We live in a time when old ways of thinking about how things are done are being disrupted by jarring new ideas. Uber changed the way we think about hailing a cab, Netflix changed the way we watch TV, and Kickstarter changed the way that new products are brought to market. Kickstarter, and other sites like Indiegogo, CrowdSupply, and FundAnything, make it possible for anyone with an innovative new idea to ask the market if it deserves to be funded. You don’t need the backing of venture capitalists or big banks, just a great idea and the potential to make it happen. Anyone with a small amount of money can become an investor in your next big idea.
While Kickstarter broke the old funding and go-to-market model, the old manufacturing model has long stood in the way for many entrepreneurs. By one estimate, only 25% of Kickstarter’s design and technology products deliver on time. Part of the reason for that is that dealing with large overseas manufacturers can be difficult, if not impossible for Kickstarter creators.
The traditional model of electronics development is time consuming and complicated. The process tries to fit a round peg into a square hole by forcing low volume orders through the same process as those used for high-volume mature products. For many large manufacturers, a Kickstarter project is a non-starter because they require initial orders of thousands or tens of thousands of units. They cannot be helpful with prototyping or iterating because only orders of scale make financial sense. Kickstarter prototyping and manufacturing requires a new approach.
The answer to this challenge is found, unsurprisingly, in the cloud. Cloud manufacturing is a new way of bridging the gap between product designers and the manufacturing resources they need to succeed. Cloud manufacturing for Kickstarter projects combine self-service online software for uploading design specifications and managing projects with modern prototyping and manufacturing services. This eliminates the delays, errors, and budget busting pricing common in the old approach.
Cloud Manufacturing breaks through traditional manufacturing barriers in 5 important ways:
Developing a working prototype is a critical step in any Kickstarter project, especially those involving electronic components. With Kickstarter prototyping and manufacturing, you can produce and iterate your prototype simply, quickly, and cost effectively.
Someday, you hope to need 100,000 of your product, but in the beginning, most Kickstarter creators can’t afford, and don’t know if they can sell, mass quantities of the product. Cloud manufacturing for Kickstarter eliminates the risk of big inventories, letting you order exactly the number of units you need from 1 to 10,000.
Delays are built into every stage of the old manufacturing method. Before you even get started, you have to wait for a quote, and send design files back and forth. Once you’ve reached an agreement, you are on the manufacturer’s schedule, and of course, there are shipping times to consider. There’s nothing about the Kickstarter spirit in any of that. The modern approach to Kickstarter manufacturing eliminates delays by providing immediate quotes and fast turnaround times. If you choose a manufacturer in the US, shipping delays are also wiped away.
If you are a Kickstarter creator, you are probably someone who likes to know exactly where your project stands and have the ability to track progress down to the minute. Not much of a chance of that with the old model, but with manufacturing designed to support Kickstarter, you get real-time transparency into what is happening and the ability to report on progress at any time, from anywhere.
Businesses of all types these days are using professionals for functions that are not part of the core business. If order fulfillment isn’t what you want to get really good at, Kickstarter manufacturing is right for you. The manufacturer takes responsibility for inventory management and will ship the product right to your customer. The best solutions provide an API so that your ecommerce site is integrated with their software. When a customer places an order, it is simply packed up and sent on its way.
It’s 2016 and the way we fund new ideas and inventions has changed for the better. More people than ever can produce the innovations that make life a little easier, or maybe just a little bit more fun. The way these ideas reach the hands of happy customers also needs to change for the better. The Kickstarter culture, from prototype to manufacturing to fulfillment, is making that a reality.