AMITIAE - Sunday 17 February 2013

Kickstarter Project Micro-Financing with an iPhone App

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By Graham K. Rogers


One of the best third party accessories I have for the iPhone is the olloclip lens attachment. It gives me macro, wide-angle and fish-eye lenses. It was a great idea and to get it off the ground, the developers received funding through Kickstarter.

There is a FAQ on the Kickstarter pages that explains in full detail about the idea, but in brief it is a funding platform. It links small investors to projects in need of investment. Those interested can pledge cash to help the project reach a target amount; and it that target is reached, the project can go ahead.

I did this not so long ago for a new lens system called Mobi-Lens. A couple of developers had an idea for a system that would allow extra lenses to be used with many devices: not specifically for the iPhone as with olloclip. By using the link from the Mobi-Lens information page to Kickstarter, I was able to pledge a certain amount, although initially there was no charge to my credit card.

With the amount I pledged, this also gave me some of the first products made. Only when the target was met was the payment deducted. A few months later - pledging having been successful - a couple of the lenses arrived in my mailbox and I wrote about the system at the beginning of this month.

I had heard about the Mobi-Lens project by reading an article on one of my online sources, but trying to find information on new projects is not too easy, although there is a Facebook page and a Twitter link. There is now also a Kickstarter app for the iPhone.

The app opens with a list of projects below a Sign up With Facebook panel. At the bottom are three buttons: K Discover (for the list of projects); Activity, for when a project is backed; and Log in. As this offers only a Facebook sign up I was reluctant to access this. I did try to login using another email address, but this was not apparently possible. Also on the opening screen any projects near the user's location are identified. There are none currently for Bangkok.

Backing a project is done through an online credit card transaction and I will not link in any way to Facebook for that. If I do find a project I am interested in, like the last time, I can complete a transaction using a browser on my computer.

Kickstarter Kickstarter

On the main, Discover screen, there were 24 projects listed, each with a video about the project. Below this was a progress bar showing how far pledging had reached, with the target amount and pledged amount shown. Also shown were the number of backers and the number of days until time was up. If a project passes the deadline, it is not backed and those pledging are not required to pay.

Examples of projects listed include shops, restaurants (Maggie's Farm), books, games, movies, records as well as hardware like Hacker Glasses and Tesla Tronix (Tesla Power for the Masses), a project that is fully pledged, and more with over $14,000 with $2500 needed. There is also a project to back performance of Brecht's Threepenny Opera as well as other projects in the Arts field.

At the top is a button marked Staff Picks and this gives four links (Staff Picks, Popular, Starred and Search), with a list of 13 categories below. These include Art (319), Fashion (194), Photography (92) and Technology (130).

Staff Picks and Popular show a number of projects with video and other information. Starred projects becomes active when a user selects a project to follow, but if a suer wants to use this, a login using Facebook is required. Search finds any projects with a theme related to the search word. I tried "Dog" (simple enough I thought) and was surprised by a list of 10 projects.

Kickstarter Kickstarter

I looked at the technology section and there were a number of interesting projects, as well as some that may work and one that . . . You can back the Death Star that some think the USA needs, but that the government turned down recently. So far it has £256915 pledged and needs £20,000,000 (note the currency is Pounds Sterling for this project: others are in US Dollars). So far there are 1802 backers with 44 days to go. The Rebel Alliance X-Wing craft is doing slightly better.

While the Star Wars projects are unlikely to get off the ground (pun intended) a large number of the others listed have possibilities. Most of the information panels in the Technology section had video information to introduce the project, while all had a text outline along with other information concerning how different levels of pledges would work.

Kickstarter is a novel way for projects that might not otherwise attract the venture capital investors, to interest ordinary users, whose own finances would normally preclude them from such investments. By providing a Kickstarter app for project information, links and pledging, the organisation has an easier way to reach the smaller backers and give more chance for those with projects to see them to fruition.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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