My Favorite Kickstarter Projects

I recently wrote about crowdfunding and the exponential growth it has experienced and decided to share my favorite Kickstarter Projects, some of which I have backed myself. For those unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it is a crowdfunding platform allowing project creators post their project campaign, along with a video, pledges to raise a specific amount of money, and other important information and then backers can fund your project making it a reality.

The projects below range from virtual reality to vertical farming, from smart glasses to art books. Having personally funded over 15 projects, it is safe to say I have an obsession with the Kickstarter platform, along with millions of others. Kickstarter by the numbers: Over $3B pledged to projects; Over 120k successfully funded projects; Over 12M backers, 4M who are repeat backers.

My top 10 list:

1.Vue Smart Glasses– “Vue is the world’s first pair of smart glasses that are designed for everyday use. Offered in prescription, plano, and sunglasses.”

2. The Bolted Book Facsimile: An Exact Copy of Depero Futurista– “The first exact copy of Fortunato Depero’s 1927 iconic work of avant-garde graphic design and book-making.”

3. NIFTYX– “A Wearable Charging Cable Bracelet That Is Disrupting the World. Hand Braided with Italian Leather By Our Artisan. A Charging Cable disguised as a bracelet. You will never be out of cable with NIFTYX.”

4. Oculus Rift– “Developer kit for the Oculus Rift – the first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games. OR was acquired by Facebook for $2B and is currently working on a new headset as well as VR applications.”

5. LuminAID– “Charge your gear anywhere! A 2-in-1 solar lantern and phone charger that packs down to 1″ thick. Portable power and light on the go!”

6. Darwin’s: On the Origin of Species Picture Book– “A picture book adaptation of the classical On The Origin Of Species. Great for children and grownups!”

7. UrbanX– “Convert Any Bike to an Electric Bike in 60 Seconds. Simply replace your front bike wheel with the UrbanX Electric E-Bike Wheel to instantly receive a 30 mile range with a 20mph top speed.”

8. Chip: The World’s First Nine Dollar Computer– “C.H.I.P. does computer things. Work in LibreOffice and save your documents to C.H.I.P.’s onboard storage. Surf the web and check your email over wifi. Play games with a bluetooth controller. With dozens of applications and tools preinstalled, C.H.I.P. is ready to do computer things the moment you power it on.”

9. Voyager Golden Record– “Experience the historic interstellar message for extraterrestrials the way it was meant to be played.”

10. Green Stalk– “A Vertical Garden Designed to Save Space, Conserve Water & Grow Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.”

Innovation: Giants vs. Startups

When one thinks of innovation in the US they often associate it to Silicon Valley. A place where hundreds and thousands of startups in the past 20-30 years have started or relocated to due to an influx of venture capital and a hub of creativity. While the startup scene has not seemed to change, the type of innovation has. Every day we can read about self-driving cars, artificial intelligence,  and automation. There are numerous startups working on every part of these industries, though so are the tech giants, and an important question going forward is whether or not the tech giants are hindering innovation in these areas.

It is no secret that tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Oracle have had an incredible impact on the world. Together they employ well over half a million people and combined have acquired 500+ companies. Google acquires a company a week. While these statistics clearly show power, what it really shows is how the tech giants have become 21st-century monopolies that can be compared to monopolies such as Standard Oil and US Steel. The tech giants control so much of their market; Google owns roughly 80% of the search engine market, and while they are known for being a search engine, they have their hand in almost every industry. What does this mean for startups and innovation?

When a new product or service enters the market, startups are often competing directly with the tech giants. This can make it incredibly difficult for startups to create a product at scale like the tech giants can, considering they are a new company and will need to build a brand. Tech giants can create competing products and implement them in a very short time span, compared to startups. When a startup is capable of breaking its product into a market and the tech giants product is not as competitive, the tech giants often times end of acquiring the startup. This process can be viewed in a number of ways.

When the tech giants acquire the company they can keep the startup’s product going and simply add the profits and product to their portfolio. Or, they absorb the startup’s team members but shut down the startup’s product in hopes of their own product being able to obtain more market share. The tech giants regardless will continue to grow and become an even greater monopoly. Though what kind of a monopoly are they becoming? It may appear to be something negative since monopolies are generally associated as being something bad for the economy and innovation. Though I believe they are doing something that is very positive for the economy, and it has created a boom in innovation, both for startups and the tech giants themselves.

There will never a shortage of ideas and therefore startups will continue to prosper. Whether or not they become tech giants is another story, though it really is not that important. The tech giants that do acquire startups often leave the startups with lots of stock and cash, giving them even greater potential in the future for new innovation. The startup founders after being acquired, generally join the tech giant, leave to work on another startup or enter the venture capital space. All of these directions point one way, more innovation. Take for example Sam Altman, currently President of Y-Combinator, arguably the world’s most influential startup incubator, investing in 1000+ startups including Dropbox, Airbnb, and Instacart. Altman created Loopt, a location-based social networking mobile app, whose original funding came from Y-Combinator. After Altman sold Loopt, he went on to join Y-Combinator, eventually becoming its President. This trend is going on all over Silicon Valley and the startup world and is only going to continue to push innovation forward.

What I am interested in now is where people see innovation going? Yes, there is talk around machine learning, self-driving cars, and Elon Musk’s brain interface, but these technologies are 10-15 years away. I am more interested in the next 5 to 10 years. Please share your thoughts below and expect a follow-up article on this subject.