Idea This

Ideas don’t create themselves. Whether it’s a new album you recorded in your garage, a series of prints, a mobile brick-fired pizza oven, or a phone app, there are always hurdles that need to be crossed to push your product into development and onto the market. The web has several “crowdfunding” sites where people collectively support efforts of the serious, wacky, or inspired entrepreneurs, and finding the right platform is as important as the idea itself.

The most vocal of crowdfunding platforms, Kickstarter caters to a wide range of projects. Creators use the provided product-page templates to entice potential investors. A video that explains the history of your project and what you hope to do with it helps, as do the investor incentives. For example, if you are requesting $2,000 to publish a new issue of your literary magazine or to produce high-quality playing cards, you could provide a signed copy or free decks to supporters who fall in a certain category (say $20-$30), or any number of creative ways to support your backers. Kickstarter says that “82 percent of projects that raise more than 20 percent of their goal were successfully funded.”

Funding: All-or-nothing. You set a fundraising goal and have a time limit to fill it. The investors get their money back if the goal isn’t reached in the set time, making Kickstarter relatively low-risk, but also motivating for creators to put forth effort.

Cost: Projects are free to start; if successful, Kickstarter gets 5 percent, and Amazon takes 3 to 5 percent for processing payments.

Indiegogo is similar to Kickstarter, but aimed more towards low-cost campaigns. One interesting feature is the “gogofactor,” a factor determined by consistently updating your product, using social media for advertisement, and the completeness of your idea. The gogofactor brings your project more attention on the site, and shows how determined a creator is. Focused more on art and personal projects than Kickstarter, Indiegogo’s homepage could feature a wide variety of projects like replacing a stolen air-conditioning unit for a local library, raising money for someone in a hospital, or convenient collapsible coffee cups. Campaigns also have a reward/perks tiered system for the backers.

Funding: Flexible funding allows the creators to keep the money (payable in several ways) they raised, and fixed funding uses the more-common all-or-nothing approach, which is often lower-risk for backers and guarantees perks if it is successful.

Cost: 4 percent charge for successful campaigns, or 9 percent for unsuccessful. Fixed: 4 percent charge for successful, or full refunds to backers if not.

For $10, that idea you had about that pop-up bookshelf, ergonomic spatula, or glow-in-the-dark-double-sided tape could come to life. Quirky is a product platform in the truest form, where home, bath, utility, and many other types of inventions and gadgets are taken through the idea to development phase with community support. After you submit an idea, the community curates it by voting on suggestions and refining the design. If the project gains enough influence and support, it continues onto engineering, market research, and manufacturing phases. The unique aspect of Quirky is how involved you can be from the backer side (details on design, product names, etc.) and the possibility of gaining shares of the products’ sales.

Sales: Successful products are sold through Quirky. The inventor gets around 35 percent of sales, and a smaller percent is split between the products’ influencers.

Cost: $10 an idea.

An increasingly popular, online merchant-market type shop, Etsy is a home-style and do-it-yourself digital marketplace. Etsy says they are the “anthropologists of commerce,” and encourages its vendors to share the stories behind their products, which could range from linen necklaces and fingertip warmers to vintage, mis-printed movie posters and driftwood coffee tables. It’s a buyer’s resource for crafty ideas and filling that awkard space in your living room, and a seller’s outlet for creativity. The site is simple and as easy to use as selling knickknacks out of milk crates at farmers markets.

Cost: Etsy takes a 3.5 percent fee on all sales; $.20 to list an item for four months.

Specific to musicians and music-enthusiasts, Bandcamp is the perfect place to publish and sell your music and merchandise directly to your fans. Like other crowdfunding platforms, Bandcamp allows visitors to discover and support artists by streaming their songs and purchasing their albums. It’s easy to use, and the one-stop shop for fans.

Cost: 15 percent on digital items; 10 percent for physical.

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