Crowdfunding triumphs: 11 runaway successes
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Nikola Tesla Museum
In 2012, Matthew Inman from The Oatmeal, a web comic site, started an Indiegogo campaign to build a Nikola Tesla museum and science center to honor the late engineer and save the site of the Wardenclyffe Tower, which was demolished in 1917. He raised more than $1 million in nine days to create a “Goddamn Tesla Museum.” New York state also matched the donations, pushing the campaign over $2 million. Then this month, Elon Musk donated $1 million to get it off the ground.
Solar Roadways raised $2.2 million through their Indiegogo campaign, and along the way they broke a few records. The Idaho-based startup worked on the technology for many years before starting the campaign to scale their prototypes, and the founders were blown away by the support of the world. Part of the reason was because their video “Solar Freakin’ Roadways” went viral.
The Scanadu Scout wasn’t originally intended for consumers — it was a project with NASA to help monitor astronauts on the international space station. The device is a “medical-grade Tricoder” that uses Bluetooth LE and your smartphone to monitor your vitals. Place it on your forehead for 10 seconds and your medical information wll be sent to your smartphone. It raised almost $1.7 million on Indiegogo, well over its $100,000 goal. Then, it raised $10.5 million in Series A funding, paving the way for its FDA approval.
Diaspora brought together four young programmers from NYU to build an open source personal web server over one summer instead of working or doing any other internships. The personal server stores all your information and shares it with your friends, securely. Their original $10,000 goal was quickly exceeded — the foursome raised more than $200,000 from almost 6,500 backers on Kickstarter. Their mission is to decentralize the social web, and make sure “privacy and connectedness don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”
The Glif is simple: it’s a tripod mount for smartphones that can be moved to various angles, made with recycled rubberized plastic. It was put up as a campaign on Kickstarter in 2010 for the iPhone 4 with a goal of $10,000, and more than 5,000 backers raised $137,000. The guys who created it were able to start a company, Studio Neat, and now make various smartphone accessories.
People dig pocket scanners, attesting to the mass interest in the Internet of Things. This one is SCiO, a health analytics scanner for food. Hold it up to almost anything and it will tell your smartphone about the nutritional content of the food. The gadget raised $2.7 million on Kickstarter this summer.
Fairphone is the world’s first fair-trade smartphone, and it was partially crowdfunded. The company, on a whim, decided to crowdfund the project, and they doubled their original goal for orders. They were able to find a Chinese manufacturer and start making the phone, which has several parts that are conflict-free, and also uses other recyclable materials and shipping supplies.
This is actually a Y-Combinator backed non-profit that is working to create a free HIV/AIDS vaccine. The organization raised VC money for research, and wanted to raise $462,000 more for funding the experiment for the vaccine. However, Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites do not allow medical experiments as campaigns, so Immunity Project started their own platform on their site, and reached their goal. Then, research in the journal Nature came out that said the project was controversial and possibly not as great as it seemed — some researchers originally mentioned took their names off. But, nothing has been proven, the organization is still running, and it is still a novel approach to funding science.
Dino Pet is a new kind of plant pet. It requires indirect sunlight during the day to photosynthesize, then glows at night with the tiny dinoflagellates (a species of marine algae) inside its frame to make bioluminescence. The frame itself is 3D printed then filled with water and the organisms. It’s like a high-tech sea monkey. The campaign raised three times its goal on Kickstarter last fall.
Earlier this year, LeVar Burton started a campaign to bring back Reading Rainbow for children. It was a campaign to provide interactive books and video field trips to more platforms like tablets and mobile devices, and give more kids access to the show. In one day, it hit $1 million, and by the end of the month, $5.4 million had been donated — with more than 100,000 donors.