The Post-Kickstarter Conundrum: Delivering Companies DOA?
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have meaningful market traction and your company itself is truly ready to scale. A hard-boiled retail buyer is not going to wipe a successful existing vendor off the shelf for a new young company that might leave those same shelves empty due to supply chain or capital issues. For the buyers who control those shelves, human nature also intervenes when it comes to annual bonuses! And Pinterest, Kickstarter, Etsy, etc. are not efficient or able to de-risk these products for scale or to meet the expectations of large retailers.
The bottom line: Kickstarter can yield a product, but it still needs to become a business to survive. IDEO’s Joe Rizk (formerly of Lerer Ventures) put it very well in a recent blog post titled “Staying capital efficient within hardware.” Joe states, “I also see a significant and largely under-discussed category of businesses that is being formed around hardware. These are mostly software businesses: marketplaces, tools/services, curated commerce, infrastructure—that are all flourishing to support this maker movement. This pocket of opportunity is unique in that it satisfies capital efficiency requirements of most investors under the traditional software paradigm, but also provides a meaningful way to participate in the growing hardware revival.”
Examples of these new “hardware revival” businesses are Shapeways for 3-D prototyping and initial production, Shipwire for outsourced shipping, and Grand St., an e-commerce site for crowdfunded products. In that same vein, Daily Grommet has been operating as a launch platform for undiscovered products, so we tap this new supply of projects too. Recently launched Grommets like SushiQuik and the COOKOO watch surpassed their funding goals on Kickstarter. We recognized markers of success in their product concepts and funding campaigns. It’s powerful to curate those shining stars using our four years of pattern recognition and then provide them with a ready-made consumer audience who wants to learn their story from a trusted source. Grommet purchases across several thousand launches have proven over and over to predict mainstream success. In fact, within hours of our noon EST daily release we definitively know which products have “legs.” And that data is worth its weight in gold to the emerging company and especially to larger retail and media players.
There’s no longer a need for big companies to exclusively fund and build new products. It can even be a detriment to release a truly innovative product under a known (and contained) brand name; journalist Bruce Nussbaum asserts that indie capitalism is the next major sea change within our economy. It’s not just a fad: “Citizen Commerce,” as we like to call it, is here to stay. Whether these crowdfunded “projects” have the resources and operating skill to survive and grow into companies is the critical question. Sometimes these projects are actually getting seriously over-funded on Kickstarter, before they have proven their operating mettle or go-to-market chops.
Time is death to these young companies, and businesses like Grommet are forming to separate the wheat from the chaff and then accelerate their path to scale. Otherwise Kickstarter will be producing a lot of products that are just heartbreakingly DOA.