Crowdfunding has changed the way people create and experience technology. However, not all technological projects benefit from crowdfunding. Companies that choose to crowdfund tend not to have a lot of access to vendors and manufacturing long-term, so items are created on short lease contracts and in batches. In this article, I wanted to quickly describe some basic types of crowdfunding that I’ve self-defined in the hopes someone else might find it helpful.
One thing anyone considering crowdfunded projects needs to remember is: they are not a store and there is no guarantee that the product will be delivered. There is no recourse for the person providing the funds in 95% of situations and it remains the company’s choice on what they choose to do about bumps in the road.
Always remember that crowdfunding comes with risks and you should make decisions based on the evidence you have, not what you believe. That can be a tricky thing to differentiate between especially if you are really excited about something being offered.
All that being said, for sake of argument, crowdfunding in my mind fits into three broad categories.
Standalones: These are the projects that to me, crowdfunding does best. They work upon release and do not require additional support down the road. They don’t require consumables, servers or software updates to keep working the same way they first came out of the box.
An example is the Snoopa Vmate gimbal camera I backed earlier last year. While it has firmware updates and an app, it can be used directly from the camera, which should add to the lifespan of the device. Like several crowdfunded projects, I wouldn’t hope much for warranty issues or spare parts, but in the meantime, it was an expensive solution to get some unique shots I couldn’t otherwise get with my traditional camera setup.
Dependent: These are projects that I think are the highest risk. Beyond the initial launch of the product, they require additional infrastructure to function. That can be software updates or supplies that the company has to provide. The IoT movement has learned time and time again that your devices can become useless bricks if the update tap is turned off.
The Unihertz Titan that I backed a while ago had a variety of challenges on launch but managed to navigate most of them. Android 10 has been delayed rather significantly and while it has been released, can currently only be flashed manually or pushed to your device by request. Like any phone, its lifespan beyond the hardware will be dictated by the software updates and when they are cut off.
Independent: These are the projects that make a company sustainable. They might start out on crowdfunding sites, but due to success and a different business model, they break the mould and get access to continual manufacturing and can move into the big leagues.
Mobvoi comes to mind when I think about a company that has graduated from the crowdfunding platform. While I didn’t back their very first project, I did back the Ticwatch E and documented my time with it. Mobvoi has gone on to manufacture their own products independently from a crowdfunding platform. A version of the Ticwatch remains my daily driver for my smartwatch.
Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my ramblings on the subject and perhaps you will find it useful when you are deciding which project you might back next or if you want to back your first.