Crowdfunding helps launch new products
In much the same way that the internet has revolutionised how people buy retail products, it's also provided new ways for products to come to market in the first place, especially in the tech category.
Traditionally the only people with the know-how, connections and capital to design and manufacture hardware at scale were big companies like Sony and IBM, but these days anybody with a bright idea and some technological expertise can market their gadget concept on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, then wait for the pledgers to turn up and financially support their vision. For early backers the incentives include discounted access to innovative, cutting-edge tech and knowing that they've helped launch somebody's dream.
So what's the catch? Inevitably, not every crowdfunded product turns out to be a hit, with some realised projects falling far short of their promised potential. Unfortunately, crowdfunding, like life, sometimes give you lemons.
How much? From $US99
Pros: The Ouya enjoyed lots of fanfare when it was crowdfunded in 2012, and with good reason: the notion of an independent, wallet-friendly Android-based gaming console was a hit with gamers. Unfortunately, confusion over the direction of the platform and hesitation on the part of game developers bringing their titles to the platform has resulted in a commercial misfire.
Cons: Ouya demonstrates the gamble of crowdfunding: not every idea is a winner.
How much? From $US99 ($130)
Pros: In tech, this smartwatch (above) is the poster child for crowdfunding success, representing the canny intersection in 2012 of smartwatch desire, epaper technology and crowdfunding awareness. While it's looking a little low-tech now compared with the ambitious designs of Samsung and Apple, it will go down in history as a pioneer in both smartwatches and crowdfunding.
Cons: Pebble's monochrome display may be dull but it affords amazing battery life.
Shadowrun: Hong Kong (kickstarter.com)
How much? From $US15
Pros: The ability to reach fans directly has made crowdfunding an increasingly viable revenue model for independent software developers, who can invite their audience to fund the app's development in order to score a copy (rather than simply buying the finished product later). Case in point, the latest entry in the well-regarded Shadowrun RPG series is currently live on Kickstarter.
Cons: None but no refunds if you don't enjoy the game.