03 Sep 2016

The Business Times

By JACQUELYN CHEOK

Singapore

KICKSTARTER may have been officially launched in Singapore this week, but local creators and backers have been among the most passionate, supportive users of the New York-based crowdfunding site for seven years already.

Its spokesman told The Business Times on Friday: "That's true. Singapore backers have been supporting creative projects on Kickstarter since our launch in 2009."

Nearly 60,000 backers from the Republic have made more than 250,000 pledges to Kickstarter projects from around the world; and over 100 projects from Singapore have been launched on the platform, representing "all corners of the creative universe".

The spokesman noted that before Kickstarter set up shop here, Singapore creators were already able to launch projects on the platform to raise funds from large numbers of people online, but they had to "jump through hoops" - set up a company, work with collaborators outside Singapore - in order to submit projects onto the site.

With a localised platform now, the fund-raising has become "a whole lot simpler"; one needs only a local bank account and a verified ID to launch projects. This service is now available to individuals in the US, the UK, parts of Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The spokesman said: "Singapore is a really exciting centre of culture and innovation. We've seen a number of amazing projects from creators over the years, and we expect to see even more in the coming months."

STEPP, a Singapore-designed, wearable gadget that speaks to you as you run for exercise, has raised S$34,852 from 269 backers as at Friday. Its designer, VST Technology, has until Oct 8 to amass S$70,000.

The device works by collecting real-time data of your form as you run, and alerting you if you over-stride or when your pelvic tilt needs adjusting.

STEPP product manager Anika Ahmed, when asked why the business used Kickstarter, said that the platform offers camaraderie with potential users of the product. "Kickstarter is unique in that it empowers entrepreneurs to harness their creation in a supportive, collaborative environment where backers, as lead users, understand the constraints. It enables user feedback like no other platform."

Brendan Goh, co-founder of Pirate3D, a startup which in 2013 raised US$1.4 million (more than 10 times its US$100,000 goal) for its 3D printer The Buccaneer, described Kickstarter as "fantastic" for Singapore entrepreneurs, given the small market here.

He added: "Being exposed to a global audience will enable them to scale faster. Kickstarter offers an efficient customer-acquisition system. It's also watched closely by tech blogs worldwide and offers startups invaluable coverage if their projects are successful."

But being watched can be a double-edged sword. It didn't go unnoticed, for example, when Pirate3D stopped fulfilling the orders it received through Kickstarter; at the time, it had shipped only 40 per cent of total orders, and attributed this to a gross underestimation of manufacturing and research costs in Singapore. BT has learnt that it is continuing operations and fulfilling the backlog through profits from other avenues, such as education and 3D-print services.

Such delays and missteps are not unusual on Kickstarter. But Internet entrepreneur Patrick Grove believes that the value offered by the platform transcends these hiccups. He has backed some five global projects, having invested between US$200 and US$500 in independent films, 3D art and gadgets.

He said: "Platforms like Kickstarter are amazing for the creative community, as creators can reach anyone in the world with the passion to support their creative endeavours. I'm proud to support what they are trying to do."

Since 2009, more than 11 million people have pledged US$2.5 billion to over 300,000 projects on Kickstarter; the platform's spokesman said these include Oscar-winning films, Grammy-winning albums, food trucks, podcasts and cutting-edge technology.

He noted that a recent study found that Kickstarter had driven the setup of 8,800 new companies, created 300,000 jobs and generated over US$5.3 billion in direct economic impact. "It's a global stage on which to share your idea with the world."

On Saturday, We The People, the first shop in Singapore to exclusively sell Kickstarter-funded products, will open in Orchard Central.

Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission