For many entrepreneurs, Kickstarter represents a level playing field where good ideas can find people with the cash to help make their dream a reality.
Just look at the success of the legendary Potato Salad, where a guy tried to raise the funds to make, well, potato salad — and ended up raising over $US55,000 and throwing a potato party for charity.
In 2014, over 22,252 projects were succesfully funded on Kickstarter, with a total of $US529 million pledged. That’s a lot of money going to a lot of innovative new ideas.
But not every good idea survives contact with the real world.
Here’s a look at the most successful Kickstarter projects of all time, and where they are today.
The Campaign: Reading Rainbow, the popular children's TV show, got pulled off of PBS in 2006 after a 23-year run. In 2012, Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton took to Kickstarter to fund an iPad and Kindle Fire interactive reading and 'virtual field trip' app. The world was ready for the return of Reading Rainbow, and it hit 540% of its funding goal and raised $US5,408,916.
Today: The Reading Rainbow app comes as a subscription package: For $US50 a year (or $US10/month), parents can give their kids access to a library of children's books, kind of like a Netflix for young readers.
The Campaign: Teen detective series Veronica Mars went off the air in 2007 after three seasons on UPN and The CW, but fans wanted more. Series creator Rob Thomas took to Kickstarter to fund a Veronica Mars movie -- and raised $US5,702,153 on April 12, 2013.
Today: The film premiered at the 2014 South by Southwest film festival to mostly positive reviews, and went on to gross $US3,485,127 worldwide -- none of which made it back to Kickstarter backers, it should be noted. Meanwhile, Kickstarter backers got a digital version of the Veronica Mars movie that just didn't work very well.
The campaign: Music legend Neil Young started Pono with the belief that if you wanted to hear the music the way it was meant to be heard, your standard-issue mp3 player or smartphone just wouldn't cut it. The Pono Music player is designed to provide what it promises is 'best possible listening experience of your favourite digital music.' Pono Music raised $US6,225,354, or 778% of its funding goal, on April 15, 2015.
Today: The $US399 Pono player failed to set the world on fire. It commanded a premium price point for an increase in music quality that most people couldn't even hear, and Ars Technica referred to the Pono as 'A tall, refreshing drink of snake oil' in a review.
The campaign: The Ouya video game console was supposed to revolutionise the gaming market. Based on the Android operating system, and designed by famed industrial designer Yves Behar, Ouya brought smartphone and tablet games to the television for only a $US99 hardware purchase. Ouya raised $US8,596,474 from Kickstarter backers on August 8th, 2012, plus a $US15 million round of venture capital from Kleiner Perkins.
Today: Ouya has turned into a cautionary tale for Kickstarter backers. After a series of shipping delays and other mishaps, Ouya finally got into the hands of fans -- who were turned off at the underwhelming hardware and a lack of good games that played well on the system. Despite a distribution deal with retailers like Best Buy and Target, Ouya is reported to be in dire financial straits and looking for a buyer.
The Campaign: Exploding Kittens, a party card game co-created by Internet cartoonist Matthew Inman, better known as the Oatmeal, raised $US8,782,571 on February 19th, 2015 -- a record for fastest-funded Kickstarter.
Today: The game is fully play-tested and ready to ship out to its Kickstarter backers in July, Inman told his fans in a cartoon.
The campaign(s): The original Pebble smartwatch, which uses an e-Ink screen like an Amazon Kindle to save battery, was funded on May 18, 2012 with $US10,266,845 -- a whopping 10,266,845% over its original goal of $US100,000, which makes it the third-highest grossing Kickstarter project of all time.
Today: Pebble watches have found their fanbase: The Apple Watch is pricey and only works with iPhones, but Pebble watches are cheaper (around $US199, depending on the model), work with Android phones, and get better battery life. And thanks to Apple Watch-mania, Pebble looks downright visionary.
The campaign: Coolest Cooler, a project to make a '21st century cooler that's actually cooler,' is a 'a portable party disguised as a cooler,' with a built-in Bluetooth speaker, an optional blender add-on, and space to tuck away plates and other picnic goodies. It raised $US13,285,226, which comes to 26,570% of its goal, on August 29, 2014.
Today: Coolest sent out early versions of the Cooler out to some early Kickstarter backers, but the final version is still being worked on for a July 2015 release. To its credit, Coolest has a site where interested parties can see exactly where the the Cooler project is at, including pictures of the designing and tooling process.
The campaign: Pebble holds the all-time Kickstarter record thanks to the Pebble Time, its newest-generation smartwatch. It was propelled on the back of Apple Watch frenzy to first place with $US20,338,986 raised (4,067% funded) for a campaign ending on March 27, 2015.
Today: The watches are expected to ship later in May to a base of devoted fans who can't wait to get their hands on it.