Thursday, August 25, 2011

How To Invest In A Startup For As Little As $25

It strikes me now that the title of this post is a bit misleading.

I guess that's why they always say that you should come up with the title AFTER you've written the post.

It's not entirely misleading, just a little bit. I'm not talking about the kind of investing where you put in $25 and you own a little piece of the company and that company goes public and suddenly you're a millionaire sipping margaritas on your yacht.

If that's what you're looking for, you'll have far better odds "investing" $25 in Powerball.

No, what I'm referring to is finding small-time, just-starting-out companies and individuals who have a great new product or idea, and contributing your money to help them out. Only instead of getting a piece of their company, you get to be one of the first to have the product (and frequently some other goodies), and you get the immense satisfaction that comes with helping a new entrepreneur succeed.

I'm referring, of course, to Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is a "crowdfunding" website that enables anyone to help fund creative projects, either out of the goodness of your heart or in return for a "reward" offered by the creator of the project (rewards increase depending on how much you chip in).

Here's how it works: I've got an idea for a new widget and I've got the specs all drawn up and I've got a manufacturer sourced, but it will cost me $5,000 to put the first batch into production and I don't have the money. I head over to Kickstarter and post my project. I tell you all the details, and I set my rewards for levels of funding. For example, $40 will get you one widget. $100 will get you two widgets and your name on the website as a backer. $200 will get you 5 limited edition widgets. $1000 and you can come to the factory and watch them being made. You get the idea.

A nice feature is that you're making a pledge, but if the project doesn't fully fund, you aren't charged. So you could go ahead and chip in $100 for my new widget idea and know that you'll only be charged if I raise the full $5000 needed to actually produce it.

I'll occasionally browse Kickstarter and look for cool new things.

I feel kind of like a small scale version of one of the sharks on Shark Tank. In my opinion, the best part of that show is seeing all of the cool stuff people invent, and Kickstarter has that in spades.

I recently helped fund a Kickstarter called Pen Moto. It's this awesome magnetic ring that lets you instantly go from writing to typing without having to put down or pick up your pen. (as you may be able to tell from some previous posts, I'm a big fan of getting things done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Saving seconds and minutes will really add up over time!)

Here's the video that explains it better than I could...

And here's the link to the Kickstarter page so you can see an example of what I'm talking about (this one has now fully funded). If you look down the right hand side, you'll see the different rewards that come with backing the project at various funding levels.

It's a win-win all around. I get to be one of the first to find out about and own a cool new product (which will improve my work efficiency), I get to contribute to the success of startup, and the entrepreneurs get the infusion of capital and the boost that they need to hopefully take their business to the next level.

If you enjoy keeping your money local, you can also browse Kickstarter locally by heading to their "discover" page and looking for where it says "search cities" down the right hand navigation. On a similar note, browsing Etsy Local is another good way to support local people making things (albeit usually much less "techy" than things found on Kickstarter). 


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