Kickstarter is a great way for entrepreneurs to get funding for their out-there ideas. And when it comes to crowdfunding – no idea is too crazy. You’d be surprised at some of the things people are willing to fund.
In 2014, Zach “Danger” Brown wanted $10 to make a potato salad – so he started a Kickstarter campaign that wound up raising more than $55,000. From an ostrich pillow to a Grilled Cheesus (i.e. a sandwich press that toasts the face of Jesus in bread) – you’d be surprised at some of the campaigns that gained traction.
A pen made from air pollution, an origami canoe, a levitating timepiece – this year, we’ve already started seeing wild campaigns. Check out the craziest Kickstarter campaigns of 2017 – so far.
Note: Funding amounts are accurate to when this story was published.
1Pens with ink made from air pollution
Being an entrepreneur is all about seeing opportunities where others don’t. MIT grad Anirudh Sharma and the Graviky team certainly look to do that with Air-Ink, which utilises air pollution and turns it into an ink-like substance. The startup has created felt-tip pen markers and bottled silkscreen ink that utilise pollution.
To collect pollution, Graviky attaches a cylinder-shaped object the company calls a “Kaalink” to car mufflers, engines and chimneys. The device captures toxic material before it’s released into the environment. The collected particles are brought to a lab where any heavy metals and carcinogens are extracted, and then the remaining material is purified and mixed with solvents to create ink.
Air-Ink was launched in February 2017. Originally sought to raise $9,925, the campaign has reached $22,752 in funding.
2Little robot drawing arm
They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” so you may as well get a robot to copy you. Line-us, a small, electronic robot arm, will mimic what you draw on a screen. While hooked up to the internet, the little robot mimics your motion with a pen and will recreate whatever you draw on a tablet or iPad in real-time. The most amazing thing about Line-us is that it draws in the exact same order as its user.
The Kickstarter campaign was launched in February 2017. Originally sought to raise $48,228, the campaign has reached $89,524 in funding.
STORY is a levitating timepiece – an insane way to visualise time. The innovative product features an orbiting ball that rotates around a wooden base, counting minutes, hours and even years.
STORY has three different modes, including Journey mode, where you can set it for a certain time frame such as your favorite season (i.e. one month until Spring left), Clock mode and Timer mode.
STORY’s Kickstarter campaign was launched Feb. 15. Originally sought to raise $80,000, the campaign has reached $556,048 in funding.
Lugging around a canoe is exhausting. But with this foldable origami canoe, that no longer seems to be an issue.
MyCanoe is a 14.5-foot folding canoe that travels in a box. MyCanoe takes 10 minutes to assemble and five minutes to take down, can be stored under a bed and fits easily in compact cars. The innovative canoe is made from marine-grade polypropylene, making it fully waterproof, and it has UV treatment for taking it out in the sun.
The project was launched on Feb. 15, 2017. Originally sought to raise $45,000, the campaign has reached $80,121 in funding.
Don’t want to travel to and spend hours in a museum? Now you can take a museum with you wherever you go.
With the help of scientists, museum curators, astronauts and other adventurers, Hans Fex curated his own collection of rare objects, which he’s now sharing with the world through the third Mini Museum.
The Mini Museum features a number of unique and authentic specimens such as pieces of Charles and Diana’s royal wedding cake, Megalodon tooth, Steve Jobs’s turtleneck and more. It’s available in two different sizes – the small version features 12 specimens and the large has 29.
This campaign was launched in February 2017. Originally sought to raise $200,000, the campaign has reached $955,610 in funding.
6100 pieces of a $1 bill
Who knew a $1 bill could be so interesting? This new Kickstarter campaign is seeking funding for a $1 bill broken up into 100 pieces. That’s not all though – the bill is 100 years old and will only be shipped to 100 backers in 100 different locations.
There’s no doubt this piece of currency has been through a lot. And once the bill ships out, the campaign’s creators want backers from around the world to bring all of the pieces back together again (online) by taking a photo of their pieces and sharing information about where they are in the world.
This campaign was launched in the U.K. in January 2017. Originally sought to raise $680, the campaign has reached $1,815 in funding.
7Mini personal e-vehicle
From the makers of the original hoverboard, Solowheel Iota is a self-balancing 8-pound personal transportation device and described as the “smallest, greenest, most convenient e-vehicle ever invented.” Inventist wanted to make its latest creation smaller and more elegant than its previous hoverboard model, the Hovertrax.
The new Solowheel Iota can travel up to 8 miles at a 10 mph and carry up to 250 pounds.
The project was launched on Kickstarter in January 2017. Now available for pre-order, the campaign successfully raised $204,594 in funding.
Related: New Ways SMEs Can Find Funding
8Smart, portable turntable
Vinyl is making a comeback. Over the past few years, we’ve seen new turntables pop up and now they’re getting a 21st century twist.
LOVE claims to be the world’s first intelligent turntable. The device reads vinyl records through a traditional stylus, but also hooks up to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and can be controlled through an app on your smartphone.
Its creators say LOVE is simple and convenient, making it easy to transport. With the app, it’s easy to maneuver too, letting users play, pause, skip and adjust volume through their smartphones.
The campaign launched in February 2017. Originally sought to raise $50,000, the campaign has reached $756,624 in funding.
9Portable personal assistant robot
Hiring an assistant is no easy task, although with this customisable portable robot, you can seemingly have an assistant with you 24/7.
PLEN Cube consolidates information from all of your devices, captures events using its smart camera, tracks your motions and keeps you informed. The advanced tech features facial and speech recognition and a powerful processor. From keeping track of your calendar to managing your social media – think of this new voice-activated robot as your “right hand man,” the company says.
The portable, savvy new robot from Osaka, Japan, was initially launched on Kickstarter in February 2017. Originally sought to raise $50,000, the campaign has reached $70,706 in funding.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Want Funding? Finfindeasy.co.za Founder Says You Must Learn To Speak The Language
Darlene Menzies, founder of Finfindeasy.co.za and the successful recipient of multiple rounds of funding unpacks what she wished she knew the first time she pitched her business to investors.
I clearly remember my first large pitching opportunity over six years ago. It was an evening cocktail event organised by one of the legendary pioneers of South Africa’s venture capital (VC) community, Brett Commaille. It took place on or near the top floor of the Reserve Bank building in Cape Town. One of the reasons it’s so vividly etched in my memory is that I had to climb more than 30 flights of stairs to get to it because as a chronic claustrophobe I don’t do lifts.
After reaching the right floor and catching my breath I stepped into a room full of 30 or so high net worth individuals — my introduction into the new world of Angel and Venture Capital investors.
Looking back, I wasn’t as nervous as you might expect, partially, I thought, because I had prepared well and I whole-heartedly believed in the product I was pitching. But in hindsight, I realise it was mostly because I was wonderfully naïve. There are some benefits to being a greenhorn.
The pitch itself went well, I had been briefed to keep it simple and short. I described the solution we had developed, the problem it was addressing and what the size of the potential market was. I spoke briefly about the competitors and what our differentiators were, what the business model was and shared our go-to-market plan.
I covered the size and pedigree of our team, as well as my skills and experience as the founder (aka the jockey) and ended with details on how much money we were looking for and what we would use it for. I was relieved when it was over and felt confident about my delivery.
A bunch of hands shot up, which was positive. I felt encouraged; the hard part was behind me. Or so I thought. My nightmare began when I took the first question. “Great pitch, I love what you guys are doing. Please can you tell me a bit more about the traction you are getting, what your current burn rate is and how much runway you have.” My heart sank and I felt my cheeks start getting hot.
I didn’t have the foggiest idea what he was talking about. I could tell he wasn’t intentionally trying to embarrass me, but nonetheless his VC jargon made his questions sound like enquiries about cars and airplanes or something mechanical rather than anything I was working on. I put on a brave face and asked him if he would mind explaining to me what it was he wanted to know so that I could try and answer him. That was the start of a steep learning curve as I began to navigate the world of early stage capital raising.
Six years on, the South African start-up and venture capital community has matured and grown dramatically and there are many more entrepreneur events, training opportunities, start-up competitions and pitching coaching sessions, which has resulted in some of the lingo becoming more commonplace — even so, raising venture capital still largely remains a very foreign and intimidating world for novice entrants. Back then I wished I’d had access to a practical VC-made-easy glossary and step-by-step manual as a beginner’s guide. I’ve been threatening to write one ever since.
Terms you should know when looking for funding
After surviving my harrowing Q&A baptism of fire, I starting working my way through the world of term sheets and deal negotiating and came across many more acronyms and VC-specific terminology that I had to learn to interpret and understand. Below are just a few of the terms I would love to have known about and understood before my climb up those Reserve Bank building steps. There are many others.
Deck (or pitch deck) refers to the short presentation you will give to the investors. Guy Kawasaki, a well-known American investor, recommends his 10/20/30 rule as an easy guide for your deck. He says make sure your presentation consists of ten slides, take no more than twenty minutes to get through them and use a font that is no smaller than 30 points per slide.
See guykawasaki.com/the_102030_rule/ MVP (minimal viable product). This is a product developed with the minimum features to ensure it is sufficient to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from these initial users.
Traction refers to the number of people who have already started using your product or service and provides a means of proof to the investor that people want/need what you are selling. Traction is best measured by the number of paying customers acquired over a defined period.
If you are running a business that sells products/services via subscription, then potential investors will want to know your churn rate. This refers to the number of customers who bought your product and never continued using it i.e. those you lost after acquiring them. This figure impacts your growth forecasts.
Tip: Make sure that you have built the churn rate into your forecasts so that your numbers are solid.
Burn rate refers to the amount of money the business requires monthly to cover operating expenses. You can definitely expect to be asked what your current and anticipated burn rate looks like should you receive growth funding.
Runway refers to the number of months that the business has sufficient cash to continue to operate before it runs out i.e. if you have R200 000 in the bank and your burn rate is R95 000 and you are not expecting any immediate income from sales then you have two months runway.
What investors want to know is how long the business can keep going until it has to close. Once again expect to be asked your current runway and your future runway in terms of the amount of money it will take to achieve the desired numbers.
This is a common term used to describe the kind of growth curve in a start-up that an investor is keen to see. It refers to the exponential growth of things like users or page views, but mostly to revenue, which is projected to occur once a particular inflection point is reached. Early stage investors like to invest before this point is reached and then to sell their shares once the hockey stick growth is achieved.
Related: How To Raise Working Capital Finance
Venture capitalists only plan to invest in your business for a limited time period, usually between five and seven years, before expecting to receive their returns. An exit strategy is a planned approach to them leaving in a way that will maximise their benefit and minimise damage. A typical exit strategy is a plan to sell the company once it has achieved its anticipated growth targets. In this case they may want to know who you foresee would be prepared to buy your company.
The term sheet is the document presented to the start-up by the venture capital investor once they have decided they would like to invest. It outlines the terms by which they are prepared to make the financial investment in your company. You are entitled to negotiate the terms with the investor before reaching agreement. The signed term sheet is not legally binding, unless stated, but rather it contains the final terms of the investment that will be used to draw up the legal documents for the deal. Always seek legal advice before signing a term sheet.
Do your research
My encouragement to entrepreneurs who are looking to raise venture capital is to have a coffee or two with a few seasoned founders who have already done deals in order to get firsthand insights about what to expect when you engage with VCs — from the time you land the pitching opportunity to when you sign a deal and get the money and everything in between.
The Investor Sourcing Guide
How to attract and obtain investors to your established, high-growth business.
As an established, high-growth company, you may find that you need to source capital, identify a mentor, or work closely with other affiliates to prosper. In this case, partnering with an investment holding company can be a valuable growth tool.
So, what should you do if you want to be acquired by a holding company?
1. Research everything
If you’re considering a long-term investment partnership, make sure you conduct substantial prior research. There may be many potential investment partners out there, but each has specific venture and industry directives. Get to grips with these.
Related: Is Venture Capital Right For You?
2. Be candid with yourself
The amount of capital that you need will affect which holding company you choose. In particular, you’ll need to understand what your risk profile looks like relative to the returns you expect to provide. This will also help you to source, entice, and keep the attention of the most appropriate partner.
3. Identify your must-haves
Any investment partner you choose is likely to be able to provide you with funding, a broader network, and economies of scale. Beyond these, however, you’ll need to decide on your most important benefits (must-haves), so you can target the companies that can offer you the best fit.
4. Spell out your funding plan
You’ll need to be very clear on how you plan to spend the funding you get from your investor. This plan should stipulate, in particular, how you plan to grow.
5. Scrutinise each investor
Make sure to analyse your potential investors’ investment history, so you can get a clear idea of where your interests are aligned. Look specifically at things like:
- Where investors’ get their funding
- What their investment track record looks like
- What their investment directives are
- Their appetite for risk
- The returns they usually aim for
The crux of the matter
Research is essential, no matter which holding company you hope to be acquired by. This will help you to find, attract and retain an investor who gives you the funding you need, and lends you the support to be innovative, productive, and profitable.
6 Great Tips For A Successful Shark Tank Pitch
Whilst most of us are unlikely to appear on television shows such as Dragons Den or Shark Tank there is a lot we can take out from watching these programmes.
Whilst most of us are unlikely to appear on television shows such as Dragons Den or Shark Tank there is a lot we can take out from watching these programmes. Entrepreneurs will often need to promote their businesses to prospective customers, lenders, investors, employees and even suppliers.
All stakeholders would like to know with what and whom they are dealing. They will need to assess risk and will try and evaluate the business against others who are competing for those same funds.
1Know Your Product
You should be able to describe your business within 60 seconds, in a confident and positive manner. Let the stakeholder know what particular problem your business solves which makes it viable and attractive.
Your brand and how you intend to develop it is important in determining whether they will invest or lend you money. Share critical information with them such as large customers, patents and trademarks and details of forward orders.
If you are looking for funding or investment, make sure you have the relevant paperwork to back up what you are saying.
You must have your numbers at your fingertips. A true and successful entrepreneur will know his numbers instinctively and be able to recollect and present them convincingly. Stakeholders want to know your turnover (sales) over the last couple of years, your gross profit and net profit.
Investors want to know what they are investing in and whether there is strong potential for their money to grow. Lenders will want to assess their risk — how are you going to repay the money? Moreover, you as the business owner, need to be sure that you will be able to make the required repayments.
You must know what your margin is, as this will largely determine your viability as a business. Margin or gross profit is the difference between the selling price of the goods and their cost and is usually expressed as a percentage.
3Know What You’re Asking For
Be clear as to the size of the investment you want to give away and how that determines the ‘valuation’ of the business. Therefore, if you wish to raise R200 000 for 10% of the business, that means you value the business at R2m — be sure you can back that up or you will get taken apart.
4Have a Business Plan
The best way to fully understand your business is by way of having a detailed business plan, which has been prepared whilst working through every facet of your business, from the original idea to the finished product.
As the business owner, you need to live this business plan and be able to use it as your daily guide to success. Develop it, change it where circumstances require it, but most importantly know it and understand it.
In this way, you will be able to deal with most of their questions, be they about marketing, research, international expansion etc. It is also a good idea to know your competition and what they are up to.
In most interactions, you the entrepreneur, are selling yourself. Whether it is an investor, lender, customer or prospective employee, it is their impression of you and your capabilities which ultimately determine whether they want to work with you.
Be confident, defend your position where required, as you will need to parry some blows but do not behave arrogantly.
6Learn From Your Mistakes
Many entrepreneurs who have presented to the Shark’s Den and not been able to garner investment have turned their business into great successes. You need to be able to learn from the experience, and if rejected, bounce back even stronger.
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