Could Crowdfunding Replace Traditional Marketing?
I posed that question this week to my friend Dr. Phil Windley, an expert technologist, Executive Producer of IT Conversations and a serial entrepreneur. He and co-founder Stephen Fulling have launched multiple ventures together beginning with iMALL Inc., which they sold to Excite@home in 1999. Disclosure: I have no current business relationship with Windley and Fulling but provided PR counsel to their company Kynetx in 2009-2010.
This week Windley and Fulling crossed another horizon together when they pressed the Launch button on their first crowdfunding campaign with Kickstarter to fund a project called Fuse. Fuse is a device that uses a built in GPS and cellular modem to stream data from your vehicle into a personal cloud. The device provides space-age app functionality such as mapping out a car pool route and pinging riders with an automatic call or text to let them know when you’re close. It can keep tabs on the driving habits of teen drivers (NPR has had some interesting things to say on this front). The device also manages fuel economy by calculating best times and locations to fill up and manages car expenses by alerting owners to maintenance needs by accessing the engine codes that only the dealership can normally read.
As I might have suspected, the product also proves a point the two founders are making: that there are new ways for technology to coalesce across many devices and platforms to produce surprising outcomes that are entirely customer driven.
In other words, in addition to the funding, the project is a PR and messaging mission to validate the company’s technology foundation while it kicks off the development of an extreme coolness factor device. So why did these experienced executives launch their idea on Kickstarter as opposed to using a traditional funding model and a traditional (ahem) public relations campaign?