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Kickstarter

by   -   October 23, 2013

Last year Congress passed Title III of the JOBS Act to allow smaller companies to get an exemption from the strict and costly rules controlling the sale of securities to individuals.
The SEC has developed equity crowdfunding rules in response to that law – rules that help companies raise capital but also protect investors from scams. Those rules are now out for community review and will be enacted shortly thereafter.
Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and the others can apply to qualify but there will likely be a flurry of new Internet portals just for this purpose.
Let the Wild West begin anew!

by   -   May 13, 2013

Othermill

Otherfab, a spin-off from San Francisco-based Otherlab, an engineering, energy, education, math, computation and design research facility, surpassed their Kickstarter goal and is well on their way to produce their new CNC device.
by   -   March 24, 2013
At last weekend’s Engadget Expand event in Fort Mason, San Francisco, Kickstarter‘s co-founder Yancey Strickler started off the show with a presentation of many of Kickstarter’s crowd-funding success stories. 17 projects raised $1 million+ in 2012 including Pebble, the customizable watch, Oculus Rift, a  virtual reality headset for video games, SmartThings, a platform and hub that connect household things to the Internet and your smartphone, and Form 1, an affordable plug and play high-res 3D printer. [As an aside, Stanford now teaches a for-credit course on Kickstarter.]
by   -   February 15, 2013

Welcome to Robotics by Invitation! This month we’ve asked our experts to weigh in on the best way to create tomorrow’s robotics industry. Here’s what they have to say:

Raffaello-DAndreaRaffaello D’Andrea on “What funding scheme is the most conducive to creating a robotics industry?”

The best way to commercialize robotics research is to make better connections between academics and entrepreneurs.  Academics venturing out into the business world tend to …

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Henrik ChristensenHenrik Christensen on “What funding scheme is the most conducive to creating a robotics industry?”

The public should in most cases not subsidize companies. Tax payers should not be venture capitalists. The new wave of Lean Startup going around the world is a great model to ensure that …

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Mark Tilden
Mark Tilden on “What funding scheme is the most conducive to creating a robotics industry?”

Funding schemes aren’t viable until we can make more innovative roboticists, and over the years I’ve tried several methods of engendering the Divine Frankenstein Complex in others …

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Frank Tobe
Frank Tobe on “What funding scheme is the most conducive to creating a robotics industry?”

Funding new robotic projects in America is mostly done two different ways:
(1) strategic funding from NASA, DARPA, DoD, NSF and other government organizations to do the pure science involved in solving stumbling blocks in robotics, and …

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Nicola Tomatis
Nicola Tomatis on “What funding scheme is the most conducive to creating a robotics industry?”

I would like to start from the other side: “Why is robotics great in creating new technologies and poor in creating new businesses? …”

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We hope you will join the discussion. Feel free to post your comment.

by   -   January 31, 2013

Funding schemes aren’t viable until we can make more innovative roboticists, and over the years I’ve tried several methods of engendering the Divine Frankenstein Complex in others. Teaching at a university had some merit but little flexibility. Starting international robot competitions brings in exposure but promotes more involvement than innovation. Scientific publications vanish into the ether (though books fare better). Movies, TV shows, and toys are never treated seriously though they spread memes universally. Even being a government research program manager (dispensing millions of $) is a slow bath in futility against IP lawyers and rigid corporate policy.

The most successful (and enjoyable) funding scheme I ever took part in was through a science outreach organization that distributed ‘Angel Cards’. We would actively seek out people who were frustrated but brilliant and give them a $10,000 US a month Visa card to spend on their research “hobby”. No other paperwork. At the end of 6 months we’d assess what they’d done and up their card to $20,000/month if good, or we’d just cancel the card, thank them, and walk away.

26% turned out something amazing, and not always in robotics, but that was fine. It was an excellent integrity test proctoring scientific conviction, but it’s exhausting for the managers, which is why we had to recruit successful candidates to take our place when we moved on. Regrettably the program stopped a decade ago, but for a while there it was like Santa Claus for innovation – an option to explore exotic, tangental paths without consequence, and I’m glad to see many of our docents have diversified profitably.

Money well spent. Always hoped someone else would take it up, and it seems a form of it has with the net-wide Kickstarter trend now raging. Rather than indenture a researcher to servitude under a venture-capital scheme or the bureaucracy of government funding, pre-customers can buy into a future product on promises and universal visibility. The personal investment is small, the risk distributed, and some of the products look promising.

Though crowd sourcing lacks the ‘blue-sky’ appeal of pure research outreach, I feel the best robotic funding scheme at present is to invest in cool and visible crowd-sourced ventures.

Or you could fund my ass. A cool hundred mil otta do it. :)

Read more answers →

by   -   November 8, 2012

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the Robot Dragonfly from TechJect. Developed over four years by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology for the US Air Force, the researchers are now investigating commercial and consumer opportunities through their recently released campaign on the crowd-funding website, IndieGoGo.

by   -   September 26, 2012

Kickstarter’s recent decision making it very difficult for hardware projects to use the platform just highlights two very useful things to know about crowdfunding. Firstly, not all crowdfunding platforms are equal. And secondly, the decision to disallow renderings and multiple product rewards only affects the lazy kickstarter projects that probably weren’t going to be successful anyway. Lazy crowdfunding projects make two big mistakes; like hoping that the platform will do all the marketing; or using the project as a learning curve in design, manufacturing and delivery.

by   -   August 22, 2012

Claire Delauney’s Botiful Kickstarter campaign is in its last hours and as she crosses the funded line, Claire shares with us some of her strategies and insights into running a successful Kickstarter. (SF Bay Area Robotics Meetup) No, it isn’t always easy or #botiful, but Claire’s tips include:

  • Have a captivating video with a clear message in the opening seconds.
  • Engage with audience via updates – extend your story.
  • Conversion rates are very low, so you have to reach beyond your own channels.
  • It takes 100s of attempts to get media/blog interest.
  • Be full time on your campaign, and in hindsight, also engage a PR specialist.

Jeremy Conrad, from Lemnos Labs, had some price point insights:

  • Add 40% margin to your max cost estimate to protect against unforeseen.

This is a great tip because many campaigns that I’ve seen operate on a “we only charge what we’ll need to manufacture”. Firstly, this doesn’t leave you with any margin when shit does happen, and potentially leaves you out of pocket or your backers without any rewards. Secondly, unless you only want to make one batch of your robot, how are you going to distribute in future?

Distributors need to have a margin on top of manufacture and if you set the public expectation of your price point below the final market price, then you aren’t an attractive distribution prospect. It’s not enough to think about how to fund the project. You have to think about how to manufacture and distribute afterwards, including packaging and branding, so that future products have some tie in.

I provided an introduction to the Meetup with some Kickstarter “robot” project statistics, which I’ve scraped from their site. I’ll share a full post later on but in brief:

  • 50% projects are unsuccessful
  • Kickstarter is a long tail business – drop off in $ raised from 1st to 10th is huge.
  • Majority of projects are about $3000-$4000
  • Average pledge is $80ish but median pledge is closer to $30
So, although the eyes of the world are on the stellar projects who earn $millions (and they are largely hardware or real stuff projects!), most of the action is in the tail end and rewards don’t need to be real stuff. Improving your prototyping for <$10,000 and rewarding backers with ‘love and stickers’ may be more desirable than a first manufacturing run. Plus it’s a good test of your market channels.
Also, IndieGoGo representatives discussed some of the differences and benefits of various crowdfunding platforms outside of Kickstarter. Did you know there are over 100 crowdfunding platforms globally? And of course, IndieGoGo is set up for campaigns from around the world, not just the US.
Finally, we launched the Robot Launchpad “Launchies”! Our first awards for promoting robot startups via social marketing go to:
  • Claire Delauney (Botiful) – Botiful campaign (video & updates)
  • Elad Inbar (Robot App Store) – Botiful/RAS blog dialogues
  • Saurabh Palan (iRoboticist) – most number of #botiful shares (twitter, facebook and face to face)
  • Jeremy Conrad (Lemnos Labs) – promoting and supporting robot startups & events generally
pictured L to R: Claire Delauney, Saurabh Palan, Andra Keay, Jeremy Conrad, Elad Inbar.
(The great little “Launchie” trophies are in the mail because the laser cutter is sulking over missing out.)

 

by   -   August 14, 2012

SF Bay Area Robotics meetup – August 21 7pm – 8.30pm at Lemnos Labs – is a kickstarter edition. Claire Delauney will share her experience with Botiful, as she reaches the final 12 hours of her Kickstarter and is currently still only 75% 80% funded. There will be a speakers with kickstarter a range of experiences, positive and negative and we discuss what it takes for a successful hardware startup campaign and when Kickstarter or other crowdfunding platforms are a strategic good fit for your project.

One thing to consider before crowdfunding your robot startup, is that around half of all projects don’t get funded. Also, some crowdfunding platforms specialize in creative projects or projects with a lower average target than a hardware startup. Those 6 figure success stories are unusual if you look closely at the data. I’m currently drafting up a deeper look at crowdfunding data vis robots (or product based projects). Crowdfunding can be an amazing tool for launching your robot startup but too many good robots are missing their target due to lack of marketing. Not only is hardware more expensive to launch than an album or even a short film, but we often also lack the fan base.

But at Robot Launchpad, a problem is just an opportunity we haven’t seized yet. We’re going to launch the Launchies! Let’s see who the social network sharp shooters are! The Launchies are awards for robot startup marketing. First topic – Botiful (or #botiful) – Claire Delauney’s ‘Botiful’ kickstarter campaign closes on Wednesday August 22nd and is 75% 80% funded. We should all be backers because Botiful is beautiful, but we want everyone to test their market channels.

  • Best/funniest share of video (check out Elad’s entry already at Robot App Store!)
  • Best/funniest share of picture
  • Best/funniest share of text (tweet or blog)
  • Most number of times #botiful is shared
  • and overall Biggest Social Badass award

plus most creative use of ANY/ALL social networks – not just internet ones!

Don’t make us search for you – send us a link! Awards winners will be announced on Tuesday 21st August at the SF Bay Area Robotics Meetup. There will be trophies and prizes! There will be glory!

by   -   August 9, 2012

Ken Ihara’s creation “The Cardboard Robot” has just been funded on Kickstarter. The Cardboard Robot is a giant industrial sized robot arm with a reach just shy of 6 feet. Attach the smart phone camera attachment, and you have a robotic camera crane. The computer-controlled cardboard robot plugs into your computer via the USB port and is fully programmable. In software, you can define set points and then have the robot arm run through the programmed path. You can save your programmed paths as CSV files, which you can edit in Excel.  Motor speed is independently adjustable. As PC World put it, one advantage is it’s industrial size but can’t kill you. The other great advantage is cost.

CNET- “Thanks to its corrugated construction, the Cardboard Robot lets you command your own industrial-size claw or film crane for a fraction of the cost of a metal arm.”

There have been other cardboard robots, even robot arms but this one is the first to combine functionality with affordability. Ihara reached his relatively modest Kickstarter goal of $10,000 with days to spare. Also for every $3,000 that is raised by the Kickstarter funding campaign, Ihara will send one complete kit to a high school in the USA.

Cardboard is economical in and of itself, but its light weight as a material creates a reduction in costs across the board, as motors don’t need to be as large or powerful, etc. Robotics is perhaps a better use for cardboard because of the flow on effect, rather than the infamous cardboard bicycle which might only cost $9 to make but will retail for approx $90. You can buy a metal bike from Walmart for the same price. (Gioria Kariv from Israel is pictured here from recent press but another variant was also created in 2008 by UK student Phil Bridge)

Kariv credits a cardboard canoe for giving him inspiration. I am similarly inspired by the Origami Kayak. Oru is made out of corrugated polypropolene rather than pure cardboard , but has similar features. It’s strong, light, flexible and cheap. Both materials allow for different design and manufacturing techniques which haven’t been fully explored yet.

If you haven’t seen Anton Willis demonstrating his kayak at TechShop or at meetups, then you can read David Lang’s piece on Oru for Make Magazine. Anton Willis used TechShop to create prototypes for a product that is now ready for sale. He’s also inspired by the many other untapped projects for polypropolene and cardboard.

The potential in new ways to construct robots is as exciting for robotics as the other recent changes like rapid prototyping, bespoke manufacturing and 3d printing.