April 15th, 2012
Just a quick note about Kickstarter and the Pebble watch.
Given everything out there about Kickstarter’s founding story one gets the impression that the crux of its existence revolves around art and creativity. Just a guess based on that huge banner on their home page. Funding a rock concert in New Orleans and all that. Novellas, art projects, letters, albums, tours, Girl Walk, etc.
Up for debate whether consumer electronics fits in this category. Ask someone in 2006 and the answer is likely “HELL TO THE NO”, especially in the years before Apple (and their design-conquers-all attitude) was the most respected brand in the world of consumer electronics, which pre-iPhone they def. were not.
Back to the Pebble watch. Consumer electronics are among the most well-funded projects on Kickstarter despite the fact that it’s dubious whether they should even be included in the scope of fundable projects. Which is really fascinating because that to me means that consumer electronics as a market has been ripe for disruption all along. That said, it’s ridiculously not obvious that disruption would come from the same place that allows an artist with a sharpie, a hotel room and a webcam a way to make the art she wants.
I guess the big lesson here is that you can have a secret plan to disrupt one market (how creativity is funded) and end up making an arguably even larger splash in another one (consumer electronics r&d, marketing, sales, business models, etc.) Was this part of Kickstarter’s plan all along? Obviously there’s no way to tell, but my guess is probably not.
Making consumer electronics has, as far as I can tell, not *really* been considered a creative way to spend your time until maybe right now. In 2009 I did a ton of research on making a totally awesome mini-projector (thesis: smart phones would soon be everywhere, and the only downside is the lack of screen real estate). I was basically told over and over again that I would get undercut by someone doing it cheaper who already has a standing deal with Best Buy, would get shoved out of the market, and go bankrupt doing so because of the overhead that accompanies “hardware startups”.
So good on you kind citizens of the internet for saying eff that. Give us devices that are smart and beautiful and carefully crafted and we will throw literally millions at them overnight.