Popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter has just introduced its Hardware Studio Connection program. Campaigns enrolled in the initiative receive expert support to deliver their hardware targets.
If you’ve ever taken a punt on a Kickstarter campaign, there’s always a twinge of anxiety that follows the initial rush of backing. Will the campaign deliver? Is the product half as good as it was chalked up to be in the campaign video? Will there even be a product landing on my doorstep 7 months from now?
Of course, expecting a solid return is the wrong way to look at Kickstarter campaigns (we cover this in detail in our post 8 Things to Watch for when Backing a 3D Printing Kickstarter). The risk of things going awry is high, and nowhere is this more evident than the sometimes catastrophic world of 3D printing Kickstarter campaigns.
We’ve seen the a laundry list of 3D printing Kickstarters hit turbulent times, with unforeseen production issues (or even outright fraud) pushing projects back and sometimes derailing them completely.
In an effort to remedy this, both for projects to succeed and for backers to invest with confidence, Kickstarter has rolled out Connection, a new element of the company’s Hardware Studio. Hardware Studio Connection hooks enrolled projects up with experienced product experts at Avnet and Dragon, in addition to the existing free online resources of Hardware Studio that any campaign to make use of.
With the aforementioned companies’ assistance, Kickstarter campaigns gain valuable knowledge, guidance and planning tools to help them achieve on their promises.
Another aspect of the Hardware Studio Connection is the awarding of badges, visibly placed on qualifying projects’ campaign pages; a signal to backers that there is confidence from on high that a campaign is capable of delivering.
All Badged Up
There are four types of badge that can appear on Hardware Studio Connection Kickstarter campaigns.
The first, Engaged, signifies that a campaign is accepted into Kickstarter’s Hardware Studio Connection program. While no immediate indication that something will come of it, at this stage you know that the project has undergone scrutiny, and the judgement thus far is that those involved are realistic and understand the challenges ahead.
Then comes the Ready 1, 2 and 3 badges. Stepping up from Engaged, these badges correspond to the assessment and verdict of the experts working with the project, with Ready 3 being the highest level at which the Hardware Studio Connection experts deem a campaign being at.
Recipients of the Ready 1 classification have — at least — a partially user tested functioning prototype, the ability to fulfill low volume production and the assertion that with a successfully funded campaign, the money is there to fund the requisite costs to reach full campaign fulfillment.
Ready 2 campaigns are at the point of being able to manufacture the product at expected volumes, with the plans to do so already set in place, in addition to being already several iterations into a product shaped by user feedback. The proceeds of a successful campaign here contribute to extra tooling and certifications.
And finally, a Ready 3 badged Kickstarter campaign is as near as the real deal pre-crowdfunding as you’ll find. There is a working, tested product ready for manufacturing and delivery — all that’s missing is the funds to feed the manufacturing machine. Basically, a low-risk campaign to back.
It’s an intriguing system, and something that we suspect has been a long time coming. After the initial excitement of crowdfunding gradually subsided to tales of backers’ woes, with the successes slipping quietly into the mainstream, it seems that a crowd’s backing isn’t enough — with a guiding hand of business rigueur a necessary step to improve the platform for all involved.
There are currently only four projects in the Hardware Studio Connection program — sadly none relating to 3D printing. Though here’s hoping we see some badges under the next 3D printing crowdfunding innovation sensation.