Getting Ideas Out of the Garage: Crowdfunding for Product Developers

In a recent post on the changing face of manufacturing, Al Dean asked: “Ten (or even five) years ago, could you imagine a team coming up with an idea, gaining funding to build out the prototypes and first production run to establish themselves?”

He was talking about crowdfunding, something that was barely a thing 10 years ago. With sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, you can now raise enough money to get a project off the ground within weeks. Capture the world’s imagination with your pitch, and hundreds of strangers will start throwing money at the screen to help you get it going.

Well, that’s a generalization, but you get the gist of it. Crowdfunding can be a good tool for inventors, engineers, and designers who are flush with great ideas but not so much money.  

This is the first of a four-part series that looks closer at crowdfunding. We’ll start with a quick introduction. 

[Ed. The flying bicycle has already been invented. Sadly, it didn’t meet its Kickstarter goal.]

I have an idea, now please give me money

Let’s say you have a new product design idea you’ve been tinkering with in your spare time. For kicks (no pun intended), let’s say it’s a mobile time machine. You’ve built a prototype and tested it. You traveled to the past and it actually works (I hope you kept to yourself and avoided altering future events).

Now you need funding to build the final version for yourself (and only for yourself). The thing is, you’re broke and you need a lot of cash to complete your project. On Kickstarter you can tell your story, shoot a video, post it, and ask for a set dollar amount on the Kickstarter site. But here’s the catch: you need to offer your funders a reward of some sort. That’s easy: a t-shirt? Coffee mug? The chance to win a trip to 1900? It’s up to you.

Every project creator sets his or her project's funding goal and deadline. If people like your project, they can pledge money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers' credit cards are charged when the deadline is reached. If the project falls short, no one is charged.

Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing. You don’t get your set amount by the expiration date, nothing happens. (You could travel to the future to see if you get the funding I suppose.)

Time travel jokes aside, that’s how crowdfunding works.

  • Get an idea.
  • Create a prototype.
  • Determine how much funding you’ll need to bring it to market.
  • Determine what premiums you’ll offer your backers.
  • Create a pitch video.
  • Launch (and manage) a campaign on a crowdfunding platform.

More time to design

Unlike traditional pitching to fat cat venture capitalists, your idea will either win or die by the popular vote. If enough people like your idea, you’ll get the funding. Sure, your idea (robot, solar widget, IoT appliance) might have made it through the regular funding chains, but crowdfunding makes that process much easier and democratic. It gives you more time to hole up in your garage perfecting the design of your product. That’s what’s exciting about crowdfunding and why engineers are flocking to these types of platforms to fund their project.

[Ed. In part 2 we’ll look at some crowdfunded projects, included those by PTC Creo users. In the meantime, why not download a free trial seat of PTC Creo? Use our professional CAD design software to start capturing and prototyping your ideas today.]