Kickstarter is hailed as the great equalizer in the world of business. If think you’ve got something worth doing or something worth making, all you have to do is start a campaign and hope that enough like-minded people feel the same. There are no gatekeepers, no people telling you that your plan isn’t realistic. It’s the ultimate in democratizing funding.
At last year’s Sundance Film Festival, 10 percent of the movies presented were Kickstarter backed. In 2012, 2,796 video game developers used the service to secure funding for their games. In one year alone, hopeful supporters used Kickstarter to pledge over $274 million to 18,109 ambitious startups and small businesses for projects that could very well have been dismissed or overlooked in the traditional production marketplace.
While Kickstarter can nurture fledgling ideas with big potential, it also acts as a lightning rod for the weird - and somewhat wonderful. You’ll find, after scanning through the Kickstarter listings for an hour or two, that for every diamond-in-the-rough, “why doesn’t that exist already” idea, there are hundreds of half-baked, “why in the world would anyone want one of those” projects.
As the old expression goes, however, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. A quick scan through the elephant’s graveyard of campaigns that didn’t meet their funding requirement will show you that even the strangest project can seem like a good idea to someone (maybe a few someones).
So, in honour of the weird and wonderful and downright wacky ideas lurking around Kickstarter, here are some of the strangest projects that actually received pledges - though, sadly, not funding.
8 Iowa Air In A Jar
Do you ever feel like the air around you is missing a certain something, perhaps a purity that can only be found in America’s heartland? Alex Streyffeler had the solution. For a pledge of $150, funders could have received a jar filled with genuine Iowa air from one of the state’s 99 counties. This offer was part of Streyffeler’s project to tour each of Iowa’s counties, opening a glass jar in each, and then taking a picture of that glass jar in the surrounding environment, highlighting the beauty and diversity of the state.
If $150 was a little rich for your blood, or you missed out on the limited offer, cheaper pledge offers were available; for $20 you could receive a picture of one of the jars in its natural habitat; for $100 and the cost of postage, Streyffeler would open a container you provided in one of the counties, infusing it with Iowan goodness, and send it back to you.
7 Complimentary Cards
Have you ever been walking down the street, minding your own business, only to be struck down by the amazing beauty of a stranger? Suddenly, thanks to that person’s sheer good looks, your day becomes 10 times better. You wish you could tell them how their aesthetically pleasing presence brightened your day, but you don’t want to come off as creepy. What to do!?
If it were up to Zachary Brown, you would hand them a compliment card and be on your way. Each card would contain a message of heartfelt thanks from you to the Adonis or Aphrodite that snagged your attention thanking them for being alive and attractive in the world. Sadly, only one person pledged to this campaign, so it looks like awkwardly ogling attractive strangers is your only choice.
6 Watermelon Straps
It all began with a trip to the grocery store on a fourth of July weekend. Of course watermelon was on the menu, but how to transport it home? Too big for plastic bags, too ungainly to be held by bare hands. What’s a watermelon loving person to do?
Enter the watermelon strap. Simply set the watermelon down on the carrying harness and secure the handles over top. Voila, it’s the world’s most cumbersome - but delicious - handbag. Risks and challenges listed in the campaign description: keeping up with demand.
5 Artisanal Tinfoil Haberdashery
The Tinfoil Haberdashery project was undoubtedly a clever commentary on today’s security state and the endangered nature of modern privacy. In a post-Snowden world, the average citizen is painfully aware of how often and to what extent government intrudes on our lives. That being said, would you or anyone else really want a homemade tinfoil hat that cost $25?
When you read on through the project description, you discover that the hats are really just a bit of a boondoggle. The aim of the project is actually to fund Master Haberdasher Patrick Blanchfield’s lifelong dream of moving away to somewhere warm and “drinking himself to death.” It’s hard to say whether he would have gotten more or fewer pledges if he’d kept that part to himself. In the end, he finished his campaign $1404 shy of his goal, but 13 backers is still pretty impressive, given the idea is what it is.
Have you ever sat across from someone on a date and silently wished that there was some way that you could show them how interested you were without having to do anything overt or deliberate? No? Well, apparently someone does. Introducing Tailly, the tail that wags when you get excited. Simply secure the belt around your waist and sensors embedded in the strap read your heart rate. When it accelerates, the belt will begin to wiggle back and forth.
Though the idea is unorthodox and the project failed to meet its funding goal, you’ll probably still see it on the market some time soon. The people responsible for Tailly are the same ones who came up Brainwave Cat Ears, the headset that reacts to your brain activity levels and lets you look like a giant anime furry.
3 Project Falcon
Are you tired of blurry photographs, grainy video and the half-credible statements of confused, babbling witnesses? Do you want to know, once and for all, if the Sasquatch exists and, if so, where he lives? Well, you missed your chance. As of January 25, 2013 Project Falcon failed to meet its required funding goal… of $355,000. So, if you were looking forward to hunting down a potentially non-existent animal using a state-of-the-art airship, complete with thermal imaging equipment, looks like you’re out of luck. Let’s hope some camper gets lucky with their iPhone.
2 Armed Spider Robots
Reading over the description of this campaign, it’s hard to tell if, in creating an army of fast, agile and intelligent spider-bots, the founders were out to create the ultimate game of Nerf ball, or to prepare mankind for some sort of post-apocalyptic hell world.
The campaign blurb promises that once finished the spider-bots will be 3 feet tall, able to identify, track, flank and corner targets, be capable of communicating with each other, and come armed with nerf weaponry. All in all, it sounds quite terrifying, so it’s probably a good thing that they only managed to raise $142 of the requested $12000.
1 box shipment #2
It would seem that Kickstarter is a Mecca for young performance artists trying to get funding for avant garde projects. In this case, the artist, Jordan Wayne Long, proposed to lock himself inside of a museum shipping container and send himself from Detroit, Michigan to Portland, Oregon. During his internment in the tiny box, Long would be playing online video games.
Though he only asked a modest $3,615, the project failed to reach its goal. Which is really a shame, as Long had already put in a great deal of prep work into the project. In order to test his ability to deal with claustrophobia, Mr. Long had already locked himself in a museum crate for four days. Though, maybe it was for the best. I’m pretty sure you aren’t allowed to ship live animals through the mail.