Tech entrepreneurs, executives and early adopters are going, with apologies to Smokey Robinson, to a “go-go” of sorts Tuesday evening. The event is the first-ever Demo Night organized by crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.
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The hands-on, in-person meetup in San Francisco promises insights from companies and investors who have successfully used the platform as a launching pad. The event also promises startups and more established firms a night of showing off their goods in a round of speed-dating with representatives from venture capital, marketing and public relations firms and if they’re lucky, maybe even some future customers.
“You don’t always have the opportunity to have these conversations, but at this event you have a chance for (potential customers) to see it and say, ‘This is what’s missing for something we’re building or this would be perfect for us’,” says Brad Richter, chief design officer at Luidia, on why his firm will have a presence at the event.
Luidia’s first crowdsourcing campaign has already raised more than five times the original $50,000 goal from more than 2,300 investors in 37 countries, with more than two weeks left. Luidia officials say they are using the event and the Indiegogo campaign more as a marketing tool than as a fundraiser.
“It’s a great way to reach a pretty broad audience in an accelerated way…we’re overwhelmed by the success,” says Luidia’s Richter, adding, “There’s a lot of early adopters (taking part in Indiegogo campaigns), a large group of enthusiastic people who are pretty critical of your product and features. (The campaign’s) a way to test the waters on the new version to launch and presell it.”
Luidia is heavily promoting its Equil Smartpen2, which uses ultrasound and infrared technology to allow users to write or draw on any piece of paper and save their work digitally on Android, iOS, Mac and Windows devices. Equil has some name recognition and benefits from the original product’s success; it garnered enough interest that Apple selected it for its carefully curated, and highly profitable, stores. Company officials say Apple and Amazon.com have already agreed to stock the Smartpen2, which goes on sale next month.
Crowdsourcing typically takes place over the Internet on platforms such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter, which can offer a broader reach and support than grassroots efforts. Entrepreneurs solicit funding from individuals and small backers in hopes of generating buzz along with bucks to finish their projects from donations large and small. Investors generally back projects with the promise of getting the product in the future, although in some cases that delivery could hinge on whether the fundraising goal is met.
A recent note from Forrester Research estimates crowdfunding projects raised some $5 billion in 2013, more than triple the amount taken in during 2011.
Indiegogo co-founder and CEO Slava Rubin would not divulge how much his platform raised last year, but he told Fox Business in an interview that the company ran more than 200,000 campaigns in 2013. Rubin adds, “We have the biggest global presence (of crowd funding platforms) across the most countries and projects in the world…we are sending millions of dollars to 70 to 100 countries a week. Campaign funds.”
Notable Indiegogo campaigns have included the record breaking Ubuntu Edge phone that raised more than $13 million (which in 2013 was the highest grossing crowdsourcing campaign but fell well short of its goal and has since been surpassed), the ambitious Solar Roadways which more than doubled its goal with a $2.2 million take, and even the family robot from Jibo which took in nearly $2.3 million—a whopping 2,290% above the $100,000 target.
Rubin, the Indiegogo impresario, says former and current campaigners will be on hand to share insights and experiences at the inaugural event: “Our goal is to have two hours of people learning and exploring and discovering and getting to meet each other. A lot of smart people and experienced people who have funded or gotten lots of campaigns together.
“We’re excited, it’s our first ever demo night—it’s the future of hardware. We’re expecting more than 200 people, inventors, great incubators, VCs, media folks, and the hardware community. We’re excited to see what happens, to mingle, and explore…We think there’s a great opportunity for some great spontaneous things to happen.”
And while many attendees will admire the showcase of products, campaigning companies including Luidia are hoping to strike up new relationships in what can also be a sort of a coming out party for smaller firms.
“One good match is if somebody comes through and wants every one of their employees to have (a Smartpen 2) to boost productivity. It becomes crystal clear when they can grab a Smartpen and do what they do naturally, write with it,” explains Kathryn Hunt, senior manager of marketing and PR for Luidia. “We are a company that’s had technology for a number of years in Silicon Valley. We were a quiet little back-end company and now that we’re in the consumer space it’s time to take advantage of every networking event we can. People who are playing in the same space and thought leaders will see us and be interested in what we’re doing. We see Indiegogo and think it could be a good early launch vehicle for other products on our road map.”