How to use Kickstarter (to steal good ideas)

Andrew Munro 7 February 2017

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Kickstarter does your market research for you.

Since its inception, Kickstarter has helped close the gap between creators and their audiences, launching products that many big names wouldn’t have touched for fear of uncertain returns, or a simple lack of market interest.

However, one of the most striking revelations to come from the unprecedented success of the crowdfunding platform is that there’s a clear gap between what people think might be successful and what customers actually want.

Now, creators can pitch ideas directly to their buyers for a real sense of what people want. Crowdfunding brought the world things that it didn’t know it wanted, from Exploding Kittens to the now-famous Oculus Rift.

Anyone can take advantage of it

You don’t have to start your own crowdfunding campaign to take advantage of it. A number of enterprising entrepreneurs are using Kickstarter to see what people want and then beat it to market while the funders are still scraping up enough money from backers online.

This is exactly what one entrepreneur did with the Stress Cube. The product is simple – just a cube with clickers, joysticks and other tactile features on each side. It doesn’t do anything, and isn’t meant to. It’s an idea that wouldn’t have gone far in the pre-digital age, and even the Shark Tank investors probably wouldn’t have touched it.

However, on Kickstarter, it quickly reached and then exceeded its funding goal, raising a staggering $6.5 million all up. Although it didn’t even exist yet, it became a hot item almost overnight.

How to successfully steal ideas

This is where “Jack” (a pseudonym) came in. The demand was clear, and in the absence of patents it was a race to release the product first. He tested the waters by spending about $5,000 on a bulk order of 1,000 cubes, and swiftly made it all back and then some. In a riskier move, he then placed an order for 15,000 cubes and wired $70,000 to a factory in China, which he found online, to make it happen.

It worked. Although the original Kickstarter creators have a patent pending and he isn’t in the clear yet, it looks like “Jack” made the right investment. Whether or not stealing ideas like this is the most ethical thing to do, there’s no denying the potential effectiveness.

The advantages of using crowdfunding platforms are that they do a lot of the market research for you, and can be a good way of making sure you’ll have customers when your product hits the market. The downside is that it takes some time to raise the funds.

In today’s increasingly fast-paced world, it’s largely a question of who has the resources to manufacture a product first. With only $70,000, Jack made his mark, and made his money back. It’s more than most people have on hand, but it’s well below the maximums for most business loans. When crowdfunding sites, and the people who originally created an idea, have done the hard ground work, it’s largely about having the funds to race a product to market.

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