Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

When You Try to Raise $30K and Instead Get $1.8M (And Counting)

When a Kickstarter project sets out to raise $30,000, and smashes through that goal in five hours — and then five days later it has raised more than $1.8 million — you gotta wonder, how did they not see that coming?

A “3-D printing pen” called 3Doodler is the latest sensation on the crowdfunding site. (Well, there was also “Inocente,” the Kickstarter-backed film that won an Oscar last night. Not too shabby.)

3DoodlerThe creators of 3Doodler say they were totally unprepared for its success — but that doesn’t mean they’re not able to fulfill the demand, even as much more accumulates in the next 27 days before their Kickstarter campaign ends.

You could think of the 3Doodler as a hot-glue gun that makes sculptures in the air. The trick is that it both heats and then rapidly cools plastic strands, so they hold their shape.

Creative types can dream into existence whatever they like with the 3Doodler, while non-artists will be able to print out stencils to “draw on the lines” and make things like a replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Max Bogue and Peter Dilworth of toy research and development firm WobbleWorks posted the project to Kickstarter on Feb. 19 at midnight in Boston. They haven’t slept much since.

Less than five hours after posting, 3Doodler had met its goal of $30,000. “We were jumping up and down — quietly, because my girlfriend was asleep in the next room,” Bogue said.

“We knew there was a market for it, but we weren’t sure,” said Bogue. “It’s a different kind of item.”

Bogue said the original Kickstarter goal was set up so that WobbleWorks would take a loss on the production. Where the company’s factory required a minimum order of 2,000 units, $30,000 would have only been enough to create 500 units.

“We were willing to take a hit because we believed so much in the product,” said Bogue.

3Doodler2The goal turned out to be ludicrously low. But there’s no penalty for underestimating yourself in Kickstarter-land; WobbleWorks continues to add more pens for new backers, with delivery dates pushing into 2014.

Still, Kickstarter projects have become notorious for delays, especially after unexpected demand. Popular crowdfunded gadgets like the Pebble smart watch have been woefully underprepared to manufacture and distribute as many products as they have promised to their backers.

It has gotten to the point that Kickstarter has publicly declared that people should not treat it like a store, and has banned projects from posting simulations and renderings that might overpromise something that can’t be delivered.

Bogue said he’s confident that 3Doodler will be an exception to that trend, given his extensive experience in developing and manufacturing toys. Kickstarter also gave WobbleWorks a rigorous back-and-forth before approving the project, which Bogue said he sees as a benefit, versus a more open crowdfunding platform, like Indiegogo.

To that end, Bogue and company seem to have an answer for every question and concern. Is 3Doodler toxic? Not any worse than a glue gun. How much plastic do you need? One foot produces about 11 feet of doodling. Does it leave a mark if you use it on a wall? Give us a second … yup, it does.

But now that they need to make nearly 20,000 3Doodlers — and likely many more — what will happen? Bogue insisted he’s not the least bit worried. “These are small numbers for factories; normally these things are hundreds of thousands of units,” he said. “We will never exceed what we’re able to do produce and supply.”

The real charm of having all this demand, Bogue said, is connecting directly with people who want his product, and involving them in its development. For instance, due to Kickstarter feedback, the 3Doodler handle is now planned to include a flat side so it won’t roll around.

“To be able to do product development so instantaneously — it’s just fantastic,” Bogue said. “We get to build a community for a product before we get it into people’s hands.”


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