A couple of weeks back, the Australian Sports Technology Network had their inaugural conference and it was a huge success. Very well attended by people in the industry, there were very interesting talks and discussions with views from various perspectives. Anyway there’s a great summary of the event here. What was less known was the Sports Technology Innovation Bootcamp that took place a day before the conference. It was the first ever bootcamp that was focused on sports technology innovation, commercialisation and entrepreneurship. I am not going into too much details about it, but at some point during the conversations, someone brought up ‘kickstarter‘, which is a rather popular online platform for sharing creative inventions with the community and asking for (financial) backing. In other words, crowd sourced funding. Put simply, if I have a great product idea and a working prototype, and I need more money to mass produce it, I then make a video telling everyone how awesome my product is, why they should ‘back’ it, and what (reward) they would get out if they do. The reward is usually the first batch of the mass manufactured product. Its a great concept and there has been many successful design and technology products that were launched from this platform. Quite a number of them being sports technology related projects.
There are however a couple of disadvantages to this method of getting funding. Firstly, your idea could get ‘stolen’ or copied, especially if no IP is involved. Did a quick search and I found a lot of ‘same-same but different’ ideas that were funded on kickstarter, like these: revolights, Fiks & Nori Lights. Secondly, other than getting money to take the product to market, you or your team are pretty much on your own to: first, deliver the reward (on time), then take the business to the next level, which can be a daunting task if you don’t have any prior business experience. That’s where angel investors (whose been there and done that and has the resources) do better. Not only do they provide the financial backing, they can provide the mentoring to make the venture and the entrepreneurs a success; that is assuming there was an innovative and commercially viable idea to begin with.
In saying that, crowdsource funding sites like kickstarter does have its appeals – it has lower barrier to entry, promotes use of social media, marketing by word of mouth, it reaches a global community, and there is a general sense of excitement that is shared by everyone involved. But if you are in Australia and you have a fantastic (and marketable) idea for a sports equipment or technology, you should definitely contact the guys at the ASTN or ASTV who basically have the capabilities of angel investors and they also have a strong network in the local and global sporting industry.
Its too bad that I don’t have any brilliant sports technology ideas (for now), so most of the time I am just checking out interesting projects on kickstarter, hoping to get inspired, but usually I only end up being tempted to back some of them. Fortunately I have managed to refrain myself most of the time, except the one time I backed this amazing sports watch. Still waiting for it to be delivered though. Hopefully it will arrive before Christmas. In the meantime, I leave you with these two interesting projects that are still open to more backers: