Category Archives: crowdfunding

Year of Open Source 2013 Calendar

Year of Open Source is a lifestyle and documentary project by Sam Muirhead. He is spending a year replacing as much as possible of what he does with open source alternatives.

As part of his fundraising effort he came up with the cleverest reward that I’ve seen in a long time: a swimsuit calendar featuring many of the world’s open source technology leaders. Of course, I had to have one, and now I do, hot off the presses from Berlin. If looking at mine isn’t enough for you then you can get your own, or just creep middle-aged cartoons in speedos, right here.

year of open source 2013 calendar


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Makeblock Is A New Modular Aluminum Extrusion System

Makeblock is here to solve your robot problems. The t-slot aluminum extrusion is a tried-and-true way of building modular frames, and even simple mechanisms. It works, but it has an Achilles Heel…the nut.

t slot nut boltThat nut has to be inserted into the slot so that the bolt can torque down on the beam. Some designs include a nut that can be inserted straight through the slot and twisted instead of needing to be slid in from one end (FAZTEK). Others turn the bolt around so that the head of the bolt takes the place of the traditional nut and the nut tightens down from the outside of the bolt (MakerBeam).

A new Kickstarter campaign does away with the nut all together. Instead of using a t-slot, they have a slot with parallel sides and just the right threading to allow you to screw in a nut at any point along the slot.

Makeblock looks like an extremely well integrated system for prototyping cyber-electro-mechanical systems. They have the modular beam system itself, but they also have their own electronics with the correct footprint to fit on the beams and adapters for common things like Lego and servos. Additionally, they have it working in the real world and appear to have the manufacturing muscle to produce a lot of the kits.

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The Amp Hour #114

I think this episode of The Amp Hour is a nice segue from Makerbot’s open/closed source fiasco.

After an introduction about winter and new jobs they discuss the Replicator 2 and Pettis’ abysmal message control. Then they talk about how Kickstarter has recently changed their rules for hardware projects.

In the blog post Kickstarter Is Not a Store we find that Kickstarter is getting a little tired of the vaporware shenanigans that have been going on.

Today we’re introducing a number of changes to reinforce that Kickstarter isn’t a store — it’s a new way for creators and audiences to work together to make things…Today we added a new section to the project page called “Risks and Challenges.” All project creators are now required to answer the following question when creating their project: “What are the risks and challenges this project faces, and what qualifies you to overcome them?”

Product simulations are prohibited. Projects cannot simulate events to demonstrate what a product might do in the future. Products can only be shown performing actions that they’re able to perform in their current state of development. Product renderings are prohibited. Product images must be photos of the prototype as it currently exists.

Offering multiple quantities of a reward is prohibited. Hardware and Product Design projects can only offer rewards in single quantities or a sensible set (some items only make sense as a pair or as a kit of several items, for instance). The development of new products can be especially complex for creators and offering multiple quantities feels premature, and can imply that products are shrink-wrapped and ready to ship.

There’s discussion about not allowing simulations over on Core77.

It’s possible that Kickstarter changed their rules in response to the LIFX LED lightbulb project. They asked for $100,000 and with 50 days to go they already have $1,311,863. However, they are claiming to be able to build and ship an LED lightbulb, which is something that established manufacturers have failed to do for a long time. It looks like Kickstarter is trying to protect themselves (and their users) from the implication that a project is much farther along then it actually is. Understandably they don’t want people dumping a million dollars into a project that simply can’t go anywhere because of the laws of physics. Reuters really took a magnifying glass to the LIFX project and their analysis wasn’t pretty.

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WikiWeapons – To Print A Gun Or Not

3D printing, when it works, is a remarkably easy way to turn a very complicated design file into a physical object.

Open source, when it works, is a great way to innovate on and distribute an idea quickly.

What if that idea was a design for a gun?

The Defense Distributed project seems to be coming to open source 3D printing from a philosophical perspective. They assert that designing a 3D printable personal defensive weapon system is a challenge to numerous entities that they either disagree with or believe don’t go far enough in their beliefs.

More after the jump.

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Makerbot Gets Cloned…Again

Well that escalated quickly.

Open source hardware hasn’t really been a thing for very long, so it doesn’t have many success stories. Arduino is probably the only obvious one. Makerbot is quickly becoming the second. How can you tell when an idea is successful? Easy, it gets copied.

Matt Strong figured out how to source the parts for a Makerbot Replicator from China and joined Kickstarter with a proposal: if he could gather $500,000 he would offer his TangiBot (a clone of the Replicator) for 30% less. How that turned out and what it means…after the jump.

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Kanyi Maqubela Interviewed Jessica Jackley of Kiva About Crowd Funding

Kanyi Maqubela of Collaborative Fund interviewed Kiva co-founder Jessica Jackley for The Atlantic (how’s that for maximum name-dropping in minimum space).

Read the article, or continue reading for some highlights.

Maqubela: It seems there will soon be platforms to raise money for almost anything, from the local bakery you hope to start in your neighborhood, to your high-technology startup idea, to donations for a church mission trip. What will such an economy look like? To answer that question, I spoke with with my colleague Jessica Jackley…

Jackley: Not all things can or should be crowdfunded…The ventures that keep things light and fun, easy to understand, that have a compelling story, a sexy retail product, will have an easier time getting people to rally around them and contribute. A start-up doing something that’s difficult to communicate or doesn’t offer any kind of retail product will have a tougher go at it.

Maqubela: This seems to line up with your Kiva philosophy: crowdfunding as a way of validating, or manifesting, an emotional connection to an individual or a narrative.

Jackley: Investors in big and in small deals tend to invest in people and in stories that resonate with them.

Maqubela: Kickstarter provided more than $150 million in funding to the arts in 2012, outpacing the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), but is that a lot of money?

Jackley: One of the smartest things Kickstarter has done, in my opinion, is give people a great shopping experience related to the arts, that funds the arts. In essence, they’ve gotten people to pay $200 for a t-shirt plus the feeling of participation in another artist’s endeavor…Healthcare professionals don’t make art (in any traditional sense).

Maqubela: Endowing important projects requires sustained interest over time, and the Internet trends heavily towards short term thinking. I’m skeptical that crowdfunding could sustain longer-term projects…

Jackley: I wonder about that too.

Maqubela: But is the wisdom of the crowds really good?

Jackley: I see no problem with opening up more ways for entrepreneurs get capital — in general I think the more the merrier on this front — but again, we need to respect the place of crowdfunding in a very big market, and not try to make it more than it should be.

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QU-BD Open Source Design & Manufacturing Startup, Interview

Teamwork is a wonderful thing. Frequently the world has to put up with 1) inventors who don’t market their product or interact with their community enough to be successful or 2) marketers who don’t engineer their product enough to produce something of real value. Occasionally the stars align and people have the sense to build a team with overlapping skills rather than try to go it alone.

QU-BD is taking the teamwork approach. They are a four-person startup, Chelsea Thompson is majoring in communication and is the (active and prolific) face of QU-BD, Nathan Meyers is a serial entrepreneur, Courtney Kinggard has a background in architecture and interior design, and David Mainard brings not only a 35 year career in machining and industrial design, but also his own machine shop. From the back-end David and Nathan bring experience, design expertise, and decades-long relationships with suppliers; from the front-end Chelsea brings an infectious excitement and real-time interaction with the community.

Their “little indie 3D printing and milling company” is 100% committed to being open source. not only does the philosophy determine what they design/build, it also informs their business model. They are pricing their wares at the minimum responsible margins. That way they can focus on high volume which will get open source rapid prototyping technology into the hands of as many people as possible.

More after the jump.  Continue reading

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Crowd Funding Dump

Kickstarter has subdivided their “technology” category into “open software” and “open hardware” which makes my job a little faster. There aren’t very many things in it…but I suppose that also makes my job a little faster.


Details after the jump.

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MaKey MaKey, Apparently Exactly What People Want

Crowdfunding is a reasonably popular way to launch, or maintain, an open hardware project. The best site for this approach is Kickstarter. Some projects get their funding, some don’t. What’s the difference between them?

That’s a hard question to answer. I haven’t studied the issue, but the most popular (IE: funded) projects seem to combine technology(s) in such a way as to create an “experience.” I’ve yet to see a better example of this phenomenon than the MaKey MaKey.

The creators asked for a mere $25K. What they got was $400K.

Printrbot asked for the same $25K and received over $800K, but that makes a lot of sense. It’s a 3D printer, so it can make things for you, and it’s remarkably small/cheap, so it’s superior to many other designs. However, for some reason, it’s a lot easier to find examples of people throwing money at things that aren’t nearly as practical. Printrbot got over 3,000% of its funding goal. Other projects that broke the 1,000% barrier are Remee (lucid dream mask), Twine (make your “things” send tweets), QuNeo (a colorful MIDI pad controller for musicians), TJ* (a robotic face puppet), Estylo (an eco-friendly iPad stylus), and ClockTHREE Jr (an amusing clock). There’s a lesson in here somewhere. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but at the moment it seems to be that people get excited about hardware projects (open or not) that create an exciting/novel/interesting experience.

So we’re back to the MaKey MaKey. It really doesn’t do much. What it does do is allow you to turn pretty much any arbitrary action and materials into a few simple inputs the computer can understand. You’re not going to get anything done with it, and the novelty will probably wear off in the 30 seconds it takes to lose playing Tetris on bananas, but that doesn’t matter. People want it.

Hardware projects (open or otherwise) depend on funding. You can’t build something physical with just pizza and a long weekend; eventually you’re going to need cash (or an incredibly well stocked junk yard). It helps if you don’t have to supply all the cash yourself. Apparently, if you want people to help out by purchasing/donating to your project, it’s a good idea to show them how the finished project will make them feel. The sort of people who build useful tools in their spare time also tend to be the sort of people who don’t market. That’s fine, but only a few other hard-core geeks are going to spontaneously understand why your project is awesome. Everyone else has to be shown. Some projects are made for the camera. They are pure experience. Other projects have to work at it.

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