At University I studied Industrial Design. I loved developing solutions to physical problems. In our final year, we all had to develop a big final year project. Unlike many Industrial Design courses, we produced working prototypes, not just pretty renderings and a mockup. Some of the products developed on our course had the potential to be turned into commercial products (not mine by the way). But for a newly graduated student to exploit their design. To take the step to turn the product into commercial reality, it’s difficult to find the necessary funds. Even taking out patents cost money. So I think that’s why I’m drawn to crowd funding websites such as Kickstarter. It could provide the next generation of young designers with the opportunity to turn some of these ideas in reality.
Last year, I funded a number of bands who were trying to get their albums made. I buy a lot of music, often taking a punt on an album despite limited exposure to the band’s music. So throwing the equivalent of the cost of one album at a few new bands, a small amount, but which collectively gives the band a start, I think is worthwhile.
Over Christmas I was considering increasing my donations to my various charities. But a thought struck me. Banks aren’t lending. There’s little opportunity for people with good ideas to find the funding to get their business ideas off the ground. So rather than increasing my donations, I decided that I’d try to regularly support crowd funded projects. My small donations could help new business ideas, art projects, social projects, games, albums and products get made. In the current economy, maybe some small gambles might be better than directing money to charity. My intention is to buy one less album each month and instead to support one project every month. (up to £20)
I’m not being too strict over the criteria I’m using. In general I’m trying to support British projects, but I don’t intend it to be deciding factor. In terms of products, I’m looking for innovative ideas or ideas which could help our economy. So I’m thinking carefully about products which state that they’re going to be made in the Far East when British companies could make the small production runs. I’m trying to support British art and music projects. But I’m also willing to support ‘blue sky’ projects* if the end product has the potential to change lives. For example, I recently supported Mine Kafon, an idea for a low cost minesweeper. I think from an engineering point of view, there’s only a small chance that it will do what the designer intends (especially within budget). But if it does work, the return would be enormous for societies blighted by minefields. The ideas don’t even have to be something I’m particularly interested in. So I’ve funded the first issue of a comic, even though I don’t read them, I was just impressed by the artwork and thought it was worth supporting talent. And because I’m looking at these small investments as donations, I’m not being swayed by the returns the project is offering so will accept that some projects simply aren’t feasible and take the small loss.
I know I’m only talking about a small amount. But I’m not rich and I don’t run a bank. So individually, other than my personal spend, I have no way of helping our economy pick itself up. But collectively, with help from other people, maybe I can help somebody turn their idea into reality.
*Some Kickstarter projects are simply scams. People asking for money for something they never intend to develop, or are using Kickstarter as a clever way to make people pay for something they’ve already produced at over the top prices (like all the over priced iPhone case projects). Or are projects where the commercial reality of producing the idea is completely under resourced by the funding. But I accept that this is a risk that I’m willing to take. I’m sure I’ll be stung once or twice, that’s why I’m keeping my donations small