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Former University of Waterloo student’s prototype thrusts crowd-funding website Kickstarter into the spotlight

This handout images shows the Pebble E-Paper watch prototype, developed by former University of Waterloo student, Eric Migicovsky. The watch, which integrates with iPhone and Android devices, has raised nearly $8 million on crowd-funding website Kickstarter.com.
This handout images shows the Pebble E-Paper watch prototype, developed by former University of Waterloo student, Eric Migicovsky. The watch, which integrates with iPhone and Android devices, has raised nearly $8 million on crowd-funding website Kickstarter.com. Handout, via Kickstarter

TORONTO – Kickstarter.com – a crowd-funding based website for creative projects – quietly celebrated its third birthday this past weekend.

But thanks to one project proposal that is shattering records, people are suddenly talking about Kickstarter.

The site, which launched officially on April 28, 2009, is a website that allows people to submit projects and ask the community for funding.

In turn, backers receive rewards if the fundraising goal is met. Pledge $50 and you may receive a copy of the item you pledged; a $5 pledge gets you a shout-out on social media, and so on. Backers’ credit cards are only charged if the fundraising goal is met.

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The website has received critical acclaim since its inception, with TIME naming it among the best websites of 2011 and best innovations of 2010, however it wasn’t top of mind amongst the general public.

A new project is changing that.

The Pebble E-Paper watch, which integrates with iPhone and Android devices, launched on Kickstarter with a reasonable goal of raising $100,000 to fund the project.

The project hit its goal within hours.

Weeks later, the Pebble watch has raised nearly $8 million dollars from over 53,000 backers, with 16 days of fundraising left to go.

The watch prototype was created by former University of Waterloo student Eric Migicovsky, who has already developed a BlackBerry integrated watch, inPulse.

Migicovsky shopped his idea for the Pebble watch around technology mecca Silicon Valley in February, but was turned down by each venture capitalist he met with.

He then turned to Kickstarter where the Pebble watch went viral and quickly trumped the website’s previous record of $3.3 million in funding for a single project.

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Kickstarter background

Although Kickstarter launched in April 2009, as co-founder Perry Chen recounted on his blog recently, the idea for Kickstarter was born in his kitchen in 2001.

After trying but failing to put together a concert, Chen thought that someone should build a website that made it easier for members of the community to join together to get projects off the ground.

Chen’s frustrations percolated for years, and eventually he teamed up with Yancey Strickler and Charles Adler who worked together, through multiple design phases to take the site live.

The first project launched on Kickstarter was for the Grace Jones Does Not Give a F$#% T-Shirt – Strickler was the first backer.

The first successfully funded project – Drawing for Dollars – was launched on May 3, 3009, raising a whopping $35 from three backers.

Since then, over $200 million has been pledged to various projects, backed by 2 million people. More than 22,000 projects have been successfully funded.

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As the numbers show, not every project submitted will be a success. Strickler pointed out on Tuesday that 56 per cent of projects submitted never reach their fundraising goal.

Although the Pebble watch is grabbing international headlines, film submissions are the most popular type of project, said Strickler on Tuesday at the Wired business conference in New York City.

Twelve Kickstarter-funded films appeared at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City last month.

Other categories on Kickstarter include fashion, design, art, music and publishing.

Follow Heather on Twitter @heatherloney

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