TIME Phones

Hate Your Phone? This Kickstarter is for You

Courtesy of The Light Phone

This new phone is perfect for when you mostly want to disconnect

Smart phones are ubiquitous in modern life. But if you’re the type of person who hates having to carry around a mini-computer in your pocket, a new Kickstarter campaign has a solution.

The Light Phone is a credit card-sized device that does nothing but make phone calls. No games, no texts, and no Twitter that you incessantly check up on (the writer of this article has certainly been guilty of that before.) It can piggyback onto your smartphone service so that you don’t have to go completely cold turkey.

But you can at least leave the house with no access to social media while still being able to make and receive emergency calls.

The phone has its own number. But it also connects to an app that can forward all calls from your pre-existing number. The device also has a simple clock, a touch pad for entering numbers and 20 days of battery life.

In theory, buying a simple flip phone or burner phone could achieve the same goal. The Light Phone, though, is much thinner (seriously, you can fit it in your wallet) and in theory easier to connect to your existing number.

Here’s a video from the Kickstarter:

The Light Phone costs $100 to pre-order. The project has already gotten more than $120,000 in backing, and is looking to raise $200,000 by June 27. The phones are expected to ship in May 2016. The phone comes with a SIM card with 500 minutes and a mini USB charger.

TIME innovations

Here’s What You Could Do With a $9 Computer

C.H.I.P.
Carbon Workshop C.H.I.P. and battery.

C.H.I.P. is raising money on Kickstarter right now

By and large, you get what you pay for. That’s an adage that applies to everything from expertly crafted clothing to well cooked food. But when the price of goods drops dramatically, that doesn’t always mean you get less.

Case in point: C.H.I.P., a $9 computer that’s raising money on Kickstarter right now. With more than $1.1 million in funds raised with just over three weeks to go, the campaign to finance an ultra-low cost computer-on-a-chip has blasted past its $50,000 goal.

So, what will the 22,000 (and counting) C.H.I.P. users be able to do with their matchbook-sized PC? A lot, actually. Here’s 6 uses for the small wonder.

1. Finally write that novel: With a 1.0 gigahertz processor and 4GB of onboard storage, this micro-computer has all that it needs to run open-source software. For instance, LibreOffice, a free yet powerful suite of software, can get you banging out documents in no time. And with minimal distractions, you might finally write that novel you’ve been scheming up all these years. Of course, you can also finally tabulate that spreadsheet or craft that presentation, too, but that doesn’t sound anywhere near as fun.

2. Get your lolz all over the web: With the open source Chromium browser, C.H.I.P. users can browse all over the Internet, taking in everything from breaking news to trending memes. “Pretty much everything that you can do in Chrome that is not proprietary, you can do in Chromium,” says David Rauchwerk, the founder and CEO of Oakland, Calif.-based Next Thing, the company that’s putting out C.H.I.P.

Not all websites will work well on C.H.I.P. For instance, Flash is a codec owned by Adobe, so sites that use it (or display video using it) won’t work on Chromium — at least not without a plugin. But Chromium does support HTML5, which means a lot of the most current websites will load fine, and you can even view YouTube clips without a problem on this little-computer-that-could. That said, Rauchwerk cautions that with its lightly-powered processor, it’s not going to stream 4K video, but it will chug along nicely with clips at a lower resolution.

3. Finally beat King’s Quest: Powered by Linux, C.H.I.P can run all sorts of software, including DOSBox, an old-school video game emulator that can revive all your old favorites from Arkanoid to Zork. In addition, Linux has a ton of great, indie games that are worthy of your time. But this little computer also has more than enough might to run controller-based games, too. Connecting peripherals to C.H.I.P. either through its USB port or via Bluetooth ups its game considerably.

4. Scratch out some code: Because it’s compatible with thousands of apps, there’s a lot that users can do with C.H.I.P., but one function where this underpowered force can excel is in coding. Just connect a it to a keyboard and a monitor (using a VGA or HDMI snap-on shield, which cost a bit more) and fire up Scratch, one of dozens of programs that come preloaded on the computer.

“Scratch is an entire learning system, and there’s an entire curriculum that’s free and open source created by a lab at MIT,” says Rauchwerk. With downloadable lesson plans aimed at kids (but even adults can learn a thing or two), there’s a big library of APIs and architectures to learn.

5. Touch and go: There’s no use in having a computer this small if you can’t take it with you. One cool add-on that the Next Thing team pulled together is PocketC.H.I.P., a portable, combined 4.3-inch touchscreen display and keyboard that packs a 5-hour battery. Looking like a skinned Game Boy, PocketC.H.I.P. lets you game, code, or just compute anywhere, especially since the micro-computer has Wi-Fi connectivity. One Wilmington, Del.-based backer is going to use the PocketC.H.I.P. to teach coding to underprivileged kids, letting them keep and use the little computer between classes.

6. Turn your TV into a Smart TV: As digital has dominated the tech landscape, it’s created a lot of electronic waste. Next Thing’s engineers decided to give new life to old televisions by equipping C.H.I.P. with an output for component video, the old yellow cable that worked with your Super Nintendo.

“We have a lot of fun, retro gear in our studio,” says Rauchwerk. “It’s a way of giving life to this stuff that would be otherwise thrown away.” And that capability gives C.H.I.P. and an old TV endless potential. Turn it into a retro gaming station for your kids, a message terminal at your business, or an art installation showcasing your photographs.

This is just the beginning for C.H.I.P.; its users will be the best at defining what the machine can actually do. In the campaign’s most recent update, the company asked backers to share their plans for their C.H.I.P. computers when they start arriving in December. Overall, the most popular answer seemed to be that people wanted to use it as a tiny media center PC — one backer even plans on using it to convert an old jukebox into a Wi-Fi-connected music player. But ultimately, like any game-changing technology, it’s best use case likely hasn’t even been dreamed up yet.

MONEY Small Business

New Ways to Invest in Small Businesses

Cafe owners
Getty Images

When nonprofessional investors are able to put money into small businesses, everyone can benefit.

I met with Paul on Tuesday. He is the CFO of a business start-up. He’s not sure if the next phase of his company’s financing is going to go through. Although he believes in the business model and the mission of the company, some days he thinks he won’t have a job in three weeks.

I met with David on Wednesday. While he’s a great saver and earns a decent buck, he isn’t wealthy. He wants to invest in small companies so much that we’ve set up a “fun money” account, which is 10% of his otherwise well-diversified, passively managed portfolio. “Fun money” is specifically set aside so that he can make individual investments he believes in.

Because of the way small business investing is structured in this country, the likelihood of Paul and David connecting has been infinitesimally small.

This drives me mad.

It’s not just these two who are missing out. Because small companies drive job and economic growth, the economy of the country loses when Paul and David don’t connect. And because the current system of funding is biased, some small businesses are a lot less likely to get funding despite their worthy ideas.

Recent developments could change all this.

To raise their initial start up money, small business owners typically first use their savings, and then appeal to their friends and family. Next, they go to banks. If they get big enough and have certain ambitions and contacts, they can get venture capital funding or private equity funding, which is what Paul was waiting on.

These sources of capital are all enhanced if you are affluent and well connected. Do your friends and family have extra money to invest in your business? Do you know anyone you can talk to at a bank? What about impressing people in the venture capital world? A lot of people with good ideas are shut out.

Enter the Internet. Raising money got a lot easier.

The Power of Reward Sites

With reward sites, startups with good ideas raise money in exchange for rewards.

Sesame, which opens doors remotely from smartphones, raised over $1.4 million on Kickstarter.com. The reward here was a chance to order the device.

Then there is Lammily, Barbie’s realistically proportioned cousin, whose designer raised almost $500,000 through Tilt.com. The reward for funding Lammily was the chance to pre-order the doll, and sticker packs with stretch marks, cellulite, freckles, and boo-boos.

The reward sites show that companies can raise large amounts of money through small contributions from a large number of people. Research suggests that Kickstarter.com reduces company funding gender bias by an order of magnitude and reduces geographic bias as well. Reward sites cater to consumers who love new products and want to support new ideas.

You may get first dibs on a cool new doll, but sending money to a reward site isn’t investing.

The Risks of Private Equity

Traditionally, to get private equity funding, you have to sell to accredited investors — the richest 1% of the population, roughly speaking.

Accredited investor regulations were set up in in the wake of the 1929 crash, when a lot of people got ripped off because they invested in dubious enterprises. The idea was that people with a high level of wealth are sophisticated enough to understand investment risk. Unfortunately, this leaves the Davids of the world — investors who are sophisticated but wealthy — shut out of these types of investments.

Private equity placements are not always a great deal. When I’ve looked into them for clients, I’ve concluded they are expensive, risky, and difficult to get out of, even if you die. The middlemen who offer these and the advisers who sell these seem to be the ones most likely to make money. The best deals I’ve looked at weren’t hawked by sales people or investment advisers, but came through clients’ friends and family.

The rise of Internet portals set up to connect small companies with accredited investors has the potential to cut down on intermediary costs. Still, the sector remains small.

In 2012, President Obama signed the JOBS act, which directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to devise rules opening up small business investing to non-accredited investors.

Some organizations didn’t wait for the SEC to issue the rules. Instead, they dusted off exemptions in the securities legislation that most of us have ignored for 80 years.

States Get Into the Act

Some states have picked up on crowdfunding to boost their economies. Terms vary, but generally investors are subject to investment limits and companies are subject to a cap on raising money. Each individual, for example, might be limited to investing $10,000; each company might be limited to raising $1 million. Both investor and company are generally required to reside in the state.

This is music to ears of people who want to invest locally. The first successful offering using this type of exemption was in Georgia in 2013, where Bohemian Guitars raised approximately $130,000 through SparkMarket.com.

Other Exemptions

Village Power is another example of raising money using an exemption. This intermediary helps organizations set up and fund solar power projects. Village Power coaches their community partners to use an exemption in the SEC rules, which allows for up to 35 local, non-accredited investors.

New Rules Open Doors

New rules issued March 25 by the SEC removed a lot of the barriers for companies raising money and for non-accredited investors.

Companies will be able to raise up to $50 million. Non-accredited investors are welcome to invest, sometimes with limits — 10% of their net worth, say, or 10% of their net income.

Although Kickstarter has said that it won’t sell securities, other fundraising portals, such as Indiegogo, are looking into it.

And if all goes well, Paul, David, and I can start looking for the new opportunities in June of 2015.

———-

Bridget Sullivan Mermel helps clients throughout the country with her comprehensive fee-only financial planning firm based in Chicago. She’s the author of the upcoming book More Money, More Meaning. Both a certified public accountant and a certified financial planner, she specializes in helping clients lower their tax burden with tax-smart investing.

TIME Music

David Hasselhoff’s New Video Is a Perfectly Ridiculous 80s Throwback

The surprise ode to '80s action flicks is a must watch

If you’re going to watch one music video today — or ever — make it the surprise video dropped by none other than David Hasselhoff.

The video for “True Survivor” — which is from the Kickstarter-funded film Kung Fury — is straight out of the star’s Knight Rider days and while it doesn’t have his computerized car K.I.T.T., it does have a white Lamborghini, an overactive fog machine, fingerless gloves and a slick beat.

The clip mixes up everything from keytars to 8-bit hacking to dinosaurs, vikings, flamethrowers, roundhouse-kicking cops, people walking away from explosions without looking back and so much more. And naturally, it all ends with Hasselhoff riding a dinosaur into the sunset. The video bodes well for Kung Fury, David Sandberg’s throwback martial arts comedy about a vengeful cop who travels back in time to kill the Nazis, but end up bringing in vikings and Thor to finish the deed. With a plot like that, it should be no surprise the film exceeded its Kickstarter goal of $200,000, and brought in well over $600,000.

TIME Crowdfunding

The Most Successful Kickstarter Campaigns of All Time

Pebble Pebble Time

From smartwatches to exploding kittens

Crowdfunding the next great business, product or project is often a thankless endeavor. There have been over 200,000 Kickstarter campaigns to date; over 100,000 failed to reach their funding goal. Another 20,000 were canceled or suspended, regardless of whether they were able to raise money. Many projects barely reach their funding goals, only to fail later anyway, when the creators realized the money simply wouldn’t go far enough.

On the flip side, a select few projects have gone on to raise tens of millions of dollars, blowing away early funding goals and turning modest ideas into worldwide phenomenons—in some cases, literally overnight.

So with Exploding Kittens (a card game) recently blowing by OUYA (a micro video game console) in the overall Kickstarter rankings, it’s time to take stock of the all-time record holders. Using our database of Kickstarter campaign data, we ranked the 15 most insanely successful projects to date. In each case, we’ll break down the total backers, the percent funded and a brief history of how things played out. Without further ado…

Double Fine Adventure

Campaign ended: March 13th, 2012

What it is: A point-and-click adventure video game, paired with a documentary that catalogues the development process.

How it turned out: The game was released in January 2014 under the title Broken Age, receiving generally positive critical reviews. The documentary series continues to this day, as the developers work on the game’s second installment.

The Dash – Wireless Smart in Ear Headphones

Campaign ended: March 31st, 2014

What it is: Smart, wireless earphones that track fitness and play music, all without wires.

How it turned out: Though the product has faced a series of delays, it’s scheduled for release later this summer.

The Micro: The First Truly Consumer 3D Printer

Campaign ended: May 7th, 2014

What it is: A 3D printer at a price point friendly to consumers (~$500)

How it turned out: Some models have shipped to early backers, while later backers and the general public are still waiting.

Reaper Miniatures Bones: An Evolution of Gaming Miniatures

Campaign ended: August 25th, 2012

What it is: A line of affordable, intricately designed gaming miniatures, ready to paint out of the box.

How it turned out: The first Bones campaign was so successful that Reaper ran a second campaign just one year later, which again raised over $3 million.

Mighty No. 9

Campaign ended: October 1st, 2013

What it is: A 2D, side-scrolling video game, considered the spiritual successor to the classic Mega Man series.

How it turned out: The project reached its funding goal in just two days. The final version of the game is expected within the next month or two.

Project Eternity

Campaign ended: October 16th, 2012

What it is: A party-based role-playing game with an isometric (pseudo-3D) perspective.

How it turned out: The game was released under the name Pillars of Eternity on March 26, 2015, and received nearly universal acclaim.

Torment: Tides of Numenera

Campaign ended: April 5th, 2013

What it is: A fantasy role-playing game and spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, a popular role-playing game from 1999.

How it turned out: Originally scheduled for a December 2014 release, Tides of Numenera is now set for late 2015.

Bring Reading Rainbow Back for Every Child, Everywhere!

Campaign ended: July 2nd, 2014

What it is: A campaign to bring classic Reading Rainbow materials to more classrooms and modern platforms, like web and mobile.

How it turned out: The campaign was a success overnight, raising $1 million in just 24 hours. Celebrity Seth MacFarlane also chipped in a full million on his own.

The Veronica Mars Movie Project

Campaign ended: April 12th, 2013

What it is: A Veronica Mars movie developed after the TV series was canceled.

How it turned out: Starring Kristen Bell, the film debuted to mixed reviews and became a box office flop.

Pono Music – Where Your Soul Rediscovers Music

Campaign ended: April 15, 2014

What it is: A music playing device that delivers uncompressed audio, such that it will sound much more like real life and less like a recording.

How it turned out: The PonoPlayer launched in early 2015 to mixed reviews, where technology writers questioned just how much better the PonoPlayer actually sounded, compared to standard MP3s.

OUYA: A New Kind of Video Game Console

Campaign ended: August 8th, 2012

What it is: A little cube that lets you control Android-based games with a gamepad and play them on your TV.

How it turned out: The OUYA launched in mid 2013 to mediocre reviews and low sales. Today, most gamers consider the product a flop.

Exploding Kittens

Campaign ended: February 19th, 2015

What it is: An irreverent, social card game designed by Matthew Inman (creator of the popular cartoon and comic site, The Oatmeal).

How it turned out: The cards will ship to backers over the course of the summer, but there are no plans yet for a wide, retail release to the general public.

Pebble: E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android

Campaign ended: May 18th, 2012

What it is: One of the first smartwatches to ever hit the market, designed by a small, independent developer.

How it turned out: Pebble went on to sell over a million smartwatches by 2015, an impressive figure given how young the market is.

COOLEST COOLER: 21st Century Cooler that’s Actually Cooler

Campaign ended: August 29th, 2014

What it is: A multi-purpose cooler that can charge your phone, blend cocktails, play music, and much more.

How it turned out: Creator Ryan Grepper originally promised to ship the cooler by February 2015, but due to manufacturing constraints, the release date has been pushed back to sometime in the summer.

Pebble Time – Awesome Smartwatch, No Compromises

Campaign ended: March 27th, 2015

What it is: Pebble’s third edition of its popular smartwatch, complete with a new color e-paper design and timeline interface.

How it turned out: The watch will be shipped to Kickstarter backers in May, but the company will face its biggest test yet as it goes up against the Apple Watch.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 7

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. It’s time to give up the uniquely American institution of the network anchorman.

By Frank Rich in New York magazine

2. On Billie Holiday’s 100th birthday, her “spiritual endowment” endures.

By Wynton Marsalis in Time

3. How to save crowdfunding from scammers and flakes.

By Klint Finley in Wired

4. Here’s how Putin could lose power.

By Amanda Taub in Vox

5. What if the secret to racial harmony is more uplifting internet videos?

By Katie Jacobs at Penn State News

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY the photo bank

An Artist Mints Her Own Take on Bitcoin

How one photographer is using digital currency to rethink the value of money and art.

Virtual currency like Bitcoin has captured the imagination of a lot of people, from techies to economists to drug dealers. Now, artists are riffing on the idea, and one is trying to use it to fund her work—and to raise some new questions about what makes both money and art precious.

Sarah Meyohas, a Wharton School of Business grad who is currently finishing up her MFA in Photography at Yale University, is launching her own digital currency, which she calls, cheekily, BitchCoin. (“If you’re a woman who is taking a stake in your future and aggressive, you’re a bitch,” says Meyohas.) Unlike Bitcoin, which is computer-generated by its users, BitchCoin represents a claim on a tangible asset, in this case Meyohas’ photographic prints. One virtual coin is supposed to correspond to 25 square inches of print. Each time Meyohas creates a coin, she’ll set aside a print in bank vault.

BitchCoin will be “mined” inside of Where, a gallery/shipping container in Brooklyn. Meyohas will be camped inside producing her work, while being streamed live via a webcam. Coin buyers will receive a certificate with key number encryption allowing access to an account on a free BitchCoin software program in which BitchCoins can be sent and received.

At one level, this is really just a clever take on crowdfunding art, similar to Kickstarter, IndieGogo and the relatively new Fotofund. The initial BitchCoins will sell for $100 each, and that money goes to Meyohas. But she also says the project is about “the role of value in reproducible objects like the photograph.” And about the value of money. Since the end of the gold standard, regular money is just pieces of paper with pictures, backed by nothing. Meyohas describes BitchCoin as a virtual currency backed by a real asset, the art. But that art, of course, is just pieces of paper with a pictures. That paradox is especially relevant to her own medium. As Meyohas puts it:

For a long time, the art world wouldn’t seriously collect photographs because they seemed too reproducible. It was only once printed and editioned, made materially scarce, that they could be valued. There is something about the value of money which you can print endless copies of that parallels the photographic print.

Meyohas is also exploring where the value of an artist’s work should be placed, on individual pieces or on her entire body of work. Unlike crowdfunding or indeed traditional art buying, in which a patron invests in a specific project or publication, BitchCoin is supposed to represent a piece of Meyohas simply “as a ‘value producer’.” Meyohas says a BitchCoin is exchangeable not for a specific photo, but for any of her “editioned, unframed archival chromogenic photographs.” She believes this approach gives her more of a controlling stake in her art and career; if her career is successful and her works grow in value, she can tap into that by creating new, more valuable coins.

By getting buyers to support a career, not merely one work, she’s harkening back to an older type of arts patronage. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Florentine House of Medici which controlled Europe’s largest bank and thus exerted unrivaled social and political influence over the region—used their wealth to underwrite art, architecture, literary and scientific projects. They supported the careers of those geniuses lucky enough to be aligned with their inner circle: Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, Raphael, Galileo, Brunelleschi and Vasari—among others.

This Sunday, February 15, at 8 p.m., Meyohas will be launching BitchCoin at the Trinity Place Bar, a bar in a bank (of course) at 115 Broadway, in the Financial District of Manhattan. At its initial offering, BitchCoin will back the edition of one photograph, aptly titled “Speculation.” Afterward, the exchange rate will fluctuate based on demand for BitchCoin, and of course the value of Meyohas’ artwork in the market.

Virtual currencies are wildly speculative, and buying art is all the more so. And the idea of BitchCoin as a store of value is, well… complicated. If you see BitchCoin as really a part of Meyohas’ artwork, what would it even mean to try to trade it for 25 square inches of her pictures? Since she says a BitchCoin would be destroyed whenever it was converted to art, wouldn’t that in turn destroy part of the art, and part of its value? Prompting such knotty, unanswerable questions is of course what Meyohas is up to with this project.

This is part of The Photo Bank, a recurring feature on Money.com dedicated to conceptually-driven photography. From images that document the broader economy to ones that explore more personal concerns like paying for college, travel, retirement, advancing your career, or even buying groceries, The Photo Bank showcases a spectrum of the best work being produced by emerging and established artists. Submissions are encouraged and should be sent to Sarina Finkelstein, Online Photo Editor for Money.com at sarina.finkelstein@timeinc.com.

TIME States

Detroit Man Who Walked 21 Miles to Work Each Day to Finally Be Bought Car

James The Walker
Ryan Garza—AP In this Jan. 29, 2015, photo, James Robertson, 56, of Detroit, walks toward Woodward Aveune in Detroit to catch his morning bus to Somerset Collection in Troy before walking to his job at Schain Mold Engineering in Rochester Hills. Getting to and from his factory job 23 miles away in Rochester Hills, he'll take a bus partway there and partway home and walk 21 miles according to the Detroit Free Press

A kickstarted campaign has, so far, raised $130,000

James Robertson has arguably America’s harshest commute, a 21-mile trek that takes him through the Detroit’s worst neighborhoods. Now, his daily journey has captured the nation’s attention and prompted a GoFundMe campaign that has raised $130,000 to provide him with a car.

For the last decade, the 56-year-old has walked eight miles to work and 13 miles back again. He usually arrives home at 4 a.m., sleeps for two hours, and then wakes up at 6 a.m. to return to his factory job, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The daily odyssey takes him through Detroit’s infamous 8 Mile neighborhood in the middle of the night. But despite the ordeal, Robertson remains upbeat about his situation. “I sleep a lot on the weekend, yes I do,” he says. “I can’t imagine not working.”

A Sunday profile in the Detroit Free Press inspired hundreds of people to offer Robertson cash, chauffeur services and even cars.

Evan Leedy, a student of Wayne State University, was inspired to start a GoFundMe campaign. “I set the goal at the beginning of $5,000. Right now my page has more than $30,000,” Leedy said on Sunday evening.

Yet donations have now left $30,000 in the dust — the total stands at $130,000 at time of publication and is rising fast.

Robertson said that he is proud that he has managed his commute for all these years, but with the help of the kickstarter campaign, it looks like his walking days may be over.

[Detroit Free Press]

 

Read next: Inside the California Prison Where Inmates Train Rescue Dogs

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME advice

9 Tips for Launching a Successful Kickstarter Campaign

woman at computer
Getty Images

Determine your fulfillment beforehand

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

Kickstarter, and other similar crowd-funding platforms, is an incredibly innovative tool to fund your business. I find this is particularly true for women, for whom early stage funding is notoriously more difficult to find. But like all great tools, you should know how to use them wisely. Here’s a little bit of what I learned in my experience:

1. Know what your goal is.

Make sure you’re clear about why you’re doing this–is it to test a new product line? To get the word out? To pre-fund production? This will help keep you accountable throughout the whole process and minimize distractions (there will be many, trust me!).

2. Tell a compelling story.

Investing in a great video is an absolute must! People will decide within the first 10 seconds whether they’re going to watch the rest of your video, let alone consider contributing to your campaign and/or sharing it with their friends. Spend a lot of time perfecting your pitch–keep it short (3-4 minutes), informative, funny, and engaging. You can fill in all the other details on the rest of the project page, but make sure you sell your audience right off the bat with a great video.

3. Set a goal that makes sense for you.

Don’t be tempted by setting a big, sexy fundraising target. Start by figuring out the absolute leastamount of money you need. For example, if you’re manufacturing a product, make sure you know what your factory order minimum is, how much the materials costs, etc. Make sure to add in extras like shipping and packaging, which can be easy to overlook. Once you have your minimum number, I would recommend staying at or around this number; it’s best to be conservative and blow your goal out of the water because if you don’t hit your goal you don’t get any of your funds.

4. Select your rewards wisely.

Create rewards that are exclusively available for your backers. This can be a discount on a product or an entirely unique product that won’t be available after the campaign. These people are taking a big risk in backing you–make sure you treat them well.

5. Timing can be everything.

Think about if your product has any seasonal association because that could mean the difference between success and failure. This past summer The Coolest Cooler became the most funded Kickstarter of all time, raising over $13 million. But this was his second attempt; his first campaign fell short of its $125K goal. So what changed? One big difference: his first attempt launched in November, whereas his second attempt launched in July, when beach-going customers were more likely to be in the cooler shopping mentality.

(MORE: These Two Women May Have Just Fixed Our Phone Obsession)

6. Determine your fulfillment beforehand.

I spent months before the campaign creating the sample for my dress. What I thought would take me two months ended up taking almost 6 months, as I endlessly tweaked the fit and fabric, as well as tested several manufacturers. Doing this beforehand allowed me to set a realistic, but relatively quick turnaround time for my customers. The last thing you want to do is disappoint the very people that made it all happen by rushing through the fulfillment process once the campaign is funded.

7. Keep up your momentum.

Typically, you get a surge of support in the first week and a surge in the final days with a big drop in activity in the middle. So you have to strategize beforehand about how you’re going to survive those dead middle weeks and hit your targets by the end. This takes good planning by making sure you have blog posts, press, events, and backers, lined up to help keep your momentum going.

8. Kickstarter should be the last step, not the first.

If you think you can just post your project on Kickstarter and it will just fund itself, you’re in for a rude awakening. You must spend several months beforehand building your tribe of believers that want your product and support what you’re doing. I started my business a year and a half before launching on Kickstarter. Not only did I have a small base of customers, but I had relationships with numerous petite bloggers. It was because I had these longstanding relationships that I had an extensive list of people to email on day 1 of my project. I know for a fact I couldn’t have succeeded without these longstanding relationships.

9. Last but not least: make sure you’re making a great product!

This may seem super obvious, but for any business to work, it comes down to having a great product. Make sure you’re making an amazing product that’s solving a real problem. Ask yourself: “Would my customer’s life be better with this product?” The answer should be a resounding “YES!” before you hit that launch button.

Best of luck–it’s a fun, crazy and rewarding journey.

(MORE: 5 Lessons I’ve Learned from ‘Veronica Mars’)

TIME Web

Kickstarter Passed Half a Billion Dollars in Pledges in 2014

168955119
PM Images—Getty Images Exchanging money digitally

More than 3.3 million people pledged $529 million total

Kickstarter had its biggest year yet in 2014. The crowdfunding website saw more than 3.3 million people pledge $529 million to various projects over the course of the year, up from 3 million people pledging $480 million in 2013.

Like past years, 2014 brought a slew of highly memorable crowdfunding projects. The Coolest Cooler, a high-tech icebox that plays music in addition to storing drinks, earned $13.2 million in pledges last summer and became the most-funded project in Kickstarter history. In July, Levar Burton’s campaign to resurrect Reading Rainbow generated more than $5 million in pledges and became the first Kickstarter project to gain 100,000 backers.

Other highly successful projects included Neil Young’s high-fidelity digital music player Pono ($6.2 million in pledges), the Micro 3D printer ($3.4 million) and a pair of wireless earbuds that can store music and track your vital signs ($3.4 million).

Since Kickstarter only doles out money if projects reach their initial funding goals, that full $529 million wasn’t paid out to project starters. However, more than 22,000 projects were successfully funded in 2014, the most ever in a single year. Music was the most popular category for campaigns, with about 4,000 projects being successfully funded. However, technology attracted the most pledged dollars, as backers offered up $125 million to fund various gadgets. Here’s a breakdown of how many pledged dollars each category attracted:

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This year Kickstarter also shed some light on when projects are most likely to be funded. Wednesdays are the most popular day for pledging money to projects, while Sundays are the least popular. During a single given day, the most pledges occur around 1 PM, indicating that people may be browsing Kickstarter during work more often than they do at home.

Check out more stats at Kickstarter’s “Year in Review” presentation.

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