Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Christie Street Launches a Kickstarter for Products

Christie Street today launched a service that aims to ensure that people who buy fun new hardware products before they exist actually receive them — or get their money back.

In a very literal sense, it’s a Kickstarter for hardware products. Christie Street will evaluate the viability of submitted products, handle preorders (taking the same 5 percent cut as Kickstarter), and hold the money in escrow until certain milestones in the design, tooling and production process have been accomplished.

Though Kickstarter has become synonymous with crowdfunding, the curated platform is actually quite inhospitable for many people who would like to use it.

In particular, those building new hardware products have found Kickstarter increasingly hostile, with the company recently declaring “Kickstarter Is Not a Store” and putting restrictions around how users can market and which projects qualify.

(The new smartphone-controlled door lock Lockitron, for example, was rejected from Kickstarter for the seemingly arbitrary reason of being a home improvement product, before bringing in $2.2 million in preorders when it ran a crowdfunding campaign independently.)

Plus, people who “back” products on Kickstarter and hope and expect to receive “rewards” in return often find themselves waiting for such products to materialize. It might be more appropriate to directly preorder something, which is what many people think they are already doing.

Christie Street is a project of Jamie Siminoff’s design lab Edison Junior, which itself just raised money on Kickstarter for a hardware product called Pop (production is currently delayed while waiting for approval from Apple).

The site is launching today with another new hardware product from Edison Junior — the DoorBot — that’s a Wi-Fi video doorbell so people can see who’s outside their house. Once other products are contributed and made, Siminoff said he sees Christie Street becoming a marketplace for these products.

Siminoff noted that Kickstarter was originally built to support art projects, and that is still core to its ethos. Where Christie Street is perhaps less “scalable” than more open-ended platforms, it’s squarely built to support products.

Siminoff appeared onstage at LeWeb in Paris today with Quirky CEO Ben Kaufman, who said they are complimentary platforms. Where Quirky turns regular people’s good ideas into physical products, Christie Street is for people who want to be start-up hardware entrepreneurs. Or as Kaufman put it, “We’re the 99 percent; they’re the 1 percent.”

In fact, many platforms are now proliferating and evolving around the array of crowdfunded smart gadgets from the past year. Outside of the Kickstarter/Christie Street paradigm, there are also a ton of companies ready to do equity crowdfunding, rather than preorders, as soon as the SEC figures out how to implement the already-passed JOBS Act.

When I interviewed Indiegogo co-founder Danae Ringelmann on stage at LeWeb yesterday, she wouldn’t say how much Indiegogo is benefitting from Kickstarter’s limitations around physical products — but she did say that category is growing.

Ringelmann also noted that once it is legal, Indiegogo is raring to support equity crowdfunding — where regular people will be able to own a stake in the companies they back rather than just receiving a reward or perk.

 


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald