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All Contents © 2018The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Jeff Bertolucci, Contributing Writer
| May 4, 2015
Tech entrepreneurs are increasingly bypassing banks and venture capital for financial backing, and reaching out to the general public via sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
These five high-profile campaigns raised millions, and most of the new gear will soon be in stores or online.
Skully, which develops vehicle systems technology for the transportation industry, has developed what it calls the “world’s smartest motorcycle helmet.” Its Indiegogo effort raised more than $2.4 million from 1,940 people.
What got backers so revved up? The AR-1 is brimming with cool techie innovations, including a transparent, head-up display that shows a rearview camera feed. Perhaps more important was Skully’s pulse-pounding, two-minute promotional video. Plus, Skully offered backers who contributed $1,399 first dibs on an AR-1 helmet by May—$100 off the $1,499 list price. Retail preorders are now scheduled for July.
Image by Sergey Galyonkin via Wikipedia
In August 2012, Oculus VR launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $250,000 for development of the Oculus Rift, a head-mounted display that immerses the wearer (think gamers) in a 3D virtual world. By the time the campaign ended, more than 9,500 backers had pledged more than $2.4 million. (Facebook bought Oculus last year for about $2 billion.)
The Rift is still very much a work in progress, but a prerelease version is available to developers who want to create content for the headset, and the consumer edition ($200 to $400) is expected to debut late this year.
Smart watch start-up Pebble passed the hat earlier this year on Kickstarter and raised more than $20.3 million from more than 78,000 backers. Pebble used the cash to bring its Pebble Time ($200) to market. Available this spring, the smart watch, pictured at right, sports a color e-paper display that’s easy to read in sunlight, and it works with Android and iOS phones.
The big question is how well Pebble Time will compete against the Apple Watch (starting at $350). Price and battery life may be Pebble’s biggest competitive advantages.
Courtesy Axent Wear/Indiegogo
The brainchild of University of California–Berkeley alumni Wenqing Yan and Victoria Hu, the Axent Wear headphones come with colorful LED accent lights, over-ear cushioning for comfort, and whimsical “cat ear” speakers for sharing music with friends. Nearly 21,000 Indiegogo backers were so impressed that they pledged almost $3.4 million last year to move the project along.
Priced at $135 (plus $35 for shipping), the Axent Wear headphones are available for preorder, with shipping to begin in early fall. Who’ll buy them? Preteens, hipsters and maybe even Hello Kitty fans.
Legendary rocker Neil Young has never been shy about his contempt for most digital audio formats. His solution: Found a start-up, called PonoMusic, which raised more than $6.2 million from 18,220 Kickstarter backers. The result: the $400 PonoPlayer, a triangular iPod alternative that plays better-than-CD-quality tracks. The verdict? Too soon to call (it went on sale in January), but early reviews criticized the PonoPlayer’s high price, odd shape and short battery life.
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