TIME Innovation

You Can Unlock This High-Tech Padlock With Your Phone

noke
FUZ

We’re almost to the point, technologically, where you won’t have to remember a single thing.

This newfangled padlock — called Noke — has no keys, keyhole or combination for you to remember, instead relying on your iOS or Android device to unlock it via Bluetooth. Get within 10 feet of the thing, keep your phone in your pocket and you’ll be able to unlock it. You can share access with other people as well, turn off the auto-unlock-within-10-feet feature and receive alerts whenever Noke is unlocked by someone else.

“But what if I lose my phone?!” you bellow, your face red with Internet nerd rage, your hammy fists pounding against your desk until they leave C-shaped sweat rings. You can unlock the lock by pumping the doohickies in a Morse code-like fashion you set in advance, like so:

noke code
FUZ

The padlock has a battery, which lasts a year and can only be removed when the padlock’s unlocked. If you manage to run it dry, there’s an emergency backup feature as well. It’s water resistant, and there’s a special bike cable available for $20.

This is a Kickstarter project that’s been fully funded, with the promise of the padlocks being shipped out early next year. Early backers can get a padlock for $59; the final retail price is set to be around $89.

[OhGizmo!]

 

TIME Internet

Kickstarting Equal Pay: Women Out-Raise Men on Crowdfunding Sites

Call it the funding gap instead of the pay gap

It’s an unfortunate but well-known fact that women trail men in most metrics of business success. But a recent study shows there’s one area of enterprise where women are surging ahead: raising money online via crowdfunding.

On Kickstarter, where backers make monetary donations to projects and businesses in exchange for small rewards, about two-thirds of women-led technology projects reach their fundraising goals, compared with a little less than one-third of male tech ventures, according to the July study from the University of Pennsylvania. Overall, the study found that women are 13% more likely to meet their Kickstarter goals, after controlling for factors like project type and amount of money.

Ethan Mollick, an assistant professor at the Wharton business school at Penn who co-wrote the study, told the Wall Street Journal that women’s success on Kickstarter may be precisely because they are so underrepresented in areas like gaming and technology. These female-started ventures get backed by “women who are activists who want to reach out and help other women,” he said.

That was certainly the experience of Joanna Griffiths, who raised $100,000 on Indiegogo, another crowdfunding site, for her women’s underwear line Knix Wear Inc.. The money came largely from women backers. “It’s a female product. It’s a female team,” she told WSJ. “There’s very much a connection there.”

Alicia Robb, a senior fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, authored another study on crowdfunding that found 40% of Kickstarter ventures funded by women were led by women, compared with only 23% of projects backed by men.

In other words, women are more likely to support other women than men are.

TIME Food

This Is How the Potato-Salad Kickstarter Guy Plans to Spend the Money

Potato salad at a picnic
Lauri Patterson—Vetta/Getty Images

The guy who raised over $55,000 to make potato salad is throwing a festival and donating money to fight homelessness in Ohio

The guy who raised over $50,000 on Kickstarter to make potato salad has big (and charitable) plans for the funds 6,911 people helped him raise.

On Sept. 27, Zach Brown will host a free family-friendly festival called PotatoStock in a Columbus, Ohio, park. The festival is set to feature local artists and reportedly boasts relevant sponsors like Hellmann’s and Idaho Potatoes.

On Twitter, the account for Idaho Potatoes seemed excited about the event.

The festival, which Mashable reports will feature an estimated 200 lb. to 300 lb. of potato salad, also has a philanthropic ingredient. Proceeds from concessions sold at the festival will be donated to help end homelessness in Central Ohio.

“We are going to contribute a significant portion of the remaining money to the fund at the Columbus Foundation,” Brown wrote in July announcement. “This will create a permanent fund to help Central Ohio’s non-profits end hunger and homelessness. These types of funds gain interest every year and grow over time, so, while our little internet joke will one day be forgotten, the impact will be felt forever.”

In an interview with Mashable, Brown said he’s still working to secure a big name that will draw a significant crowd to his potato fest — but he’s sure his Kickstarter backers will show up.

“I keep hearing people saying that they plan to road trip to PotatoStock from [out] of town,” Brown told Mashable. “I’d love to see a huge pilgrimage to Columbus.”

TIME Crowdfunding

More Than 4 Million People Visited the Potato Salad Kickstarter

Scandinavian potato salad from Silver Palate. (Bob Fila/Chic
Scandinavian potato salad from Silver Palate. Chicago Tribune—MCT via Getty Images

Forget Oculus Rift and the Reading Rainbow reboot—a bowl of potato salad was better able to hold the attention of the Internet this summer.

Crowdfunding site Kickstarter today revealed a bevy of stats related to what has become one of its most famous (or infamous) projects, an initiative by a random guy to make his first-ever bowl of potato salad. The project gathered widespread media attention and ultimately attracted 4.1 million visitors to its web page, making it the fourth most-viewed Kickstarter project of all time:

 

tater sald views

 

Unlike many widely-viewed Kickstarter projects, almost everyone who viewed the potato salad project got a hearty laugh and then went about their business. In the end, the project earned just $55,492 from 6,911 backers. Oculus Rift, for comparison, made $2.4 million, and Reading Rainbow racked up $5.4 million, though both attracted fewer visitors than potato salad.

On the other hand, though, a guy made a cool $55,000 just by saying he wanted to make potato salad. This is the great, democratizing force of the Internet.

Unsurprisingly, most of the project backers came from the U.S., with the United Kingdom and Canada being the next-biggest potato salad backers. Among U.S. states, the most backers hailed from Ohio (potato salad connoisseur Zack Brown’s home state), California and New York.

tater salad map

Brown is planning to host a festival called PotatoStock2014 in Columbus, Ohio with live music and, of course, lots off helpings of the tasty side dish. Proceeds will benefit a charity aimed at ending homelessness in Ohio. A portion of his potato salad money will also be used to start a for-profit venture to “spread humor and joy around the world,” he said on his Kickstarter page.

TIME technology

Hero Builds a Genius Machine That Can Fill 100 Water Balloons in a Minute

The Kickstarter campaign to fund it has already earned more than $100,000

Some people turn to Kickstarter for dumb ideas that clearly will not help anyone. (We’re looking at you, potato salad guy.) But other people, like this father of eight from Texas, use the crowdfunding site to raise money for something that could ACTUALLY ALTER THE COURSE OF HUMAN HISTORY.

Say hello to Bunch O Balloons, a contraption that solves a very real problem about water balloons: they’re so much fun, but they take forever to fill. No longer! This device will easily fill and tie 37 balloons in 20 seconds flat. You simply attach it to a hose and give it a gentle shake once the balloons are filled. Already tied, they’ll then drop right into a bucket below.

Creator Josh Malone set out to raise $10,000 to begin manufacturing this invention — and now, having raised more than $100,000, he’s clearly surpassed that goal.

This contraption will be especially handy if you’ve got sneaky pets who tend to pop your water balloons:

Now you’ll be all, Who cares? Give me just a minute and I’ll have 100 more where that came from!

TIME Internet

The Hottest New Exercise Equipment Is a Giant Hamster Wheel…for Cats

166273382
Getty Images

A Kickstarter for this project has already raised more than $120,000

If you’re hoping to help your fat cat slim down, consider getting him this feline hamster wheel. It’s still in its funding stages, but a Kickstarter campaign has already vastly exceeded its goal of $10,000.

In just a few weeks, supporters of this exercise wheel — called One Fast Cat — have pledged well over $120,000. But why a hamster wheel?

“It’s good for cats to get some sort of workout and changing it up to keep them interested is important,” creator Sean Farley wrote on the Kickstarter page. “There are many ways to keep your cat lively, giving them access to energetic companions, making a play session part of their day, and/or offering them tempting exercise equipment for use when you’re not at home…that’s why we came up with “One Fast Cat” cat wheel.”

Okay then! Here’s a look at how the contraption works:

After giving this some thought, we’re not really surprised that the campaign surpassed its funding goal. It’s 2014. If there’s wine for cats, why can’t there be a hamster wheel for cats too?

TIME Startups

How YouTube Stars Can Actually Make a Living

Pedals Music Video—Conte

Patreon offers a new approach to crowdfunding

Being a YouTube star doesn’t actually pay all that well. Just ask Jack Conte, a singer and musician who has scored viral hits mashing up Pharrell songs and stripping down pop hits like Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” as one half of the indie rock duo Pomplamoose. Between the group and his solo work, Conte says his videos can rack up as many as four million views each month on the video sharing site. But all those eyeballs do little for Conte’s bottom line—in a good month, he collects $400 in advertising revenue from YouTube.

“There’s great ways for people to build an audience online right now,” he says. “There’s really no great way for people to make a living.”

After a particularly elaborate music video involving singing robots on a handmade replica of the Millennium Falcon earned him just a few hundred dollars, Conte realized that there had to be a better way to earn money online. He wanted what he calls a “quality driven Web,” or a space where artists could make money based on the passion of their fanbases rather than trying to lure millions of mildly interested passersby by “going viral.”

His solution was Patreon, a new crowdfunding platform that helps creators earn revenue from their most ardent fans on an ongoing basis. Unlike Kickstarter, where inventors and creative types solicit money from users in a month-long campaign frenzy, Patreon asks users to pay creators each time they produce a new work. That could be a music video, a web comic any other kind of creative project. As on Kickstarter, patrons are given varying prizes based on how much they donate.

The unusual funding model creates a new dynamic between creators and fans. It’s not as much about crafting one brilliant idea and marketing it well but rather building and sustaining an audience over the long term. The idea of individual fans supporting artists on such a granular basis might seem anachronistic in an age where YouTube has helped make media more accessible, but Conte believes people are still willing to pay for art. “Patronage is a very old phenomenon that’s occurred in people and in society for thousands of years,” he says. “It stems from an emotional response to someone’s art. It’s a feeling of responsibility and importance and a desire to be a part of what they’re making.”

Since launching in May 2013, Patreon has attracted 25,000 creators who are requesting funding for everything from science fiction short stories to Minecraft raps to video game reviews. So far patrons have paid more than $2 million for creative works on the site, with $1 million of that coming in just the last two months. The most popular creators can earn close to $10,000 per project on the site.

Molly Lewis, a ukulele player with a small but devout following on YouTube, believes Patreon could eventually become her primary revenue source as an artist. She’s currently convinced more than 400 fans to pledge $2,600 total for each new song she makes, more than double her original funding goal. To attract donations, she promises exclusives like videos of live shows and personalized limericks written for hardcore fans. “It’s kind of like a fan club,” she says. “The money they spend goes directly into my buying food and making more music. They can see their dollars at work in a way that you can’t really when you go to a Katy Perry show or something.”

This desire to get an inside track on the creation of a new project has already helped Kickstarter pull in more than $1 billion in pledges from people around the world. Experts believe the Patreon model can also reach massive scale since it’s appealing to both creators and their fans. ““Here you can evaluate the quality of output over time and then decide whether you want to continue subscribing or not,” says Anindya Ghose, a professor of information, operation and management sciences at New York University who also studies crowdfunding. “It’s a very positive self-reinforcing cycle where people give small amounts of money, which incentivizes artists to do a better job, which then leads people to give more money more frequently.”

Plenty of obstacles remain for the still-nascent startup. It’s not yet clear just how long people will be willing to continually support a single artist’s work—Ghose points out that a few popular creators pumping out subpar work simply to collect a check could sour new users on the platform. More worrying could be YouTube’s entrance into the donations space. The video giant launched a virtual tip jar of its own recently as a response to ongoing gripes that it’s hard to earn money directly on the site. For now, Conte contends that Patreon’s features differentiates it from YouTube’s less robust offering, while YouTube has expressed support for crowdfunding platforms like Patreon and Kickstarter.

Silicon Valley, at least, believes in Patreon’s future. The startup closed a $15 million round of venture funding in June which included leading venture capitalist Danny Rimer and Alexis Ohanian, one of the co-founders of Reddit. The money will allow the company to launch a mobile app and open an office in San Francisco instead of working out of the two-bedroom apartment where Conte and co-founder Sam Yam live.

As Patreon grows, Conte promises that it will remain focused on creators’ interests. The currently unprofitable company charges a 5% commission on all donations, and Conte vows the fee won’t increase in the future (Kickstarter and YouTube charge the same amount). Though he’s now a CEO, he’s still a creator at heart—Conte has 1,300 patrons of his own paying more than $5,000 for each new video he makes. He envisions a future where every creative person isn’t a starving artist or a pop megastar. There’s room in the middle for artists, too, and people will pay for their work because, as Conte says, “Everybody wants to be able to enjoy beautiful things.”

TIME Television

This Concept For a Breaking Bad Sequel Is Spectacularly, Gloriously Insane

Val Kilmer cutting off own hair.
Actor Val Kilmer cuts his hair off on stage while filming the new Terrence Malick movie during day one of Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores on November 2, 2012 in Austin, Texas. Rick Kern—WireImage

Naturally, it's a half-million dollar Kickstarter, and would star Val Kilmer and Slash. Shut up and take my money

Maybe you really, really miss Breaking Bad. Maybe you can’t wait for Better Call Saul. Maybe you’re an avid follower of Val Kilmer’s Twitter feed. Or maybe you just spend your days swimming around a pool filled with money like Scrooge McDuck. Whatever your reason, you could hardly be blamed for donating a few dollars to this Kickstarter that is requesting $500,000 to make a “sequel” to Breaking Bad called Anastasia.

Leaving aside the fact that TV series don’t have “sequels,” per se (usually you’d call it a spinoff or, you know, just keep making the show itself), it sounds pretty fantastic. Val Kilmer (because of course) and Slash (ditto) would play U.S. Marshalls sent in to track down whoever stole Walter White’s body in the opening scene of Anastasia‘s pilot (oh yeah, that happens). From there, it’s really anyone’s guess, but creator Lawrence Shepherd says that he’s already finished scripts for all ten episodes of the first season.

Some of you might be saying to yourselves, “This sounds mighty far-fetched to me.” Fair, but then again, so was a high school chemistry teacher becoming the biggest drug kingpin in the Southwest. Kilmer hasn’t signed on yet, but the man does love himself a good desert and in an interview with VICE, Shepherd seemed confident about his chances of landing the Top Gun star: “From what people tell me about Val Kilmer, you don’t have to pay him a million dollars. If there’s some money there, he’ll typically do it.”

Shepherd is a little more concerned about getting Slash — who would “stay in the ‘Slash’ character” and “will always be undercover” — due to the musician’s other obligations, but he’s sweetening the pot by naming Slash the show’s musical director. Other big names who will be invited to appear in Anastasia (as recovering addicts) will include Russell Brand, Jamie Lee Curtis, Steven Tyler, Dick Van Dyke, Drew Barrymore, Robert Downey Jr., Robin Williams, Neil Young and Eminem — all of whom would be permitted to improvise their own dialogue, which would “elevate Anastasia to an even higher level of quality and randomness.”

It’s also not entirely clear what the origins of the series’ title (Anastasia) is, but Shepherd has set his sights on at least one female co-star for Kilmer and Slash: Jana Mashonee, who would play Slash’s girlfriend.

Though production has yet to begin, Shepherd has already been compelled to change a few of his casting choices. He told VICE he was turned down by Laura San Giacomo (Just Shoot Me), and abandoned his first choice for Kilmer’s role — Nathan Lane — because of prospective travel expenses. These hiccups could explain why Anastasia has received just $440 of its half-million dollar funding goal. The project’s August 1 deadline is rapidly approaching, but Shepherd says he plans to re-start it if the series is not funded on the first go-round.

TIME robotics

That Jibo Robot Does the Same Stuff as Your Phone, but People Are Freaking Out Anyway

jibo
Jibo

Jibo promises to be a lovable robot assistant, but it's unclear why you'd actually need one.

A crowdfunding campaign for a “family robot” called Jibo is picking up steam, blowing through its fundraising goals within the first day.

What is Jibo? It’s a little pod with a motorized swivel, equipped with cameras, microphones and a display. It recognizes faces and voices, and can act as a personal assistant by setting reminders, delivering messages and offering to take group photos. It also serves as a telepresence robot for video chat.

As of now, Jibo has raised more than $200,000 on IndieGogo–well beyond its $100,000 goal–and has racked up plenty of breathless coverage. Early bird pricing of $100 sold out long ago, but you can still claim a unit for $499, with an estimated December 2015 ship date.

Sorry to burst the hype bubble, but I’m not seeing how Jibo will more practical than a phone, a tablet or even a wearable device. Most of the things Jibo promises to do can be done better by the handset in your pocket–which, by the way, you don’t have to lug around from tabletop to tabletop.

To see what I mean, let’s deconstruct the scenario in Jibo’s pitch video, in which a man gets home from a long day at work. Jibo, perched on a nearby counter, turns on the lights, records an order for Chinese take-out, then starts reading back a voicemail from his girlfriend. The man then doubles the take-out order on the fly.

It’s the kind of demo that makes perfect sense unless you think about it too much. If home automation goes mainstream, a dedicated robot won’t be necessary, because our phones will do a better job of signaling when we’ve walked through the front door. The idea of having your messages read to you when you get home is a throwback to answering machines, which are obsolete now that we can check our messages from anywhere. As for the take-out order, you’ve got to be the dullest person in the world to order “the usual” every time you get home, and I’m not sure the man’s girlfriend will take kindly to having no input on what food she gets.

There is something to be said for a device that can persistently listen for your commands and act on them, but this is the same problem that wearable devices are trying to solve, and they’re better-suited to being wherever you are. While group photos and telepresence are potentially useful, now we’re getting into some very specific situations that don’t really justify a $500 purchase, regardless of how endearing Jibo tries to be. The only way Jibo makes sense as a robot is if it gains more physical capabilities, like a way to clean your windows or cook dinner, but it’s far too early to say whether that’s going to happen.

Maybe it’s unfair for me to judge at such an early stage, but that’s exactly what Jibo is trying to do through crowdfunding. The creators are asking people to throw money at something they’ve never seen, that has only been shown to the press in limited demos, and that won’t even ship until the tail end of next year. All we have to go on right now is a slick-looking pitch video and a whole bunch of promises. As talented as the folks behind Jibo seem to be, I’ve seen enough undercooked crowdfunded projects to know that some skepticism is in order.

MONEY Taxes

Potato Salad Kickstarter Guy May Have to Swallow $21,000 Tax Bill

potato salad
Let them eat... potato salad? Denise Bush—Getty Images

Perhaps you’ve heard about the Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to make some potato salad. It started as an attempt at irony but has now raised more than 70,000-completely-serious-dollars — inspiring awe, anger, less-successful copycats and plenty of jokes.

For those wondering where all that money will go, the Tax Foundation has an (at least partial) answer: The taxman.

According to the think tank’s calculations, project founder Zack Danger Brown should owe federal taxes of $8,632, Columbus city taxes of $1,510, Ohio state taxes of $1,712, plus $9,313 in payroll taxes. That all adds up to a whopping $21,167 — and that assumes donations stop after $70,000. (Spoiler alert, the total figure has already jumped $1,000 in the last couple of hours.)

The reason for this big bill is that funds raised on Kickstarter are considered income and can generally be offset only by expenses directly related to the project.

So unless Brown is adorning his potato salad with Wagyu beef, white truffles, and gold leaf, he could be looking at a 32% effective tax rate.

If he does as many are suggesting and donates any leftover cash to charity, he might be able to offset some of that with a charitable contribution deduction — though the Tax Foundation says he’ll still be liable for payroll taxes.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 45,278 other followers