I'm always on the lookout for cool new technology.  Sometimes, I find it in the most unexpected of places.

Non-traditional Funding

One of my favorite newer websites in Kickstarter.

Thanks to community efforts, artists and inventors can successfully fund their projects without seeking equity-draining venture capital or taking out a loan from the bank. By crowdfunding, the community becomes an active participant in the future of the product or project.

It's fantastic! But it's also a bit of a challenge.

Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing funding source.  If you reach your financial target, you get paid and can proceed.  If you're short - even by just a few dollars - you don't get a dime.  I've seem a handful of projects come to within a thousand or a hundred dollars in the last hours of the campaign only to fall short and, subsequently, fail.

This is what brings Indiegogo (another crowdfunding website) even higher on my list.[ref]Indiegogo is also the platform through which I've pitched and funded some projects, including a mission trip to Haiti and the new podcasting setup I use to product The Things that Matter Most.[/ref] Through what's called a "flexible funding campaign," you can attempt to raise your project's money and, even if you fall short of the goal, still collect what you've raised so you can bootstrap and move forward.

For some projects, the flexible nature of the campaign is what saves things.  It's also one of the major impetuses for using Indiegogo over Kickstarter.[ref]In the past, Kickstarter was also much more selective in what projects they allowed to appear on the site while Indiegogo allowed any submissions.  Kickstarter has recently relaxed their requirements, though, making this less of a concern.[/ref]

Bootstrapped Innovation

Crowdfunding is an incredible way to fund the development of new products and ideas that otherwise would never see the light of day. It serves as both a source of capital - freeing founders to focus solely on development rather than fundraising - and of community validation of otherwise difficult ideas.  When I find an idea I support, I'm quick to both comment to show support and to put up money to prove I'm serious.

Yesterday, I received my "perk" from a recent backing on Indiegogo - a GravityLight.

GravityLight is a project that aims to bring free, clean lighting to the 1.5 billion people in the world who otherwise turn to things like biomass (or kerosene) fuel when it gets dark.


I first saw the GravityLight project shortly after returning home from my trip to Haiti.  I've seen first-hand the lack of efficient, reliable lighting in the developing world - the village I stayed in had 1 lightbulb, powered by a diesel generator.  The project really spoke to me, and I wanted to see it become a reality.

Thankfully, so did many others.

GravityLight asked the community for $55k to help make their dream a reality and begin shipping prototypes.  The community came through - to the tune of $399k!

The perk I selected - contributors are often repaid for their kindness with some form of bonus - is a GravityLight prototype of my own plus sending one to a family in the developing world.  I've received mine; I hope a family somewhere is receiving theirs very soon.

Technical innovation is becoming a rare thing in the world, which is what makes it all the more precious.  When I see such innovation, particularly when it supports a wonderful cause, I want to embrace and protect it.

Where do you see innovation happening? What's your first reaction when you see it?