When nearly 400,000 people raised their hands for the Model 3 and cemented the conviction with a $1,000 deposit, a new business model in a staid industry was born. While conventional automakers seek board approval to tap cash reserves or issue bonds to pay for new vehicles, the ever-unconventional Tesla showed crowdfunding gets the job done in two weeks.
Even Musk was floored by the response. He anticipated fewer than half the deposits he received and must now scramble to find a way to build all those cars.
"Launching a refrigerator takes two and a half years from mind to market," Venkatakrishnan says. Or imagine a new product, like a slushie maker. "It takes six months to a year to do the engineering feasibility," he says. "Then it takes a year and a half for us to go into the system to make a decision. Then you get a team together and scale that up, which takes another year and a half." Four years later, you have your slushie maker. And so do your competitors.
By contrast, consider FirstBuild's most successful product to date, a small machine called Opal that produces "nugget ice". These are small, soft pellets of ice popular at fast-food restaurants and convenience stores in the south of the US. Prized for their cooling ability (the ice has more surface area) they can, curiously, also be comfortably chewed. It was a niche market, with an uncertain consumer demand for making nugget ice at home.
FirstBuild is an experiment by parent company GE that combines the power of so-called "open innovation" -- the idea that new products can come from outside a company's own walls -- with the speed of additive and low-volume manufacturing, topped off with the novel promise of crowdfunding, or getting a passionate, self-selecting market of consumers so early to adopt that they are willing to buy something before it has even been built.
An Alaska family has bravely turned over control of their Christmas lights to people on the Internet, who with the click of a button, are able to turn areas on and off at all hours of the day and night.
For the sixth year in a row, Ken Woods, an information technology employee in Fairbanks, has nailed a live camera to a tree outside his home. He has then rigged a dozen different controls, allowing anyone who visits his website to turn a certain area of his lights on or off at all hours of the day.
Compared with a traditional loan application, Lending Club is blissfully easy. To qualify, borrowers need only an active bank account, a minimum FICO credit score of 660–the approximate subprime cutoff point–and at least three years of credit history. A proprietary underwriting algorithm approves or rejects the loan on the spot.
On the surface, lending might seem just as simple. Prospective backers can create a Lending Club account and fund it through a bank transfer. They can choose loans to fund individually or set parameters regarding loan size and risk and let Lending Club’s systems assign the funds automatically. But while it’s tempting to view that activity as lending–the natural flip side of borrowing–what’s actually going on is more complex. What lenders are really doing is investing: they’re putting their money in notes backed by the prospective repayment of loans. The sizes of the loans range from $1,000 to $35,000. Investors can buy notes in increments as small as $25–which means they can purchase small slices of lots of different loans, spreading the risk around.
“Yesterday, the appliance company launched an IndieGoGo campaign (yes, even a corporation with a $262 billion market cap can make use of crowdfunding) for its Opal Nugget Ice Maker, a countertop device that produces freezing cold crunchy crack. The campaign is less about raising money—GE’s got plenty of that—than about marketing the machine and soliciting feedback from interested consumers. And that feedback has been orgasmic. At the time of this writing, that Opal has raised half a million dollars from more than 1,300 people. Some people really love ice.
But GE already knew this. That’s why it built the Opal in the first place. A product of the company’s FirstBuild lab, the Opal was born after a message board suggestion led the company to dig further into this phenomenon. They found a subculture teeming with ice obsessives, both in and outside of the “Chew Belt.””
VC Tim Draper’s crowdsourced initiative has received several hundred ideas.
Here’s a breakdown of the top issues entrants had addressed by early June.
Almost 42 percent of the concepts submitted focused on how to improve representation and the legislative process. So far it has been the most-addressed topic in the competition and brought up solutions like a unicameral legislature and a tech-driven government.
Nearly 22 percent of the ideas dealt with infrastructure and water conservation. Between improving transportation and looking for new ways to save water, the issues were a major focus for concerned residents.
Close to 14 percent of the entries wanted to improve the state through business initiatives.
Ten percent of the entries were aimed at education. Ideas ranged from offering more college courses in high school to finding alternative ways to finance schools.
UberPool and Lyft Line (in graph), available in a handful of cities, match two sets of riders heading in the same direction and charge them a reduced fare. This kind of carpooling, hardly a new idea, may play a major role in the outcome of the San Francisco companies’ furious competition against each other and the $11 billion traditional U.S. taxi and limo industry. “I do think this is the future of ride-sharing—the actual sharing of rides,” says Harry Campbell, an Uber and Lyft driver and author of The Rideshare Guy, an industry blog. “They can lower the price and make the business accessible to people who may not have taken a ride before.”
This is such a far cry from the traditional systems integrator, have teams of consultants fly week after week to a customer site.
From ZDNet, the TopCoder (now part of Appirio) project from MESH01 with a stack that included AngularJS, Node and MongoDB on top of the Heroku cloud application platform.
“To organize the MESH01 project, a TopCoder architect broke it down into more than 100 different contests, to surface the best design approaches. The final version includes contributions from more than 30 TopCoder members; the code was combined by the TopCoder architects.”
NY Times interview with Kevin Kelly, author of modern version of the Whole Earth Catalog
“These are all recommendations of tools, in the broadest sense, of things that are helpful and practical for doing things yourself, for learning things yourself or as a small group. They are self-empowerment tools. While there are more than a thousand tools in the book, I’m not suggesting that you buy any of them. I think you should just know about them. This is a book of ideas. It’s a book of possibilities.”
“This is all user-generated content from the cool tools website that have been running for 10 years. These are all positive recommendations, we only deal with good stuff, we don’t waste our time with things that don’t work.”
“You can take a picture with your mobile phone, where you hover over the (QR) code, and then it takes you right to an Amazon page to order the tool. It’s as close as we could get in print to the web where you can click and order something. It remains to be seen if anyone actually uses it.”
The premise of Homejoy is fairly simple. Go to the website or download the app, create an account, and pick a time you want your house cleaned. The rate is $20 per hour plus a $5 supply fee. A key selling point is that the housecleaners themselves are insured and vetted by Homejoy. Like Uber’s drivers, however, they’re not technically employed by the company. Instead, they work as freelancers who set their own hours and receive assignments based on availability.
For investors, Homejoy’s appeal would seem to rest on its potential to create efficiency through transparency. (Google Ventures and Levchin didn’t immediately return requests for comment.) Homejoy, Cheung says, provides a highly visible way for the vast workforce of independent cleaners to make themselves known and demonstrate their competence. “We’re essentially organizing all the independent cleaners onto our platform,” Cheung says.