How did the crowd funding platform become the shopping destination for things like artisanal wrapping paper and bras with built-in iPhone pockets?
People love to hate on home-shopping shows -- after all, who in their right mind tunes in to QVC to buy this John Lennon-inspired sterling-silver "Imagine" ring for two easy payments of $27.00? What kind of sad lonely person would do that? Yet these shows continue to exist, so presumably they make money. Presumably these vendors tap into a deep emotional need for connection and self-expression. Presumably these absurd products reflect the values and desires of a group of home shoppers -- old people who still own TVs, of course, not digitally savvy hipsters with good taste in stuff.
Browsing Kickstarter, however, it seems we have a new wave of aspiring entrepreneurs making a play for the aspirational clicks of the Internet's early adopters, tastemakers, and Twitterati. These consumers would never be caught dead buying kitsch from QVC, but they've poured millions of dollars into bespoke design objects and high tech accessories. But they're not passive consumers -- they're backers, funding fledgling creative ventures of all kinds. Because each Kickstarter project begins with a pitch video (already spoofed in Portlandia), surfing the site becomes a hybrid process of watching and shopping, essentially the same mechanism at work in home shopping television. The buy-in might be more rewarding, in the sense that one can participate in making a creative project happen, rather than simply purchasing a novelty item, but increasingly, the most-funded projects on Kickstarter are precisely those that pre-sell physical products (in the categories of games, design, and technology, according to The New York Times).
From aquariums made out of vintage iMacs to handcrafted bamboo sunglasses, the following projects read like a game of hipster bingo -- look for words like "sustainable," "custom," "handmade," "unique," and "iPhone." All are fully funded, meaning their creators have received the necessary funding to move forward with production.
Project: Coffee Joulies
What it is: Metal coffee beans (filled with a proprietary melting substance) that cool down hot coffee, and then keep it at the "right" temperature.
Money quote: "It started with a problem I think everyone has experienced: coffee isn't always the right temperature."
Funding raised: $306,944
What it costs: $40
Project: TikTok and LunaTik
What it is: A wristband that turns an iPod Nano into a multi-touch watch.
Money quote: "We wanted to create a product that your friends and strangers would stop you and ask "WTF is that??? And where can I get one?!""
Funds raised: $942,578
What it costs: $34.95 and up
What it is: A bra with built in pockets for gadgets.
Money quote: "The idea for this project came to me after I was gone for a long weekend. When I came back to check my computer, I had multiple notifications on Facebook from girls who had lost or broken their phones while going out and needed everyone's number."
Funds raised: $10,346
What it costs: $30 and up
Project: iMac Aquariums
What it is: Vintage iMacs with aquariums built in.
Money quote: "I already have 150 iMacs and the sources to get more."
Funds raised: $9,847
What it costs: $225 and up
Project: Panda Eco-Friendly Handmade Bamboo Sunglasses
What it is: Eco-friendly handmade bamboo sunglasses.
Money quote: "Bamboo is quickly becoming one of the most important plants in the world."
Funding raised: $19,485
What it costs: $48 and up
Project: Gift Couture Premium Wrapping Paper
What it is: Artisanal wrapping paper.
Money quote: "Our main goal is to produce unique papers that coordinate together into conceptualized themes and sets. This is exemplified in the Cheeseburger set that we chose to use as this initial project. This includes 5 different wrapping paper designs; a bun, hamburger, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes, all of the components of a Cheeseburger!"
Funding raised: $16,713
What it costs: $5 and up
Project: Biochemies DNA Molecule Plush Dolls
What it is: Adorable, googlie-eyed thymine, adenine, guanine, and cytosine.
Money quote: "I started Biochemies.com two years ago to promote science education. It features images that convey biology and chemistry-related concepts through personification with smiley faces. I encourage the free distribution of these images under Creative Commons and hope that teachers would incorporate these images to enhance their lessons and classroom decor. "
Funding raised: $33,706
What it costs: $35 and up
Project: Grilled Cheesus
What it is: A sandwich press that imprints bread with an image of Jesus.
Money quote: "However you slice it, the GRILLED CHEESUS™ lets you bring little grilled miracles to mealtime, snack time, or anytime."
Funding raised: $25,604
What it costs: $25 and up
The list could go on and on but a few honorable mentions to check out are Scanbox (a scanner setup for iPhones), Hickies ("turn your kicks into slip-ons!"), the HuMn Wallet ("the best minimal RFID blocking wallet"), Loomi (a sculptural, recylable lamp), WineHive (a sculptural, modular wine rack), and Urbio Vertical Garden (magnetic, modular planters). Bought anything good lately?
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.