The Pebble smart watch epitomizes the crowd-funding success story. After the creators raised $375,000 from angel investors, the flow of money came to a halt, with venture capitalists wary of financing a hardware startup.
That's when the team — the same guys behind the Blackberry-compatible InPulse smart watch — decided to turn to Kickstarter for funding. Their goal was ambitious: $100,000 to produce a slick smart watch compatible with iPhone and Android devices.
An elegant watch face, integration with email and social networks, fitness tracking features and an open SDK inviting new apps appealed to the crowd. A little after the first day, the project reached its goal and then some, raising $1 million. Thus far at over $7.5 million (and counting), it is the highest-grossing Kickstarter project ever.
Users have put their faith backing numerous useful, innovative and quirky projects since Kickstarter's founding three years ago. That's saying a lot because there's no such thing as a guarantee on the crowd-funding website. We've rounded up 10 well-designed Kickstarter blockbusters that far exceeded their funding goals. Got a favorite Kickstarter success story of your own and don't see it here? Let us know in the comments below.
With cars, pedestrians and dogs on the streets, bikers have a hard time navigating the road safely. Once darkness arrives, they have another issue: being seen. That's why avid cyclists embraced Revolights with open arms (rims?). After a number of prototypes, three guys from Palo Alto created what they considered a revolutionary bike lighting system (hence the name). They mounted LEDs directly on the wheel rims to resemble a car's lights, with a white front-facing glow and red tail lights. So far, there have been four prototypes but no word on availability yet. They're still designing, building and testing new prototypes.
Who says people don't care about privacy these days? With the rise of social networks, trusting personal information to companies can be uneasy for many. Four programmers from NYU turned down summer internships and jobs to build Diaspora, an open-source decentralized network that lets users own their social graphs and online identities. The product they have now is Diaspora Alpha, which is in invite-only mode. The guys were transparent with their spending, even making their profit and loss statement publicly available. In the end, they overspent by $238.
A quirky looking product, CineSkates is the result of putting wheels on a GorillaPod. Made by Austin-based designers and filmmakers, CineSkates is a relatively affordable way to add cinematic-like motion, using Joby's top of the line GorillaPod Focus with ball head. The wheels include markers, which are helpful for smooth timelapse shots. While this project began on Kickstarter, CineSkates has quickly matured and can now be found at Adorama and B&H Photo Video.
4. Pen Type-A
Would you pay $50 for a pen? If you think that's steep, $50 is the discounted price for Kickstarter backers. The Pen Type-A actually retails for $99. So what makes this so special? According to its creators, a pair behind a small Brooklyn design firm, this is an indestructible writing utensil that you'll want to pass down to your children. The design builds off the popular Hi-Tec-C pens, which can be found in Japan, but outfits it with solid stainless steel construction that includes a metal sleeve doubling as a ruler. The minimalistic Pen Type-A writes, measures and gives you ultra nerd cred. Win, win, win.
An ambitious project by Seattle-based ZionEyez, Eyez is a pair of Ray Ban-like shades embedded with a 720p hi-def camera. Funded last summer, the team is working to include 8 GB of flash memory, which could transfer data via WiFi, Bluetooth or micro USB; photos and videos could also be uploaded to iOS and Android devices or social networking websites. It's a smart idea because it allows people to effortlessly shoot hands-free, allowing them to partake in activities instead of capturing them from the sidelines. The creators expect Eyez to be available close to the end of the year.
6. Hidden Radio & Bluetooth speaker
While portable Bluetooth speakers are plentiful, two designers in San Francisco thought they were too complicated to use. Their Hidden Radio & Bluetooth Speaker is as minimalistic as it gets. Instead of buttons to fuss with, users only have to learn one gesture to control the speaker: lift the cap. This turns it on, raises the volume up to 80 dB and allows users to transition to other Hidden speakers. The creators hoped to sell 1,000 units, but with more than 5,000 backers, they raised close to $1 million.
7. Elevation dock
Unsatisfied with the slew of dock products that exist on the market, iPhone owners enthusiastically backed the Elevation Dock. It does only one thing, but it does it well: undock and dock iPhones effortlessly. The 30-pin connector is modified to create less friction, and the dock fits phones with and without cases. When it comes to design, simplicity goes a long way. (No kidding. This raised $1.5 million.)
8. HuMn Wallet
The typical wallet is bulky and doesn't protect you from radio-frequency identification (RFID) skimming, which can lift information wirelessly from sensitive documents such as passports, driver's licenses and credit cards. Enter the slim HuMn wallet, which aims to take the best of wallets and money clips while blocking RFID. Made up of two plates and an elastic strap, the HuMn wallet can hold cash and cards in a low-profile shape.
9. Double Fine Adventure
Nostalgic for old-school adventure games? You're not alone. While the sub-genre has declined, the people at Double Fine, an independent game development studio in San Francisco, are working to create a direct-to-consumer, fan-funded adventure game that collaborates with the community for input on concept, art and music. With the help of 2 Player Productions, the entire process will be documented for the public to see — such openness is a rarity in the game publishing world. But since they sought funding from Kickstarter — the $400,000 goal was met within eight hours — there is no publisher to deal with. What will be the product? "Either the game will be great, or it'll be a spectacular failure caught on camera for everyone to see," says Double Fine's Tim Schafer. We can't wait.
Just because you live in a shoebox-sized apartment in Manhattan doesn't mean you don't have the space to garden. You have a window, right? Brooklyn-based Windowfarms Project used Kickstarter to create hydroponic container gardens that supply plants with liquid nutrients while taking up as little space as possible. Previously, Windowfarms were DIY projects made out of plastic bottles, but there was a barrier to entry because they were difficult to set up. With the project fully funded, the organization was able to create one-column and four-column Windowfarms.
Editor's Note: All figures provided above are as of the posting of this article.