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.
RELATED: 'Driven,' Episode One: The Crowdsourced Explorers (Video)
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.
Sansaire Sous-Vide Circulator
The pitch: Sous-vide cooking has long been the exclusive precinct of wonky DIYers and forward-thinking chefs. The process involves immersing airtight packages filled with meat or other food in warm (not hot) liquid for extreme slow cooking, resulting in evenly cooked, juicy, tender food with most of the nutrients left intact. The Sansaire now makes this technique doable for weekend kitchen warriors.
The goods: The circulator attaches to any size vessel (pot, multigallon bin) and displays accurate water temperature, down to 0.1 Celsius increments. Boosting or lowering temperatures is only a matter of turning a ring. The Sansaire allows cooks to heat meats and vegetables to very specific temperatures.
The result: $823,000 raised on Kickstarter of a $100,000 goal by over 4,000 backers. It's available for pre-order now, with orders due to ship on November 18, 2013. [$199; sansaire.com]