Category Archives: Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding Part 1: Consumer Electronics

Cross posted from Blogger

It has been a little over a year since I got into Kickstarter and I thought I would collect some of my thoughts on the campaigns I have pledged to.  In addition to Kickstarter, I have backed a few things on IndieGoGo which operates a little differently.

On Kickstarter, you pledge any amount you wish, but there are defined reward levels.  If the campaign fails, you do not get billed for the pledge amount.  IndieGoGo can operate the same basic way, but you pay the amount up front.  Some campaigns have fixed funding goals and if they are not reached, you get refunded.  They also have flexible funding campaigns that don’t fail if they don’t meet the goal (though the creator is penalized for this).  Some IndieGoGo campaigns can even extend their end dates–I followed one that did this to allow more people the opportunity to get in.

This post is dedicated to the the non-development electronics and I will post about other types of items in future posts.  Part 2 will probably be on development electronics since that is one of the biggest categories I participate in.

ZPM Nocturn (missed out on backing, but preordered)

Goal: $20k   Raised: $369k
We have been on the lookout for a decent espresso machine at a reasonable price.  The Nocturn is the result of engineering students starting from scratch and creating a new kind of machine that is simpler yet still powerful.  Instead of trying to keep a full reservoir of water up to the proper temperature, it precisely heats the water right in the head.
Rather than use a pump/pressure relief valve combo to keep the pressure within range, this one uses a precisely controlled pump that operates like a stepper motor.  These allow for instantaneous and precise control that allow for temperature and pressure profiling (adjusting them throughout the extraction).  This is normally found in $10,000 custom machines like the Slayer which only does so on pressure and not temperature.  This profiling can bring out different aspects of the coffee.  I could write more on this, but I will save that for another post.  In addition to this functionality, they have used as many standard off the shelf espresso parts as possible and the electronics and software are all open source.
This campaign ended January last year, and they have just recently shipped out beta units.  This has been due to a number of different problems, the main one being UL certification.  The UL has never certified an open hardware device, so they had a seemingly endless series of questions.  Once the beta testers have had their machines for a few weeks, they will proceed shipping out the remaining kickstarter units and hopefully the preorders shortly thereafter.  I have always ended up at the conclusion that we need to spend $1000 between the machine and grinder to get into a decent entry level setup, but I got a combo with the grinder for well under $500 (final retail will be more) and I have some green espresso blends on hand to try out when we get it.

Equiso (July 28, 2012, KS)

Goal: $100k   Raised: $241k   My Pledge: $69

The Equiso was the first kickstarter campaign that I supported and what drew me into getting started pledging.  I saw this as a great way to play video on a TV without needing a computer.  My intention was to use the Plex app to watch videos on the TV in our bedroom.  The estimated delivery date was for August and I received it mid-October which isn’t too bad for a product of this scale.

Initially, Plex would run but not play videos.  Since I didn’t intend to use it for games and such, I didn’t get much use out of the stick for a while.  However, the remote has been very useful.  They changed the design to use a removable USB receiver for the remote so I was able to plug it into my media computer and control the Windows Plex app that way.

I still use the remote almost daily with only one complaint: the USB charge port broke off of the board making it really difficult to get it charged.  The first time, I disassembled the remote and was able to resolder the plug.  Just recently, I had to fix it again and I tried some super glue as well.  I’ll see how well that does.

In August, they offered to update the stick for the new model.  All I had to do was send the original one and keep the remote and power cable.  I should have included tracking because it ended up lost somewhere, but they were gracious enough to send me the new one once I sent them a copy of the postage receipt.  I am happy to report that the new model runs the Plex app beautifully and as long as I leave it running I can control it from my phone.  The only wrinkle now is that Plex has added ChromeCast support, so it may become the more optimal device for my purposes.

Ouya (August 9, 2012, KS)

Goal: $950k   Raised: $8.6M   My Pledge: $225 (for second controller and etched faceplates)
There are a lot of post about the Ouya both good and bad, so I will stick to my basic impression.  I liked the concept because you can try any game for free and if they succeed, they could change the traditional game publishing model that can be cost prohibitive to get started.  Time will tell, but I think it is slowly improving through updates and more developers migrating Android games over.  This also functions as a decent Plex player now, so I may try using the Equiso remote with it at some point.
It does seem like there might be an issue with one of the controllers.  It will sometimes act like one of the gimbals stick for a bit.  I found a post mentioning that I might need to get the firmware on it updated, but I don’t always get much time for console games so I haven’t looked into it yet.
The original delivery date was estimated at August 2012, but I did not receive it until June 2013.  With an effort of this magnitude (hardware, software, 3rd parties), this delay did not surprise me.  They have made some mis-steps, but I think they are doing a decent enough job so far.

ChargeCard (August 27, 2012, KS)

Goal: $50k   Raised: $160k   My Pledge: $18
The ChargeCard is very handy to leave in my bag or carry in a pocket in case I need a charge.  I just held out until they hit the stretch goal to include micro USB.  I don’t have a tracking number to compare how they did on dates, but their last update saying that everything had shipped was the same month they expected: November.

Mini MicroSD Reader (May 5, 2013, KS)

Goal: $5k   Raised: $70k   My Pledge: $12
This one looked like a nice way to be able to move large files (like media files) with my Nexus 7 since it doesn’t have a card slot.  I have an OTG cable that works pretty well with flash drives, but this is more compact.  After the campaign, they offered backers the opportunity to get additional units so I picked up a second one.  I believe they were only a month or so late on delivery, but that isn’t bad as far as Kickstarter projects go.

MyPhone Thermometer (Failed, KS)

Goal: $35k   Raised: $7k   My Pledge: $19 (for both probes)
I have been thinking about building a remote temperature probe for the grill, so this one looked like it could save me the work.  I also liked that the creator was an Alaskan.  Perhaps it was a failure of getting the word out or just more visible products in this space, but they didn’t make the goal.  They say they will come back with a new campaign and I will at least check it out.

Beddit (October 15, 2013, IGG)

Goal: $80k   Raised: $503k   My Pledge: $189 (for two)
The Beddit is a nice looking sleep tracker that is simpler than wearing a sports band and more capable than motion sensors.  It automatically tracks and logs data on sleep cycles so you can determine how well you are sleeping and hopefully figure out how to get better sleep.

This campaign did have the end date extended just to let more people get in.  The estimated delivery was going to be November, but they got held up by Apple certification on the BlueTooth.  Since Apple has to approve the hardware part, even us Android folks are still waiting a bit longer.

World’s first roast-grind-brew coffee machine (December 8, 2013, KS)

Goal: $135k   Raised: $681k   My Pledge: $1
I didn’t back this one to get a machine, but I love the concept.  We have already started roasting our own coffee and it has been well worth it, but between that and the Nocturn mentioned above, we don’t need another machine.  I will be watching this one to see how well they do with the “direct from farmers” model they are setting up.
Update: After the successful campaign, they have now started an IndieGoGo to try gaining more ground on the farmers side.  It is also another opportunity to get in on a machine.

Angel band (didn’t back, but watching)

Goal: $100k   Raised: $334k
The Angel health monitor is a new take on the sports band style of sensors.  Instead of just monitoring movement, it also collects heart rate, blood oxygen and temperature making it a much more capable device.  In addition to that, it is open source so it won’t be limited to just one app.  At the time the campaign ended, I had not yet decided that it was worth getting one at this time.  I will be watching these when they come out in April (or so).
With any crowdfunding campaign, you should be careful to evaluate them and what they promise.  There are several promising campaigns that have gone on for a long time past their delivery date with little to no information.  Kickstarter requires creators to provide some sort of product or a refund, but there is no stipulation on time.

Update: I added links to the campaign pages and goal stats.