But also a word to the wise
Before the advent of crowdfunding, the only way to get the cash for your latest and greatest tech product was to prostrate yourself before rich investors who are only looking to make maximum profit. Investors who don’t really have any passion for the product or idea per se, but really do care if it will sell a million units in record time.
That’s all changed now. Crowdfunding allows regular people to kick in a few dollars so that bright and bold entrepreneurs can bring their vision to life. Most people who invest in crowdfunding tech gadgets actually really want the product itself or at the very least want it to exist.
Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware!
Of course, as a crowdfund investor you have to be fully aware of what you’re getting into. The classic crowdfunding model is not an investment. The people you give the money to are under no obligation to ever pay you back. It’s not an investment, you don’t own shares and a promise of a delivered product is not as binding as many might think.
This means you should never invest in a crowdfunding project that you are not comfortable writing off. A significant number of projects won’t succeed, but if you take the time to really read the pitches you can better your chances of backing a winner.
So where should you go shopping to invest in the next big tech crowdfunding success story? These are four of the most prominent crowdfunding sites known for great tech products. We’ve excluded crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe, who mainly focus on charitable causes, although sometimes you’ll find tech-related projects there too.
Kickstarter is the poster child of the crowdfunding revolution and has been around since 2009. Some of the most famous (and infamous) tech projects have been funded through Kickstarter.
By now the Kickstarter model is pretty well-known and often copied. If a project does not meet its requested funding amount, it won’t be funded. So you “pledge” an amount, rather than immediately and directly handing over the cash. It won’t cost you a cent if the project doesn’t get enough backing.
Project owners can set award tiers for different levels of donation. It’s common for tech products like VR headsets or game consoles to include a tier that nets you a unit. Kickstarter buyers often get first-run units at much lower than retail prices, but of course you may never get anything at all.
This site is pretty much the first stop for anyone looking to help crowdfund a gadget, since it also attracts some of the best projects. However, not everyone likes the Kickstarter model. Luckily there are alternatives.
Believe it or not, IndieGoGo was launched before Kickstarter, although it didn’t immediately get as much traction. The idea is also pretty similar to Kickstarter, with project owners offering tiered awards to people who kick some cash over to them.
Since 2016 IndieGoGo also offers the possibility of selling equity to micro-investors, but it isn’t an equity crowdfunding site in principle. Most projects are still more or less the same as the Kickstarter model.
IndieGoGo also offers a marketplace where you can directly buy products that are already available. So if you are just looking to get a new innovative gadget, it’s a great alternative to the years it might take for nascent projects to get off the ground.
In many ways IndieGoGo feels a little more innovative and flexible than Kickstarter does these days and still attracts plenty of AAA project ideas on its own merit. It’s a must to stop by if you’re feeling generous.
If you feel that there are too many wishy-washy, feel good tech projects on the big mainstream crowdfunding sites, then this site is for you. Crowdsupply is laser-focused on hardcore hardware, with most of its project categories looking at nerdy applications such as networking, robotics and open hardware. There are still categories for food, toys and such, but overall it’s a paradise for those who love circuit boards and the smell of solder.
Another thing that sets Crowdsupply apart is in the name. The company goes to extraordinary lengths to make sure that projects that do get funded and created make it into the hands of backers. They have their own distribution infrastructure and always ensure that successful products are made and delivered.
They also have a much stricter set of criteria that apply before someone is allowed to list a project. Overall, Crowdsupply is much more pro-user than the competition and has some truly innovative tech projects, albeit less sexy ones.
Unlike the other crowdfunding platforms Crowdfunder allows for actual investment in return for equity in the company in question. This addresses a major problem that many people have with crowdfunding, the fact that people are owed nothing for the money they put down. Not even the promised rewards.
The catch is that not everyone can invest towards companies on this platform. Thanks to legal restrictions, only accredited investors are allowed to put their money into promising startups. That is however set to change. In response to a changing investment world, legal changes are on the way that will allow anyone to put their money into early startups.
If you are looking at investing more serious money towards the next world-conquering tech startup, Crowdfunder is a place you should keep a keen eye on.
Science and technology are inextricably linked. After all, it’s scientific discovery that gives us the knowledge to make the technologies we all love today. So while the projects you can fund on Experiment are usually not going to lead directly to a specific gadget or gizmo, you may help develop something that could change everything one day.
New battery technology? That’s the sort of thing you’ll find on Experiment. Robots? You bet! There are scientific research projects in just about every discipline you can think of and if something excites the tech geek in you, then this is a wonderful place to throw a few coppers if you have them to spare.
Of course, you won’t get anything directly in return, but you will have that warm fuzzy feeling by helping to advance human knowledge.
Patreon is a site where people who work on all sorts of projects get funding. Artists, content creators and just about anyone who needs financial assistance to pursue their passion projects. Patreon isn’t like Kickstarter in the sense that you can get a shiny new gadget for your contribution. However, there are plenty of technology tinkerers who create cool stuff you can help out through this site.
They might be developing new software or working on niche devices prototypes. By becoming a Patron, you can help them stick with their project and perhaps one day move on to something like Kickstarter or venture capital investment.
So, to be clear, you won’t get any actual gadgets for yourself. However, you get to be part of the process! This is pretty neat for anyone who loves technology for its own sake. There are also plenty of creators who make educational content that can help nurture the next generation of inventors, so it really is a nice place to spread the love around every now and then.
While the Kickstarter model that made crowdfunding a mainstream practice is not a form of investment, that doesn’t mean you can’t invest through crowdfunding. CrowdCube lets you buy equity in startups that look for funding there.
There are plenty of technology-related projects on display and, although you won’t get a gadget out of it, if a given company takes off you may see some serious returns. Then again, as with any investment, you could also see your contribution go up in smoke.
So the same advice still applies as it does to Kickstarter and its ilk. That is, don’t put down money you can’t afford to lose.
Republic is another example of crowdfunding that also works as an investment. If you put money into a startup that succeeds, you’ll see a return on your money.
Republic sets itself apart in a number of ways. First of all, many investment crowdfunding platforms only allow registered investors to put money down. Republic is open to anyone, and some projects have minimum investments of only ten bucks.
One of the reasons they can manage the risk of this is the incredible degree of selectivity on offer. Republic claims that only 3% of startups who apply to them make it through to be crowdfunded.
While the startups that are approved change over time and won’t always have a tech focus, there’s plenty for those looking to invest in technology here. Republic has hosted projects dealing with robotics, genomics, Fintech and much more. If you don’t see an interesting investment opportunity today, you can always come back from time to time. Who knows? You might end up funding the next Uber or AirBnB!
Money Well Spent
Crowdfunding has really changed the game in the tech world. Instead of facing some suited shark tank types, innovators now work directly with the public. We get to both show what technologies we really want and get to be part of history when a great success does happen.
Yes, there are never any guarantees that you’ll get anything concrete for your contribution, but it sure beats never having any of the needless stuff independent inventors come up with. So why not spread the love around a little?