Kickstarter vs. Quirky: Startups Provide New Routes for Invention

PHOTO: Websites like Kickstarter let anyone create products and get funding from the crowd.

It's one thing to buy a fun new gadget or accessory, another to think up an idea for one, and a whole other thing to bring it to market.

Even as actual production is increasingly outsourced, the companies that create your products are creation machines: design, research, engineering, marketing, testing, branding, legal, distribution.

However, two New York companies – Kickstater and Quirky -- have begun to help those who need help bringing gadgets to market. Their approaches offer very different paths to market.

Kickstarter: Crowdfunding for Entrepreneurs

Kickstarter focuses on crowdsourcing. The site has sections devoted to the arts: music, photography, fashion, film, theater. There's also a technology section, but it tends to focus on hobbyist endeavors such as MaKey, which allows you to activate actions on a PC by tapping on such non-digital items as a glob of Play-Doh or a banana. The real home for consumer gadgets is in the Design section, under Products.

Kickstarter projects, which must be approved by the site before being listed, are usually offered for about four to six weeks. During that time, the creators must reach a certain funding goal. If they don't, they get nothing. Some projects ask for a couple of thousand dollars, others $100,000 or more. Recently, the Pebble smartwatch, which can communicate with an iPhone or an Android device, raised a record $10 million.

Kickstarter projects offer a number of rewards for project backers, based on how much they pledge. In the Product Design section, this often includes a preorder of the product being developed. Payments are made via Amazon Payments, which, like Kickstarter itself, takes a percentage of the money raised.

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