More than 18,000 creative projects got off the ground last year by the grace of Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site once known merely as a launchpad for starving artists.
Kickstarter reports that its 2.2 million members pledged more than $319 million in 2012, up 221 percent from the year before. But more striking, perhaps, is the scale of some of Kickstarter’s latest success stories. While no project had raised $1 million at this time last year, 17 projects passed that mark in 2012.
Those projects include:
●Elevation Dock ($1.5 million): a minimalist, aluminum iPhone dock that Wired called “the dock Apple should have made in the first place.”
●The Order of the Stick Reprint Drive ($1.3 million): a campaign publish a new print run of artist Rich Berlew’s popular Web comic, “The Order of the Stick.”
●Pebble ($10.3 million): a digital watch that can be customized with a range of smartphone-like features, such as alerting its wearer when she gets new calls or tweets.
●Double Fine Adventure ($3.3 million): a retro point-and-click game that vowed to make its development “transparent” through a series of frequent behind-the-scenes videos.
●Amanda Palmer: The New Record, Art Book and Tour ($1.2 million): the musicians’ first full-length album since she broke from her label in 2010.
●Oculus Rift ($2.4 million): a virtual reality headset designed to give gamers a “truly immersive experience” as they play.
●Smart Things ($1.2 million): a series of apps that coordinate the users’ Internet-connected devices, such as wired doors, lights, thermostats and smoke alarms.
●Form 1 ($2.9 million): an affordable, high-res 3D printer.
●LIFX ($1.3 million): a multicolor, WiFi-enabled light bulb that can be controlled with a smartphone.
The scale of these new projects suggests their creators may eschew venture capital in favor of crowdfunding — a move that inventors and investors have debated since the first million-dollar project, Elevation Dock, crossed the $1 million mark in February.
Kickstarter cautions backers not to consider their donations an investment, however, and warns that no return is guaranteed. The site suffered a minor scandal in July when a University of Pennsylvania study found that 75 percent of the site’s projects don’t deliver on time.
Case in point: Pebble, the site’s best-funded project ever, announced today at the Consumer Electronics Show that it will finally ship its first watches later this month. The project, which was funded seven months ago, had originally set a September shipping date.