Great ideas can crop up anywhere, but the distance between a concept and a shipped product is measured in sweat and money. Since services such as Kickstarter and Quirky debuted in 2009, an increasing number of entrepreneurs have turned to platforms that entrust the crowd with financing, design, and even marketing decisions rather than relying on risk-averse investors and innovators too close to their own work. The result: A diversity of new products that solve age-old problems and embrace a wired future.
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Sites like Kickstarter and the anything-goes Indiegogo are strictly crowdfunding sites, in which users pledge money to fund projects they like, whereas sites like Quirky take it a step further; visitors to that site not only help vote on which projects get made, but also submit, chime in, and vote on everything from pricing to product names to marketing slogans. These sites blur the line between consumers and creators by giving the invisible hand a visible impact on the rollout of new goods. When everything clicks, funders and voters have the chance to push the market in a new direction rather than passively buying corporate products. This new economic model's most famous test case, an e-paper timepiece capable of displaying e-mails and text messages dubbed the Pebble, has already sold 85,000 units. Crowds turn into mobs in a hurry.
In other words, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing are serving as midwives for the birth of cool. And an impressive number of excellent products have already been backed by millions of individual financiers and financed thanks to the backing of millions. There are plenty of silly and pointless ideas as well, but here are 12 innovative and useful products that convinced us that Kickstarter, Quirky, and their ilk are more than a passing trend. Results are results.
The pitch: No sprays, lotions, or candles – this adhesive nontoxic skin patch keeps mosquitoes at bay by preventing them from tracking your carbon dioxide emissions for 48 hours.
The goods: Carbon dioxide? Yup. Mosquitoes track CO2 in much the same way that sharks track blood. The Kite Patch releases compounds that inhibit the neurons in mosquito's receptors from detecting your exhalations. Plus: five different colors for accessorizing your futurist philanthropy.
The result: $557,254 raised from more than 11,000 backers on Indiegogo – roughly 743% of the initial goal. The first batch of U.S. patches was shipped in late September and 140,000 are heading to Uganda soon. Reserving your own Kite Patch funds test deployments in malaria-prone countries. [$10–$1,000; kitepatch.com]