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Mega-Projects

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Indiegogo sends out much better teaser emails than Kickstarter. It’s true! I don’t even open the Kickstarter ones anymore because I find them remarkably self indulgent. Indiegogo on the other hand, for all the things I think they are doing wrong, do this one feature right. They don’t give me a standard blurb for a half dozen different projects with a unified theme that they think is important that week; they tell me about two or three of the most interesting projects or rewards currently being offered. My email box fills up very quickly these days, so brevity and concision are extremely desirable.

Last week Indiegogo reminded me that the Ubuntu Edge project is coming to an end, and declared it that it had raised the most of any project ever. I hate to break it to them, but unless it raises another 20 million in the next few hours it will raise zero dollars, thus just missing the Pebble’s previous high by a decimal place or two.

Still, crowdfunded megaprojects are interesting, and worth exploring.

I had meant to write a post about it, but in all the hubbub of the last few weeks I forgot to share: in July I switched from an iPhone to a Galaxy. I bought an iPhone as soon as they came into existence, because they were literally science fiction, and it held out until I upgraded to an iPhone 4 a few years ago, but eventually I decided to make the switch for a variety of reasons.

I couldn’t be happier. I love choice in the marketplace, and would love to see a strong third mobile operating system make inroads into the current duopoly. Whether that is Windows, Ubuntu, or Blackberry (rest in peace) I really don’t care, I just think duopolies tend to be be stable to be in the best interest of their customers.

The Ubuntu Edge is an interesting device that dual boots into the Ubuntu touch or Android OS, and can become a desktop PC to boot. As a consumer with a desktop replacement laptop, I could certainly be convinced to embrace a desktop replacement phone, even if it is unlikely to run fallout with any speed. The project only needs a a cool 35 million to make it happen.

Given that it’s primary reward (a phone fresh off the assembly line) only costs $700 to get, that target should be childsplay. One only needs to find 50k people, or one afternoon of iPhone sales, to pre order. Sadly it looks like its going to miss that mark  the bar to entry is just to high for the average supporter. Any reward at that level falls pretty far outside the bounds of moral support or impulse buy, which are in my opinion the strongest arenas for crowdfunding outside of famous people siphoning money from their fans and nostalgia projects.

Multimillion dollar crowdfunding projects are fascinating, but unsustainable in their current format, I think. Until we get to a more equity based crowdfunding model, I think they will be the exception, not the rule. I have no desire to invest $700 in a phone that MIGHT exist someday – I’m very happy with my phone. I would certainly consider buying $200 worth of equity in the project though, in the hopes that the company really goes somewhere.

Look at the Pebble. Despite it’s issues, they are producing their product, and doing well enough that every other consumer electronics maker is trying to bridge the “smartwatch gap” that until a few months ago they didn’t even know they had. I just hope that they were smart enough to lay down a few patents before the big boys crush them under heel.

Would you be more likely to support a mega project if you could buy a piece of their future rather that the widget they were selling?

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This entry was posted by David Winchester.

One thought on “Mega-Projects

  1. $32 million is so absurdly high of a goal that I almost wonder if the whole thing isn’t just an advertising stunt. I mean, they SAY that there won’t be an Ubuntu Edge if they don’t meet their funding goal, but it’s a hell of a bragging point to say they got $12 million in pledges on a crowdfunding site that is usually full of things that couldn’t succeed on Kickstarter. I would be willing to bet that some venture capitalists will be offering to fund them at some point in the relatively near future.

    Or maybe they were just as naive as I am cynical.

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