Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Crowdfunds at Work

What is common link that connects Glif, a nifty stand for smartphone cameras, a wooden remote-control stand, a touchscreen stylus and a whole range of cocktail party accessories?

The latest issue of Wired profiles a two-man company called Studio Neat which is focused on "solving interesting problems and delighting customers". For the past five years they have been creating and selling a diverse range products out of a garage in Austin, Texas.

However incredible this may sound, the fact is that Studio Neat has been one of the pioneers in a space that is now known as "crowdfunding". It all stated with a video pitch posted by the duo on Kickstarter, an online forum that helps 'bring creative projects to life'. When the crowd response turned out to be three times more than anticipated, the founders decided to meet the demand by outsourcing everything.

Manufacturing went to Dragon Innovation, and then to a more value-for-money outfit called Premier Source. A company called Shipwire was contracted for order-fulfilment; Shopify handles all of the shopping carts and credit card numbers, and Amazon acts as the main shopfront on the global marketplace.

Does such an ecosystem exist in India?

According to Quora, we do have a dozen crowdfunding platforms in India but obviously it takes more than just crowdfunding to get an innovative product on the market-shelf.

Dragon CEO Scott Miller conveys this gap very eloquently:  “If A is the idea and Z is the product in somebody’s hands...everyone assumes that by the time they have a prototype they’re at M. In practice, they’re at D. At every one of these steps, a small miscalculation or oversight can cost a company money."

We have a long, long way to go.


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