Kickstarter's Crowdfunding Competitors That Also Help Deliver the Goods
If you plan to launch a product through a crowdfunding campaign, you need to be prepared to fulfill your backers’ expectations in a timely fashion. Fortunately, several new crowdfunding platforms have sprung up to help you bridge the gap between crowdfunding and ecommerce.
These new platforms realize that many crowdfunding campaigns lag in delivering their products to supporters. In fact, more than 75 percent of crowdfunded-project creators deliver their products late, according to a new study by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Just consider the largest Kickstarter campaign to date, the Pebble watch. After raising a whopping $10 million (100 times its goal) in May 2012, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Pebble was faced with fulfilling more than 85,000 orders within a promised deadline of five months. But one year later, it has shipped only 70,000.
To avoid such situtations, these three platforms aim to keep entrepreneurs on track and backers happy:
1. Crowd Supply -- Launched in March 2013, Portland, Ore.-based Crowd Supply supports designers of everything from game controllers to eco-friendly yoga mats through a suite of a la carte services that include product planning, campaign hosting, order fulfillment and online retailing. “We call ourselves ‘Kickstarter for capitalists,’” says Crowd Supply president Lou Doctor.
For entrepreneurs Bryan Kappa, 31, and Rob Story, 28, fulfillment services were a big concern before launching the Portland Press, a French press for Mason jars. “We didn’t want 1,000 of [our products] sitting in our living rooms,” Story says. “Crowd Supply had the solution.”
Having met their funding goal in June, Kappa and Story are now manufacturing 500 Portland Presses that will be stored with Crowd Supply and delivered by December 2013 -- a deadline they might even bump up.
2. Make That Thing -- Easthampton, Mass.-based Make That Thing, which is still in beta, offers the same suite of services as Crowd Supply, but it’s geared to “artists and creators.” Since launching in February 2013, it has helped create a plush toy, party game and comics series. One other difference from Crowd Supply: While Make That Thing helps artists conceptualize their campaigns, it doesn’t host them within its own site.
Of their completed campaigns, one has exceeded its funding goal by 17 times and another by 24 times. But regardless of how large a project grows, product delivery is the company's focus. “Our goal is always to have a six-month maximum turnaround on delivery,” says Make That Thing's co-founder Holly Rowland.
3. Christie Street -- The Santa Monica, Calif., based Christie Street is designed specifically for inventors and welcomes any category of physical product, except pharmaceuticals and firearms. But, unlike Crowd Supply and Make That Thing, Christie Street, which got its start in December 2012, doesn't offer production and fulfillment services. Instead, it simply vets products to make sure they can be manufactured to scale, which is a huge challenge for inventors, says Christie Street CEO Jamie Siminoff.
“A lot of inventors will put something out there that they think they can make, but they don’t realize it’s not viable,” Siminoff says. “Our process protects the inventors from hurting themselves.”
To keep inventors accountable, Christie Street doles out their funds (less a 5 percent fee) in three stages: The first third gets released after the campaign meets its funding goal, the second third once the inventor produces a fully functional sample and the final third goes out when the product is ready for manufacturing. If a product runs more than six months past the promised delivery date, buyers can expect a partial refund. For example, if the inventor fails to produce the sample, he or she won’t receive the remaining two-thirds of funding, and backers will get two-thirds of their pledge back.
While still in their early days, each of these platforms has supported at least one campaign that is scheduled to deliver on time. So what could this mean for the established crowdfunding sites?
“Kickstarter and Indiegogo aren’t going anywhere,” says Richard Bliss, co-founder of Social Tech Media, a San Jose, Calif.-based crowdfunding-consulting company, and host of crowdfunding podcast Funding the Dream. “This is the next evolution of crowdfunding," adds Bliss. "It’s common these days for a campaign to exceed its goal, and I predict these platforms will become more needed as projects become bigger and bigger."
How do you think crowdfunding could change for the better? Let us know with a comment.
Rachel Solomon is a freelance journalist based in New York City. She has covered small business, personal finance, consumer advocacy and wealth management for outlets including Smartmoney.com, The Wall Street Journal Online and Reuters Insider.