Kickstarter brings ideas to life


By Luke Vest

The University provides many resources to students interested in inventing their own products or starting their own companies, but one of the main obstacles in developing a product is securing funding. This means that countless good ideas never become available to the masses.

This is particularly important to students because throughout our time here, we have the opportunity to develop innovative ideas that are worth pursuing further.

Social media provides an easily accessible way to advertise an idea for a product, but ideas are nothing without execution, and execution is only possible with necessary funds.

That’s what Kickstarter is for. Kickstarter is a website that facilitates the fundraising of various creative projects, and anyone can use it. An artist or inventor pitches his or her idea on the site and sets a goal for an amount of money to raise.

Backers donate money to a project with the incentive of receiving certain goods or services based on how much money they donate. If the goal is not reached, then the project does not receive funding, but if it does, the project is on its way to being developed.

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    Kickstarter helps thousands of projects come to life, and many students at the University have seen success with it. This is a great opportunity for students to get hands-on experience beyond class by pursuing projects or ideas they want to develop.

    Recently, graduate students Michael Friedman, Dave Cohen and David Jun in electrical and computer engineering developed Mousr, an artificially intelligent cat toy. The team wanted to create a unique toy that would react to the cat and not the other way around.

    They posted their product on Kickstarter with a goal of raising $100,000. The group surpassed their goal and the project will be funded on Friday.

    Another University project that recently saw success on Kickstarter was Circuit Scribe, a conductive ink pen that can be used to draw circuits on regular paper. The pen can be bought in a kit that contains an educational booklet on electricity and several electrical components including LEDs, switches, resistors and transistors.

    Circuit Scribe was developed by Analisa Russo for her PhD work in the Lewis Research Group here at the University. The Kickstarter fundraising goal of $85,000 was easily passed and eventually reached a total of $674,425.

    Both of these University projects demonstrate the effectiveness of the website, and students should recognize this as an opportunity bring their own projects to fruition.

    Kickstarter provides a way to advertise as well as fundraise, making it an effective tool to get a project off the ground. It also lets the students go straight to backers (or those who fund the projects) with their ideas. They don’t need to sell it to a big company for a cut of the profits.

    Students can use Kickstarter to gauge whether their project will be a hit as well. They can pre-sell their product using the site before actually investing in production. This helps prevent potential losses.

    Kickstarter can be used to fund artistic projects as well. The categories on the site include music, art, design, fashion, film, comics and more. In other words, Kickstarter is relevant to students of all majors and not just those in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

    If you search for projects on Kickstarter that are currently posted in the Champaign-Urbana area, you will see students recording albums, writing poetry, creating journalistic publications and pursuing other artistic endeavors.

    The site is successful for people trying to produce their inventions, as well as people exploring other ventures.

    Posting a good project on Kickstarter alone does not ensure success. Outside marketing must be done, whether it is through word of mouth, fliers on the quad or social media. Another essential part of using the site is creating a visually appealing proposal for the project, which often includes several videos and information on the project’s usefulness and design.

    Students interested in getting their projects out into the commercial world should keep this in mind when beginning their campaigns.

    While it is not a guarantee for success, Kickstarter is an extremely effective tool for students who lack the necessary funds to get their projects going. As Henry David Thoreau said, and as advertised on the Kickstarter website, “The world is but a canvas to our imagination.”

    Luke is a freshman in Engineering. He can be reached at [email protected].