Kickstarter has partnered with Dragon Innovation and Avnet to help crowdfunded hardware projects go from hare-brained idea to consumer product. That help will come from a new Hardware Studio devoted to exposing the realities of manufacturing and distribution to the individuals, teams, and companies using Kickstarter to fund their products even though they have no idea how the development process actually works.
Crowdfunding these projects makes sense. Many people don't have the funds needed to develop a hardware product, and even if they do, Kickstarter has become one of the best ways to get a lot of attention. It's also free market research--if the project isn't funded, chances are good that the product wouldn't have been a commercial success. Add the obvious benefit of getting money from people, and you have a no-brainer.
This is especially true for anyone looking to make a tech product for a niche audience. Remember that before it was scooped up by Facebook for $3 billion--it was originally $2 billion, but an extra $1 billion was spent on employee retention--Oculus was a successful Kickstarter project. We've also covered mechanical keyboards, GPU docks, motion controllers, and many other projects targeted squarely at the enthusiast market.
Yet there's no guarantee that successfully funded projects will ever reach their backers. Kickstarter has long maintained that it's not a store--backing a project is more like a donation than a pre-order. Still, the company's intentions don't matter when projects fail to deliver, and the last thing Kickstarter needs is to be seen as a not-quite-marketplace with no quality control and no guarantee your money will be put to good use.
Hardware Studio could help change that. Here's what Kickstarter said in its announcement of the partnership:
Let’s face it: Some Kickstarter projects are trickier to execute than others. If you want to bring a new piece of technology into the world, for example, you need to think about selecting components, pricing them, connecting with the right factory, and so on.All of that is easier to figure out than it was just a few years ago, thanks in part to the paths blazed by Kickstarter-funded hardware creators. But we think it could be a lot easier.
Hardware Studio will take two forms: Hardware Studio Toolkit and Hardware Studio connection. The former is a collection of free resources--webinars, software, tutorials, and more--and the latter offers "access to tailored resources and personalized feedback that will help them set a manufacturing plan." Hardware Studio Toolkit will be available to anyone; Hardware Studio Connection will require a "simple application process."
Kickstarter said that "two parts of this effort will launch in September," but it's not clear if that means other programs and tools will be introduced later. You can sign up to be notified when Hardware Studio debuts on the project's website.