Techno Punks / An Online Reality Show for Armchair Entrepreneurs

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There's a sucker born every minute.

At about the same rate, someone, somewhere, screams "Eureka!" and announces a great idea.

The math, friends, doesn't look so good for these wannabe Edisons. Nine times out of 10, when some plucky inventor asks himself, "How is it that no one has thought of this before?," the answer is, "Because it's a stupid idea."

If you are among those lucky entrepreneurs that actually have a worthwhile idea (the 10 percent, if you will, that roll up their shirtsleeves, organize market research, slap together a business plan and set up meetings), you can put this article down and continue about your day. This story is obviously not for you.

But if you are a couch potato, a daytime pajama-wearer or a champion procrastinator, read on.

Real entrepreneurs, unlike you, could get by without Kickstarter, a website that lets small business dreamers find funding online, which is also known as crowdscourcing. For the charmed 10 percent who actually have their schnitzel together, Kickstarter is just one small step on a thousand-mile journey toward building the next Facebook.

The entrepreneurs who gather here are already within spitting distance of their dreams.

For the rest of us, though, Kickstarter is like a reality show where we can cheer on our favorite contestants. Without so much as lifting a spreadsheet, we can sit back and watch a gaggle of entrepreneurs race to raise a specific amount of money in a set period of time.

The nicest thing about Kickstarter is that even non-techno punks can get in on the spectator action. Anyone can follow his or her favorite musicians, filmmakers, designers and even cooking enthusiasts online, and by tracking their success (or lack thereof), transform online trolling into an "American Idol"-esque experience where cash, not Simon Cowell, decides the final fate.

The funding these "Kickstarters" are after comes in small amounts. One candidate hopes to raise $30,000 in 30 days to develop a tech accessory, while another is looking for $2,000 in two months to distribute hand-designed silkscreened T-shirts. To get in on this virtual reality show, all you need to do is enter a keyword for a project close to your heart, and then start following. Like the slowest fish in the sea, you'll be hooked in no time.

For example, will Kyndra Holley raise the $2,000 she needs to turn her blog into a cookbook? At press time, this would-be entrepreneur from Washington State had drummed up $1,400 from 48 donors over the course of about a month. The sands trickling through the hourglass tell us that she has just six days left to transform her wordpress project "Peace + Love + Low Carb" into Amazon's next big self-published thing.

Like any reality show, Kickstarter also offers sharp plot twists and nail-biting suspense. A devoted viewer can really start to identify with some of the characters.
For example, every entrepreneur on Kickstarter has the option of rewarding his or her funders based on the amount they have invested. Anyone who gives Holley $50 will get a shout-out on her blog and the chance to select a recipe for publication in the book. Those who pony up $500 will get all that plus a complimentary copy of the book, and a dedication. Viewers can also keep track of the names of those who donate, turning Kickstarter into a modern version of the annual Chabad Telethon, where you can pick your own corny soundtrack.

And just like America's beloved singers, dancers, butchers, bakers or candlestick makers will sometimes send a thank you text for voting them out of danger, Kickstarter voyeurs can take a peek at the comments wannabe entrepreneurs post to say "gracias" to those who throw them some cash.

Just imagine: On our next episode of "Sitting Here and Staring at the Screen," a deep-pocketed investor materializes to sweep Kendra Holley off her feet and fulfill all her book publishing dreams. Or maybe a dozen friends or even complete strangers will grant her the final push to reach her $2,000 target? Stay tuned to find out the surprise ending.

Since the beginning of 2012, nearly 70,000 new projects have been presented at Kickstarter, and at any given moment there are a plethora of new projects popping up. The site's entrepreneurs currently have a 44 percent success rate for meeting their fundraising goals. That means that almost half of the entrepreneurs are able to make their business dreams come true, and have benefitted from the $265 million donated thus far.

And don’t forget about the freaks and geeks. There are plenty of strange stories on this site, but finding them will require some digging. The highlights reels – those major success stories that end with big shiny gold-star dreams – are promoted smack dab on the site's home page.

Here's an odd one for you: The dizzying success of the hair comb/bottle-opener combo manufactured by Old Familiar. Their fundraising goal was $2,500 in 30 days. In just four days, however, 300 donors had chipped in close to $9,000. In return for their investment, some donors got their own comb/bottle opener combo (because you never know when you'll be thirsty AND have a bad hair day). Those who chipped in $12 received one especially for beard hair, and those who donated $35 received the dynamic duo of normal comb/bottle-opener plus the beard-specific variety. The most generous of the bunch got theirs in titanium. Somewhere, the Fonz is smiling.

On Kickstarter you can't vote for your favorite by sending text messages, but you can participate in a more important way by actually chipping in a few dollars to help your favorite competitor inch toward his or her financial finish line. Worst-case scenario, you have some fun. But best-case scenario, you get a special delivery of origami animals, a nice totebag, a touchscreen alarm clock or a mention on a diet-cooking blog of a nice lady from Washington.

With Kickstarter, you can make dreams come true just like Randy, Paula and Simon.Credit: Reuters

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