some entity.

  4. I really love the idea behind this site. Like the previous commenter mentioned this site allows contributors to vote for the future with their dollar in a much purer, and much more direct, way than simply purchasing a product off the shelve. This site allows you to support an idea, not a black box corporation and as a result, by donating to a specific project, you can shape the future in the way that you see best, instead of in a way that is most profitable to a company. Additionally, this site very much fits into the ideas of Ethical Egoism, in that, by donating money, it may not be in your best interest in the short term, but in the long term you are both doing what’s in your best interest(supporting a product that will improve your life) as well as what is ethically right, (benefiting mankind).

  5. This is a great initiative, i believe it will boost the enthusiasm of engineers to invent better and efficient tools. Inventing an idea is one thing and developing the idea into a tangible tool is another thing, and the later requires a lot of money; with the Kickstarer, it makes it easier to raise funds for developing an idea. Another important part i like about Kickstarter is that donors will only donate when the dollar amount accumulate to meet the required amount, say $50,000; this will ensure transparency and ensures the money is generated towards the right purpose.

    • That’s an interesting point about transparency. It is also related to jessekelly’s idea that when you pledge money for a Kickstarter project you are not just tossing your money into a black box.

      It is true (at least in the Kickstarter projects I’ve looked at) that the projects seem to be pretty transparent. One reason for this is that they have to put a lot of details out there in order to get people have enough faith to invest.

      However, I don’t know if there is anything about the Kickstarter model that guarantees (or, as you put it, “ensures”) transparency. Here’s one point: Sometimes Kickstarter projects get WAY more money than they ask for. So, besides giving pledgers the rewards, they can really do anything they want with the rest of the money. According to Kickstarter, the only obligation a project creator has to follow through on is delivering the rewards they offerred.

      So, in summary, I just wanted to say that I am not totally convinced Kickstarter projects are necessarily so transparent.

      Thoughts?

      • Isn’t keeping the excess money after RD and production no difference then any other company in term of transparency?

        You pay for X amount of money and get X good or reward. For example if Apple charges $500 bucks for a iPad and spends $400 dollars developing and making it Apple still gets to keep the $100 as profit and can do with it want it wants without telling anyone and doesn’t have to return the $100 to the customer.

        A lot of the rewards are pre-orders for the kick starter products. So kick starter is basically a store were you pay up front but get your money back if the store goes bankrupted (aka doesn’t get enough pledge money). If you invested in a start up and it ran out of money you don’t get your money back. So kick starter is more “transparent” as in you can seen its finances and popularity before “investing”.

        • Good points.

          I guess it depends on how we understand what the kickstarter rewards are supposed to be. If the reward is just an item that you are purchasing for the price of your pledge, then I guess it is no different than any other company. The creator of the project should gets to keep the extra money.

          On the other hand, if Kickstarter projects are supposed to start new ventures that will last beyond just the Kickstarter drive, then I think the pledgers can expect more than just receiving the reward. For instance, here is an interesting Kickstarter project. The Kickstarter drive was used to secure some early funding for a big project, the Global Village Construction Set. The rewards, especially the low dollar rewards, were mere tokens. If project creators had stopped work on the project once everyone received their rewards, then I think the pledgers would have felt ripped off.

          I think what this shows is that there is more than one kind of Kickstarter project. There are the more product-oriented ones where people pay for the reward and there are the organization-oriented ones where people pay to contribute to something.

  6. This is becoming a huge trend in the tech/gaming industry. Creative differences within larger organizations has seemed to slow down the release of quality ‘new’ products. The cost to develop is astronomical, so to ‘outsource’ the early stages of this seems ideal. Apple allows users to develop apps for a % of the take. Steam (a PC gaming platform) is releasing more and more independent titles. Even reality TV has joined the race, allowing people to come on with their fresh idea and pitch to savvy bussinessmen (and women) in hopes of raising money for their company. Kickstarter of course permits anyone to be a part of this.

    Allowing literally anyone to come up with ideas and have the opportunity to develop them is a great idea. I will take the devil’s advocate approach, however. The larger companies that end up purchasing these fledgling ideas are now taking little to none of the risk. With all the capital at their fingertips, we should hold the corporations more responsible for the development.

    • Good to hear the devil’s advocate approach. The idea seems to be that individuals and small groups bear all the risk and responsibility for Kickstarter projects, yet corporations are still able to reap all the rewards. Interesting.

      I wonder:

      First, is that true the corporations really can reap all the rewards?

      Second, is there a way to ensure the actual innovators and creators are rewarded?