What the Future of Our Crowd-Funded Products Will Look Like

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With all this national media attention for Kickstarter, including a write-up from The New York Timessaying the site had come of age (something The Atlantic Wire had already noted), consumers can expect a lot more tech-related products funded by the people, rather than venture capitalists. "Kickstarter is already proving to be a viable alternative to starting a company the traditional way," Wharton professor David H. Hsu told The Times' Jenna Wortham. And we imagine a Times write-up of a big Kickstarter success will push even more wannabe entrepreneurs to the site that got Pebble $7 million, with just a video appeal to the Kickstarter community to fund a time-piece that hooks up to a smartphone. But this completely mass driven market will deliver a certain type of product, different than what would come out of a traditional tech company or start-up. Just look at some of the other successful Kickstarter funded projects and you'll see both the useful and the absurd.

The Very, Very Useful: Elevation Dock

Funding Received: $1,464,706 of $75,000 goal

Sometimes beloved tech companies don't make quite the right accessories for their successful products. Like, the iPhone dock, which are cheap, hard to handle and useless with cases. The masses have spoken out about this saying it sucks.  But for whatever reason -- maybe because Apple already designed, built and shipped their annoying dock -- the tech company has not respond to consumer demand. In that case, we see something like this Elevation Dock, which Wired's Charlie Sorrel described as "the dock Apple should have made." Unlike Apple's dock option, the Elevation dock is heavy and sticks to a surface, meaning it takes one tug to get the phone out. It also works with a case cover. It is something that does not exist that the consumer wants, which makes a very easy appeal for a Kickstarter company: Give us money and we'll give you the exact thing you want that does not yet exist. That's the type of thing the masses love and the tech world could use. 

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The Utterly Quirky: Desktop Jellyfish Tank

Funding Received: $162,917 of $3,000 goal

This product doesn't replace something broken, but introduces an odd, more fun version of something that already exists. Jellyfish can't go in regular tanks, explains the Kickstarter page, "because they get sucked into the filtration intakes and liquefied."  So, we get this sea-monkey-esque jellyfish only tank. These type of off beat designs, especially in the crowdsource community, have a certain draw. It fills the "wouldn't it be neat" niche. These are the types of things that might be too risky or too weird for a VC to put money into. But on Kickstarter, if the crowd wants a jellyfish tank, or some other unnecessary, weirdo, desk decoration, it will speak via money. And, if it's a flop, then it's just another unfunded Kickstarter project.

Perfecting the Perfect Design: Pen Type-A

Funding Received: 281,989 of $2,500 goal

A company that makes something beloved yet economical might not think about a better, more durable, more beautiful design. But Kickstarter will. That's what we saw with this Pen Type-A. Design studio CW&T took a writing implement they loved, the very breakable, disposable Pilot Hi-Tec-C pen and created a pretty long-lasting case. A big manufacturer wouldn't do something like this because it's expensive for such a small market. But, as we see with this Kickstarter project, we get designs for a group of people too small for Pilot to care about, but just right for Kickstarter starters. 

A Cheaper Option: PID-Controlled Espresso Machine

Funding Received: $369,569 of $20,000 goal

There are certain commercial things that are too expensive for regular people to afford, but regular people would love to have. As Kickstarter appeals to regular people, we see cheaper, more accessible versions of fancy things, like, this $200 espresso machine. Of course, like all less expensive versions of expensive things, this machine could just suck. But, the way the Internet and crowd-sourcing works, we get a lot of commentary in the comments section. But, that's also the risk one takes in funding something via the Internet. One can't really see, touch, or use these things the way a VC would demand a test with the espresso machine. As The Atlantic Wire's Adam Clark Estes pointed out, not even Kickstarter's immune to PR.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.