Crowdfunding opens doors for entrepreneurs

Like most entrepreneurs, Lester Mapp is a busy man and if you’ve ever heard of an iPhone bumper made of material used in the aerospace industry, you know why. Mapp, of Aventura, developed the AL13, a bumper case for iPhone 5 and 4/4S.

“I got the idea when I went to a trade show and woke up the next morning thinking about what I wanted in an iPhone case and I got my friends involved to brainstorm ideas,” said Mapp, 27. “We wanted to make a premium case but at a mid-range price, so we also had the challenge of searching for material suppliers and manufacturers that would allow us to make this happen. It wasn’t easy but we were determined and in a few weeks we had a plan and a prototype.”

Mapp turned to the leading crowdfunding website Kickstarter to raise money for his venture. Back in December, Mapp launched his Kickstarter campaign with a goal to raise $20,000 by Feb. 13. From a hotel room in Hong Kong earlier this month, where he was overseeing the manufacturing of the AL13, Mapp shared details of his experience.

“This was our first Kickstarter campaign,” said Mapp, CEO of designed by m. “And I experienced a variety of emotions during the process — humbled, excited and feeling the pressure because someone who has never met you trusted you enough to part with their hard earned money to give you a chance to create your dream. You can ever let that person down.”

Mapp’s case was a hit with the crowd. He raised more than $86,000, over four times his original goal, from 1,426 backers, most of whom he didn’t know. On his Kickstarter page, however, he made sure backers were aware of how he was progressing with his project. When several potential backers raised the issue of signal loss with Mapp’s case, he created a dialogue with them and explained that testing done by his company showed that signal loss is 4 to 10 percent. Last week, he sent an email to his backers letting them know the AL13 was ready to ship. “Working with the backers to develop the AL13 and the Kickstarter staff to promote it was a wonderful experience,” said Mapp.

But for every successful Kickstarter campaign like Mapp’s, there are those that don’t reach the desired level of funding.

“There’s no one reason why a project fails,” wrote Kickstarter’s Head of Community Cindy Au recently on the platform’s blog. “But usually it has to do with rewards that are too pricey, a funding goal that’s a bit out of reach, bad timing, or myriad other things in life that can get in the way of success. That’s just kind of how life is.”

Kickstarter is filled with projects that didn’t quite make it — a guy in Elkhorn, Wisconsin looking for $3,750 to fund a line of Jamaican jerk seasoning but who raised under $500; a guy in State College Pennsylvania that needed $1,000 to fund his new CD but who raised just $100; and a New York production company that raised only $800 of the $8,000 it needed to complete a play. The success rate on Kickstarter is currently about 44 percent, according to the company’s metrics.

“Asking for money is not something every entrepreneur can do successfully,” said Alex Fair, CEO of Medstartr, a crowdfunding platform that is part of a new wave of crowdfunding sites with specializations.

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