CrowdFunding can be a very useful thing. If you aren't familiar with the concept, it’s a means to open up the possibility of investing in startups to the masses - hence "crowd" - who can then choose to put up money in any number of tiers (including single dollars depending on what's being funded) - in order to help otherwise struggling companies, individuals with good ideas - even bands that want to get that first album recorded and out on CD - to gain access to funding they otherwise would never have any access to. It's kind of like going to some rich uncles for money but without having to actually go to them and getting the inevitable turndown.
Speaking of bands, we are very familiar with one that did exactly this - Delta Rae, a hot band that is now showing up on Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, every major radio show and numerous venues throughout the country. We've had our eye on the band since its inception since our niece (she's the one with the dark hair) happens to be one of the band's lead singers. We're currently waiting for their appearance on Letterman, and we await our invite to the show when they do get the call. In any case, Delta Rae turned to crowdfunding to pull together the $20,000 they needed to get their first CD out the door.
It worked for them - they got the $20,000 (with donations ranging as low as $10), got the CD out the door and the next thing we knew, Seymour Stein (the guy who discovered Madonna and other now significant acts) had them signed to a bona fide record deal. Most recently, Forbes listed the band as one of its 30 under 30 to keep an eye on. As uncles go we couldn't be prouder.
Another crowdfunded project, this one through KickStarter, is the Pebble Watch mobile startup. How did they do? How does $10,266,845 provided by 68,929 backers sound? The company successfully met its funding goals back in May 2012, and next week at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show it will all become real. It's a $150 mobile device utilizing an e-paper display that connects to your Android and iOS devices via Bluetooth and will do a lot more than tell the time.
OK, so much for the Preamble. Where can Crowdfunding go Next?
Well, how about skipping the funding part of it altogether and using the entire funding mechanism as a means to marketing yourself? True, from a certain perspective crowdfunding is certainly about marketing yourself, as Delta Rae and Pebble have both had to do to be successful from the funding end. But let's take it to the extreme, as California-based wireless ISP MonkeyBrains has had the, er, brains to do.
How about the following? MonkeyBrains is looking for funding of $325,000,000 to launch a satellite in order to deliver faster Internet access! They've posted a very reasonable sounding funding request abstract - and you can get in for as little as $5,000. If you have a spare $10 million or $100 million they'll be happy to accept that as well. Note what they offer in return for these various investment levels. So far they've had $10,261 pledged - they are on the way!
Not convinced? Check out the video MonkeyBrains has provided with the abstract as well. We decided to go ahead and invest $1 based on the strength of their plan to make use of UFOs (details are in the video) as part of the overall deployment.
We should note as well that they provide a key fact: "Our initial research seems to indicate having a satellite in orbit may not speed up your Internet at all." Honesty is always the best policy.
So what has MonkeyBrains actually discovered - or uncovered - here? Simple…it's what all businesses eventually get around to: It's all about marketing. MonkeyBrains has discovered a means to gain some free tech marketing through putting up an otherwise absurd crowdfunding request. Perhaps the video will go viral (we kind of doubt it), and perhaps if you happen to live in San Francisco you will now look up MonkeyBrains for your wireless Internet access needs.
But we do hope this doesn't become a trend - and obviously funding sites may now need to take a look at ensuring it doesn't become a means to deliver publicity stunts - which is our real purpose in bringing this all up. We'd much rather see the next Delta Rae and Pebble Watch become funded than for the likes of MonkeyBrains to gain free marketing out of a genuinely useful service. There is always the possibility of course that MonkeyBrains will get some real and serious funding out of this.
It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.
Edited by Brooke Neuman