Until recently, the perennial predicament of entrepreneurs was having a brilliant concept, solid business acumen, and no money. Crowdfunding has forever changed that, revolutionizing the way businesses begin. This innovative, social-media-friendly phenomenon is a way to bankroll anything from a startup to a college education. Below, we’ve summarized five especially successful crowdfunding campaigns that took the business world by storm.
1. Oculus Rift
Oculus VR developed the Oculus Rift, a virtual-reality headset that immerses players in their favorite games. Through the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, Oculus raised $2,437,429 from 9,522 backers in 30 days, leaving its goal of $250,000 in the dust. The company then raised even more capital until Facebook eventually acquired it for $2 billion in cash and Facebook stock. The acquisition rankled many of Rift’s original backers, with some claiming they deserve a piece of the company’s success. Gamers can expect to see the Rift headset debut in late 2014 or early 2015 for $350.
2. Pebble E-Paper Watch
Pebble is Kickstarter’s poster child of success, raising a whopping $10,266,845 in 37 days. The lure of owning one of the market’s few affordable smart watches sparked an influx of cash from crowdfunding backers. Of course, enthusiasm is sometimes a double-edge sword–Pebble experienced a bit of flak when the startup postponed production and prospective buyers were chomping at the bit. So eager were backers to own the E-Paper watch that Kickstarter had to make an announcement that it is not a store. The first E-Paper watches finally hit the market ten months after the close of Pebble’s crowdfunding effort.
3. Canonical Ubuntu Edge
The most lucrative crowdfunding campaign of 2013, Canonical managed to raise $12 million in one month to support its reimagination of the smartphone, the Ubuntu Edge. While impressive, the number still fell short of the company’s $32-million goal. The campaign, launched through IndieGoGo, broke records by raising $2 million in two hours and raising the highest total amount of any campaign. The phone, which merges mobile capabilities with desktop computing, carried a price tag of $695 and a wait time of one year. Both factors likely doomed it from the start. However, Canonical now plans to try to infuse some of the Edge’s functionality in phones to come.
4. Canary Smart Home Security
Using IndieGoGo, Canary blew away its goal of $100,000 by raising $1.9 million in 34 days. Canary marketed Smart Home as the first smart home security system and gave backers the option to contribute anything from $5 (supporter) to $8,800 (collector’s edition buyer). The device provides video as well as motion, video, air quality, and temperature monitors. When users link the device to their phones, they receive alerts when it senses motion (if an intruder breaks in, for example) or when the temperature changes significantly (possibly indicating a fire). Canary began shipping the first round of Smart Homes in May 2014.
5. Scanadu Scout
Crowdfunding with IndieGoGo propelled the Scanadu Scout device from a prototype to a best-selling product. Scanadu raised $1,664,574 in under 60 days to support its medical tricorder device that monitors blood pressure, respiratory rate, ECG, temperature, oximetry, heart rate, and emotional stress. The company calls the Scout an “emergency room in your pocket.” Backers could contribute anything from $10 (the “stay informed” level) to $199 (“first responders” receive a Scout and its free app) to $16,900 (“special perk” buyers receive 100 Scouts at $169 each). Scanadu sent out its first Scouts last spring.
With $5.1 billion raised in 2013 alone, crowdfunding websites are a godsend to startups in search of cash. Launching a crowdfunding campaign can take your product and your business to the next level. Keep in mind, though, that it takes more than just money to make it in business. You’ll need to understand finance, economics, marketing, and more to grow your business and sell your product, which is exactly what you’ll get with a degree from a top MBA program. With the right degree and a solid crowdfunding campaign, sky is the limit for your business.