5 reasons you should (and shouldn't) use a Kickstarter campaign

Popular crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter have earned a reputable reputation within the entrepreneurial arena, and for good reason. It's played a large role in shaping the crowdfunding market, which is now estimated to be well worth over $2 billion with the potential to reach as high as $93 billion by 2025. Some campaigns have raised more than six figures in less than 24 hours, while others have gone on to raise tens of millions of dollars for as simple of an idea as a horror themed board game. But with all that success comes plenty of failure. 14 % of Kickstarter campaigns fail to receive any pledges, and the current success rate of Kickstarter campaigns sits at 36%, meaning for every success story there are two failures quietly hidden and tucked away in the vast online fields of the internet.  

Kickstarter isn't going away anytime soon, no matter how many times the company may boast a failed project. The crowdfunding tool can be a great resource to help you grow your business or bring attention to a product or service you're hoping to successfully introduce to the market, but that doesn't always mean it's the right path to take. Let's have a look at the top 5 reasons why you should and shouldn't carry out a Kickstarter campaign for your product or business.  

5 Reasons You Should Use a Kickstarter Campaign  

1) If you have an idea for a tabletop board game then Kickstarter is absolutely the right place for you to launch your campaign.  In previous years online video gaming projects generated the most hype, largely because in 2015 the category had an average of over $100,000 for successful campaigns. But now board games seem to be the current fad, earning an average of $65,418 in 2017 and surpassing the flat growth of the online gaming world.

2) Your campaign doesn’t require too high of a funding goal. Backers want to believe that the project they are backing has a legitimate chance of being successful, or else why would they waste their time and money on your business? If your project falls below six figures it will have a greater chance of reaching its goal.

3) You lack real-world connections. Let’s face it, in today’s world who you know can be just as, if not more important than what you know. If you don’t have a strong social network that features angel investors or witty business tycoons then this platform can be your gateway to reaching the people you need in order to be successful.

4) You have a variety of rewards that can be given out for a multitude of pledges. If you only have one product to sell, how will you get people to donate $200 instead of $50? If your business can offer a diverse set of rewards and promises to your backers it will make your campaign look more attractive in the consumer’s eyes, because everyone wants options!

5) You have a strong PR campaign specifically made for the crowdfunding project. One of the most common traits among all successful campaigns is that they feature highly professional looking press kits and videos. If you don’t have a tutorial or a simple video explaining your project then how will consumers fully understand and recognize the benefits of pledging money to your campaign? Video is the new norm across all platforms, because who likes to read!?

5 Reasons You Shouldn't Use a Kickstarter Campaign  

1) Your project requires a timeline longer than 30 days. The most successful campaigns feature short timelines. Statistics prove that projects with a long time stamp struggle to bring in revenue largely because backers don’t want to wait that long to receive their rewards.

2) Your product is heavily revolved around growing technology. The technology category is currently ranked 3rd on the most funded categories through Kickstarter. However, this is largely due to a few successful projects that raised over tens of millions of dollars in a short amount of time. The failure rate of technology projects is much greater than the average failure rate as currently 4 out of every 5 tech projects will fail to reach their targeted goals.

3) You don’t have the money to invest in promoting your campaign. If you can’t afford to pay for email subscription lists, online targeted advertisements, or PR campaigns then don’t even bother. Kickstarter is a massive platform with tens of thousands of shiny objects and fun projects. If you can’t invest money within online marketing tools served to broadcast your project then there is little chance anyone notices your business to begin with.

4) You’re not fully confident you can fulfill your orders if your goals are reached. 1 out of every 9 successful campaigns will fail to live up to their promises, leaving their consumers empty handed. There is no quicker way to ruin the integrity of your company then by failing to deliver on a reward you made available to the consumers who supported you before anyone else did.

5) You don’t have the right set of qualifications to prove to potential consumers that you can handle this project. If you’re a new company trying to sell a baseball bat, someone on your team better have experience as a player, coach, or working professional in the industry. When consumers are giving money for a product that has yet to be developed they are placing quite a bit of trust in you and your company. These consumers will likely check out your website, experience, and testimonials. Simply put, if you can’t prove that you have the right background for the specific project you’re offering backers will have a difficult time trusting your alleged capabilities.

For some, Kickstarter can be a tool used to help take their business to the next level. But for others, it can act as the final blow to their dwindling company. Remember, what you do online cannot be erased. A failed Kickstarter campaign will plague your company for years to come if you cannot properly handle the negative publicity that comes with it. Happy crowdfunding! 

The history of online crowdfunding

The first modern example of an online successful crowdfunding campaign traces back to 1997, when British rock band Marillion funded a reunion tour by taking online donations from North American fans hoping to see the infamous rockers one last time. At the time, the band was facing financial difficulties and couldn’t afford to tour without the help of their most dedicated fans, so they compiled an email list of 6,000 loyal followers and humbly asked them for their help. For their donations, fans were promised the groups newest album once it was finished, along with a personal thank you and a signed photo of the band. Marillion and their loyal followers thought nothing of this exchange, but it is now credited as being the first major step towards the massive crowdfunding arena that we are experiencing today.

The bands successful tour helped give Brian Camelio, an American musician and producer an idea of an an online platform served to put the power back in the artists hands. Camelio was tired of having limited creativity and wanted to provide rising artists with an opportunity to fund their own projects, so he created ArtistShare, the internet’s first fan-funding platform for creative artists. The platform has had it's up and downs since it first launched in 2005: it's funded 30 Grammy projects, created it's own label, and gone on to partner with leading industry brands. But it also failed to keep a stronghold on it's coveted crowdfunding patent, losing an important court battle with Kickstarter. 

Even after the initial success of ArtistShare crowdfunding had yet to take off. In fact, the term ‘crowdfunding’ was not coined until 2006, when Michael Sullivan launched Fundavlog, a funding service for video-blog related projects. Fundavlog received early support, but ended up failing, largely because at the time vlogging had yet to become popular as Youtube was just getting started and the easy-to-use applications made specifically for vlogging that we see on the app market today had yet to be introduced to vloggers.

Following fundavlog and their failure a handful of micro-lending crowdfunding platforms began to pop up in the mid 2000’s. Kiva, the world’s first crowdfunding platform solely made for entrepreneurs was introduced and is currently recognized as one of the most legitimate micro-lending platforms on the market, thanks to it’s 98.83% repayment rate. Platforms such as Zopa, LendingClub, and Prosper quickly copied the Kiva model and worked towards capturing their own corner of the market.

By 2008 there were a handful of crowdfunding platforms available to anyone with a wifi connection and computer. By now, multiple projects funded through these platforms had gone on to experience a wealthy amount of success. The market continued to expand, reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars. But, as a whole, crowdfunding had yet to gain the general public’s attention.

Indiegogo and Kickstarter quickly helped change that by introducing a more simple platform that could be used by anyone looking to raise money or fund an interesting project. The only real difference between the two platforms is that Indiegogo allows you to receive money before a campaign is finished, while Kickstarter won’t release the money until your goal is either reached or your campaign is no longer running. These two platforms are largely credited with expanding the crowdfunding industry, as the market tripled in size from 2009 to 2011, going from $530 million to $1.5 billion in just two short years.

In April of 2012 crowdfunding received a huge boost when President Obama signed the JOBS act into law, which aimed to lessen regulations surrounding crowdfunding while lifting the burdens that are often placed on small businesses. This act removed the ban that placed red-tape restriction on entrepreneurs when it came to publicizing or advertising their crowdfunding campaigns, allowing them to have more freedom within the crowdfunding arena. 

Today, small business owners can choose from over 2,000 global crowdfunding sites, all of which claim to offer their own unique services. The crowdfunding space is starting to become more and more crowded these days, leading new platforms to focus on one specific industry rather than spreading themselves thin and having to compete with the biggest players. The future of crowdfunding has just started, don't expect the market to slow down anytime soon. 

 

 

The rapidly growing world of the drones

In 2013 Amazon teased it’s drone delivery service known as Prime Air, which came with quite a bit of skepticism, largely due to the fact that during this time period the word drone was often associated with intense global affairs and world war. The hobbyist market had yet to take off, thus why when people heard the word drone it often came with negative associations. After the initial 2013 release, Amazon and it’s drone delivery service stayed relatively quiet, that is until early 2016 when they released their first video which detailed how the delivery service would work.

The worlds largest online retailer once again found itself submerged in global headlines, this time experiencing a more welcoming public response. The craze following the video which reached over 10's of millions of views through Facebook and YouTube garnered enough attention that major competitors began to come up with their own drone delivery services, Facebook and YouTube garnered enough attention that major competitors began to come up with their own drone delivery services, realizing the potential behind the emerging technology.

Everyone wants a piece of the pie

Following Amazon's successful first attempt, industry leading corporations soon began to roll out their own unique plans of incorporating drones within their business models. Walmart made a statement that revealed the company would soon be using drones within their 190 distribution centers, each serving around 100 to 150 individual stores spread throughout the United States. By using drones within their warehouses, Walmart can cut down on the amount of boxes they are using to store products as well as handle inventory at a much more efficient rate, saving them both time and money. 

Plenty of skepticism has surrounded Amazon and their drone delivery services, leading some industry leaders to focus on other areas of potential growth. Apple recently partnered with drone maker DJI, a company who sells highly advanced products to drone enthusiasts. The partnership will ensure that DJI makes all of their future products Apple compatible, allowing users to control their highly advanced flying machines through a simple app which can be installed on any Apple device. 

Amazon isn't the only leading delivery service hoping to gain new consumers through drone marketing campaigns. UPS began testing it's own drone services as early as 2016, and recently rolled out a more detailed plan on how the company plans to use drones in the near future. UPS plans to station drones on delivery trucks, which can fly away and deliver packages while the driver is making separate deliveries, slashing the standard delivery time in half!

Drones are also starting to play a meaningful role within the construction industry. In late 2017, construction firm Balfour Beauty completed their first trial of using drones to inspect building sites and bridges, which ended up saving the firm a total 8,000 euros compared to traditional practices. Expect drones to play an increasing role within this industry as 3D mapping is a heck of a lot easier with a drone in the sky. 

Legal issues plaguing delivery services

US policy makers have made it extremely difficult for large corporations to roll out their drone delivery services. FedEx, Amazon, and UPS were all hoping to test the waters in 2018 by offering limited services within heavy populated areas, but current US policy is making that nearly impossible to achieve. 

FAA's Part 107, a portion of federal law that covers drone policy includes a set of rules that place a severe set of limitations on the possibilities of expanding drone delivery services, including the following restrictions:

  1. The drone must be within visible sight of the pilot in control 
  2. The drone cannot be operated from a moving vehicle 
  3. The drone cannot be operated near public air spaces 
  4. Fully autonomous drones cannot be used for commercial uses 
  5. The pilot can only control one drone at a time

UPS plans for rolling out commercial drones involved a moving vehicle, while Amazon planned to use real time data that would help create an autonomous drone, both of which violate multiple restrictions within US drone policy. If corporations wish to use drones for delivery purposes, their going to have to get extremely creative if they wish to avoid legal consequences. 

Making a difference

The nonprofit sector has quietly been experimenting with drones, with companies often time using them for creative projects that could not be carried out without the help of the advanced machines. From Africa to Europe, a handful of nonprofits are helping create a safer and healthier planet by creating world changing solutions powered through drones. 

To combat the spread of Zika, WeRobotics developed a drone meant to fly sterile mosquitoes to high at-risk regions within Africa where male mosquitoes are overpopulating and spreading deadly diseases. The nonprofit released 100,000 sterile males per mission, releasing them during mating seasons. The creative strategy incorporating advanced drones heavily reduces mosquito population levels within affected areas, helping save lives and reduce the number of mosquito borne illnesses, which take over 750,000 lives per year.

Another nonprofit looking to make a global impact through drone implementation is Women on Waves, a dutch based nonprofit that empowers women by providing free, basic healthcare services among a variety of other assistance programs. The nonprofit is currently using drones to deliver birth control pills to underdeveloped countries across the globe. The campaign began in 2014 and is currently being used across Europe and Africa. 

Drones are also playing a critical role within the fight to protect endangered species. National parks are beginning to use their advanced capabilities to better understand and track animals who are in danger of becoming extinct.  UAV & Drone Solutions have partnered with a handful of popular African national parks to track animals while also keeping an eye out for poaches looking to make a serious profit. The partnership has helped assist in the arrest of multiple poaching groups, helping create a more stable and safe environment for the worlds most endangered species. 

Professional spots.. and drones? 

Perhaps where drones are making their biggest impact is within the world of professional sports. The Drone Racing League is the worlds first professional drone racing circuit, touring across the US and hosting events in major cities such as Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, and New York City. The league originated in 2015, and has experienced rapid growth in just a few short years. The league secured a broadcasting deal with ESPN in 2016, and early viewership ratings have been encouraging as the league reached an audience of over 30 million people in 2017 alone. The recent success has been so great the league plans to expand the circuit all the way to South East Asia for the 2018 season. The recent announcement of the global expansion helped lead the league to larger investments, as they recently struck a deal with FOX Sports, who will earn exclusive rights within their Asian broadcasting network.

DRL also recently announced their largest sponsorship to date, a 5 year, global deal with insurance brand Allianz. The insurance giant earned title rights, meaning the circuit, trophy, and league divisions will all include the name Allianz along with the company logo. The company was an early investor within the world of Esports, a professional gaming circuit experiencing a wealth of growth. 

The world of virtual gaming, known as ESports went from an afterthought to a multi-billion dollar industry in just a few short years, with colleges now offering full-ride scholarships to the nations most elite gamer's. Many industry experts believe that drone racing is currently on pace to experience the same amount of success, largely because of the massive sponsors and broadcasting deals that are set in place for years to come. 

 

Big data and it's evolving role in shaping our future

Data is everywhere these days, and almost all of us are consuming and producing some type of data on an everyday, regular basis. That tweet you just sent out? Data. Your most recent internet search featuring lists of the nearest takeout pizza? Data. Asking your smart device what the weather is looking like, yeah that’s data too and someone or something will eventually analyze it. Simply put, if you’re connected to the internet and using a WiFi or Bluetooth connection, you’re producing data that will exist until the power runs out and the phones no longer work.

Before you hide from big brother and draw the curtains, it’s important to understand how big data works. Yes, there is such a thing as data brokers, and it is a billion dollar industry that operates on harvesting and selling your data to corporations that use it for their competitive advantages. But these days, the quantity and rate of which we produce data has grown at such a rapid pace that often times the analysis behind our personal data is factually wrong and missing key information.

Where does all that data go?

The majority of data that you consume or create will be stored in massive data holding centers. These holding centers are almost always owned and under the control of the government, a fortune 500 company or a leading global corporation such as Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, or Amazon. The United States hosts over 3 million data centers, but fewer than 10 of those facilities will account for 72% of the country's data. The U.S. government boasts some of the world’s largest data centers, with a handful of individual locations that cover more than 600,000 square feet.

Where your data is specifically stored depends on what device you’re using, the search engine behind it, your current location, and the securities behind your device or cloud. For example, if you’re using Google Chrome or you search anything through the corporations widely used database then that data will be stored at one of their 15 locations across the world, ranging from Council Bluffs, Iowa to Hamina, Finland. It’s important to know that data is not singular in where it travels, and in the majority of cases it will reach a diverse set of holding centers, ranging from the NSA to Microsoft.

Uncle Sam isn’t the bad guy

Believe it or not, the U.S. government is pretty transparent when it comes to data collection. The majority of their centers publicly reveal the data that they collect, which is often times focused on climate control or monitoring global affairs. The data centers that you should be worried about are the ones that are held through private companies and corporations, as they’re the ones that constantly find themselves in controversial, national headlines.

Leading industry corporations such as Google and Facebook use your data to make a whole lot of money by selling your personal data to large advertising agencies.They also use that data for themselves by creating tailored in-house marketing campaigns designed to meet your specific needs, which are mined through smart algorithms running throughout their data processing centers. Uncle Sam doesn’t pimp out your data to the world’s highest bidders, unlike the makers of your beloved smartphone and online streaming service.

Amazon and Facebook are perhaps the two least transparent corporations that store and mine your everyday data usage, as they refuse to reveal exactly what they store and to whom they are selling it to. Users of Amazon’s Echo should be careful of what they say to the smart device, as the company has yet to disclose where the data is stored and who has access to it, leaving many people concerned that the company is selling voice recordings to the U.S. government or private agencies offering the most money.  

Investment of Big Data continues to skyrocket, but positive results are lacking

In the early 1990’s computer scientist John Mashey coined the term big data through a series of academia articles that explained how important of a role big data will play in shaping our future societies. The term referred to data that would be so large and expansive that our current tools would not be able to properly store, manage, and analyze the incredibly large data sets. Since then, the term has gained popularity through the rapid growth of technological advancements, and entrepreneurs have capitalized, creating data farming firms that have raised over hundreds of millions of dollars.

The market for big data began to take off in the early 2000’s, when our data usage through social media platforms and the internet of things became so overpopulated that our current tools could no longer keep up with the output, paving the way for future companies to create tools and algorithms specified to meet big data demands. Since the early 2000’s, the market share of big data has increased by a minimum of 10% per year, and is expected to reach 200 billion in 2018 as predicted by IDC. Economic analysts don’t expect the investments to slow down anytime soon, and forecast that the entire market could reach 300 billion dollars as soon as 2020.

The investments have been pouring in, but what about actual results? As of now, big data is one of the riskiest investments to make as an angel investor or company because the evidence of positive ROI after initial investments is extremely cloudy, no matter what Silicon Valley is saying. The majority of fortune 500 companies cannot handle big data on their own, and the data mining firms are so new to the market that there isn’t enough supporting evidence out there to prove that these investments are worth the expensive price tag.

It’s not only private firms struggling. In 2008 Google became heavily interested in big data, and announced its plan to use data sets to predict important crises or epidemics, with their first project (GFT) focusing on tracking and predicting flu outbreaks on a regional basis. The program failed miserably as it failed to predict the outbreak of H1N1 in 2009. Google apologized for the poor results, and pledged to create a smarter system. However, they once again failed to live up to their promised potential, and GFT met its final demise in early 2013 when it once again failed to predict a global flu outbreak.

How big data can help improve our future

Self driving cars. We’ve all heard about them by now, but the majority of us don’t own one. As of now, these advanced machines of transportation rely on what is called partial automation, acting on SAE level 2. What that means in English is that the self driving cars that are currently on the road are using data, but do not fully depend on it. When the magic really starts to happen, is when these advanced cars can rely solely on big data sets to get from point A to point B. In the near future, cars will be able to take real time traffic data to create the quickest routes, and eventually every car will be working through the same system, leading to the possibility of no more traffic jams. LA just got a whole lot more attractive!

The healthcare industry has been a leader in big data investments, as there are a widespread of complex communication and data logging systems that are used by hospitals across the globe. Four hospitals in Paris are currently using big data sets to predict patient traffic on a 24 hour basis, helping them properly staff according to their patients needs. Positive results are already starting to pour in, as the four hospitals are experiencing much shorter waiting lines compared to local hospitals who are not using big data.

Big data can also help improve societal infrastructures by reporting problems before a human would ever take notice. One example of how this is currently playing a role in cities across the globe is through the tracking of potholes by using big data. Just 5 years ago potholes and dangerous road conditions were all tracked through paper, but now large cities like Chicago and Kansas City are using real time big data to improve their cities infrastructure. The city of Chicago placed sensors on all of their public service vehicles, which would relay important information back by tracking bumps or sensitive areas in the street, allowing them to track dangerous road conditions without the driver having to ever step out of the vehicle.

Big data could potentially create more jobs

Perhaps the biggest worry within big data and artificial intelligence is that it will terminate millions of employment opportunities. While this is true, it’s important to consider how many jobs it will create in return. The firm Gartner predicts that by 2022 AI and big data will create more than 2.2 million jobs, exceeding the 1.8 million jobs it will replace. However, the report did mention that the shipping and manufacturing industry will see a total net loss in employment, but this is due to the automation and artificial intelligence that will soon hit all major shipping corporations.

Titles such as Chief Officer of Data, or data miner did not exist in the early 2000’s, and college degrees that focus on big data will continue to rise as more companies begin to see the value in understanding all of their data. However, one thing to keep in mind, is that the jobs created through big data will be highly skilled and trained professions that require years of higher education, which could lead to societal problems because the jobs that big data and AI are replacing are lower-level labor jobs that do not require master degrees.

In the end, it’s impossible to predict if big data will result in a positive or negative effect to society as a whole. But one thing is for certain, which is that the role that big data will play in our everyday lives will only increase as time goes on.


 

LoRaWAN and what it means for the IoT's and the future of technology

The Internet of Things continues to expand through modern technology, but with all that data and wireless communication comes quite a bit of power consumption. A major problem within the Internet of Things is that the network is so large that the outreach, and efficiency behind the vast database and communication system is costly and time consuming, that is until the recent development of LoRaWAN.

LoRaWAN acts within the LPWAN space, which is a Low Power Wide Area Network integrated within the Internet of Things, serving as a wireless data communication protocol. In simpler words, companies or users can integrate and develop the advanced communication protocol within any product or device, which will rapidly increase the product or devices efficiency because the technology can provide real-time data while simultaneously using less power than before. If you’re in the technology space and you hear someone say ‘“low power, but long-range’” you’re immediately going to be intrigued, and that’s the main selling point behind LoRaWAN.

The technology under the hood of the communication protocol is fairly new, but market disruptors and corporations are already beginning to profit from the recent advancements, and in some cases offer life saving products thanks to the constant real time data behind LoRaWAN. For example, Lineable, which started as a device for parents to monitor their children has now developed a product for people who suffer from alzheimer's by integrating LoRa technology within wearable bands that can give real time data to family members. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that over 60% of those who suffer from the disease will wander, half of which will experience severe injury or death if not found within 24 hours.

LoRAWAN can play a meaningful role within almost every major industry, and soon might provide agriculture users with a license-free community sensors network, providing real time data surrounding pipe leaks, temperature, and soil control. What this means, is that farmers would no longer have to pay private companies to set up tracking devices that monitor their crops, and instead could use a free, shared access community network that is powered through LoRAWAN and the Internet of Things, saving them a whole lot of money while also providing them with a secure, reliable network.

To ensure the IoT’s does not become monopolized, Semtech, the architects behind LoRa technology created the Lora Alliance in early 2015, a nonprofit organization compiled of over 500 companies who are dedicated to expanding and improving the Internet of Things through LPWAN technologies. The organizations mission is to “guarantee interoperability and standardization of Low Power Wide Area Networks internationally, by consolidating the fragmented wireless space and significantly improving ROI, which will drive large scale volumes for IoT.” Simply put, the nonprofit hopes to reach developing countries by offering a simpler, and cheaper option of widespread internet access to all of their inhabiting citizens.

LoRAWAN has it's limitations, and continues to slowly works it way into the consumer and corporation world, but the possibilities it has within the Internet of Things is almost endless. It could quite possibly be the technology that brings the world a more open and robust communication network that is accessible anywhere, at any given time.