Crowdfunding is upending conventional product development, triggering a wave of entrepreneurial ventures from food trucks to furniture and to video games. Though the practice aims to connect promising startups with willing investors who often double as future customers, established companies also are jumping on board. London studio Hulger completed a successful Kickstarter campaign in February to help launch its second designer lamp while Fireclay Tile, in California, used the platform to debut a line of recycled glass tiles late last year. We reviewed the latest campaigns on crowd-funding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo to find inspired design products entering the market with help from the crowd.
Swedish design studio Createables developed an open-source construction toy that’s intended for kids and creatives alike. Strawbees comprises a series of polypropylene connectors that join materials such as standard drinking straws and pieces of cardboard, creating static and dynamic models that are limited in number and scale only by one’s imagination. So far, the studio is on pace to more than triple its Kickstarter fundraising goal of $20,000, and it expects to begin producing and shipping orders this spring—so we recommend stockpiling straws now.
Goldee Light Controller, Goldee
Designed to adjust lighting levels at preset times and when triggered by motion, the Goldee Light Controller is a responsive and touch-free light switch that integrates with the home’s existing electrical system. The device, which can be programmed and controlled using a smartphone app for iPhone and Android platforms, includes a timer that fades and raises lights at scheduled times, a sensor that turns the lights off when users leave the home and on when they return, as well as an away-mode that operates the lights to simulate users’ presence. Goldee works with Lifx, Ilumi, and Philip’s Hue smart LEDs, as well as standard LED, incandescent, halogen, and CFL lamps. The product’s developers launched a private crowd-funding campaign in November 2013 to raise $100,000 and plan to ship the first orders this summer.
Beta.ey, Rawlemon Solar Devices
German architect André Broessel designed a dual-axis solar tracking system that uses fewer solar cells than a standard photovoltaic panel and operates up to 70% more efficiently, Broessel says. Its solid-acrylic polymer ball lens is filled with water to amplify and concentrate direct and indirect sunlight onto a multi-junction photovoltaic cell positioned beneath it, Gizmodoexplains. While Broessel aims to implement the technology in standalone units and in the building envelope through façades and windows, he is introducing the system to the market in the form of a small-scale solar cell-phone charger and atmospheric lamp that uses a 27.5 watt-hour battery and two colored LEDs. At the time of publication, Beta.ey (shown) had raised more than half of its $120,000 funding goal on Indiegogo, though its “flexible” campaign means the project gets to keep any funds it raises, even if it falls short of the fundraising goal.
A:Log, Project A:Log
A trio of architecture students from Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation in New York crafted a go-to resource for need-to-know, hard-to-remember architectural standards that also services designers’ propensity to think visually. The 160-page stitch-bound notebook devotes 30 pages to the standards and the rest to dotted gridlines for sketching at 1/16”, 1/8”, ¼”, and ½” scales. A metric version of the notebook is available for sketching at 1:200, 1:100, 1:50, and 1:20 scales. A:Log raised $30,673 on Kickstarter this summer and can now be purchased online.
From German furniture maker Movisi, Build is a modular shelving system whose units can serve a dual purpose as storage containers, beverage coolers, and seating elements. Made of expanded polypropylene, each module weighs 1.5 lbs. and is recyclable. The units are available in black or white, and with an open or closed back. The company raised $109,365 on Indiegogo in August 2013 to help fund the product’s launch.
Heatworks Model 1, ISI Technology
After six years of development, ISI Technology is seeking funding to bring to market a tankless electric water heater that will solve some of the challenges presented by similar units currently on the market, such as lag time in getting hot water to the tap, its makers say. The unit, which measures 1’ long and 6” wide, uses resistance created by graphite electrodes rather than electricity run through a coil to heat the water. Designed to deliver a flow rate of 2.0 gallons per minute, Heatworks Model 1 accepts pre-heated water and can be used with existing water heaters. More than one unit can be installed in a project, making it suitable for use in multifamily applications. The company plans to launch a Wi-Fi–enabled unit in the spring, which will allow individual users to set their preferred water temperature for flow fixtures. The unit is pursuing UL certification. At the time of publication, the ISI was on its way to more than tripling its $125,000 Kickstarter fundraising goal.
Bright Switch, Bellatrix Systems
Bellatrix Systems, an electronics manufacturer in Bend, Ore., has developed an Android-compatible touch-screen unit that can be installed in the place of a conventional light switch. Additional functions include an intercom, built-in security camera, motion sensor, and dimmer. The Wi-Fi enabled device has an open API to encourage developers to create additional apps for the product. The company wrapped up its successful Kickstarter campaign on Feb. 9, raising $128,905 to finalize existing prototypes and to build and distribute the first orders.