Electronic Design
Is Kickstarter The New Way To Get Capital?

Is Kickstarter The New Way To Get Capital?

Crowdsourcing is on the rise courtesy of Web sites like Kickstarter. It’s one way to start a company or get a product or service off the ground, and it has been used to launch everything from movies to games.

My daughter Jennifer Steen used it to fund her roleplaying game, Project Ninja Panda Taco (Fig. 1). She initially asked for $12,500, which she surpassed with 386 backers. I was one of them. I like games, and I’m a bit biased about hers. (For more about Project Ninja Panda Taco, go to http://projectnpt.com/.)


1. Project Ninja Panda Taco is a roleplaying game now looking for funding on Kickstarter. As a Mastermind, like Lord Fredrick Slitherton and his minion Walter Pantaloons, you can try to take over the world.

High-Tech Funding

Kickstarter isn’t just for hobbies and small businesses. It’s also seeing some high-tech action. For example, I’ve also bought into Ouya, which is building a game console based on Nvidia’s Tegra 3 multicore system-on-chip (SoC). The unit, which includes a single controller (Fig. 2), costs $99—actually, that’s the pledge you need to make if you want to be one of the first gamers to get one (see “Ouya Brings $99 Game Console Via Kickstarter”).


2. Ouya plans on delivering its own console game system based on Nvidia’s Tegra 3 multicore SoC, which is found in many tablets and smart phones.

Ouya expects to sell more consoles after delivering the first batch to all of its backers. Its Kickstarter goal was a bit higher than Jennifer’s at $950,000. At last count, Ouya had more than 63,000 backers with pledges totaling over $8.5 million. That’s probably enough money for the company to start ordering some components.

Ouya’s box is still on the consumer side of things, with the same hardware found in tablets and smart phones. It will have an app store where you can download games. It also will be competing with Sony’s PS3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360. I probably won’t be playing anything as ambitious as Gearbox Software’s Borderlands 2, which I play with my son via the Internet on the PS3. But lots of games would easily look and play the same on all of these platforms.

Adapteva based its Parallella project around its tiny, 16-core processor, which targets mobile applications (Fig. 3). It will be coupled with a dual-core Arm Cortex-A9 SoC running Ubuntu Linux. The system fits on a card that’s comparable to the $99 Raspberry Pi. The $99 Parallella board will deliver a whopping 26 GFLOPS of performance by May 2013. February delivery will run $499.


3. Adapteva’s tiny multicore chip will be the heart of its Kickstarter project, which also has a dual-core Cortex-A9 SoC running Ubuntu.

The Parallella is a glorified development board. The big difference between generating a dev board and a Kickstarter project is market share. With Kickstarter, a project won’t go forward unless there is a minimum number of supporters, with potential levels of support. The $499 Parallella commitment is designed for early developers.

How Kickstarter Works

Kickstarter campaigns have end goals that include various funding levels along with different levels of support. A backer creates an account on the Web site and then can pledge at a desired level using a credit card. The card isn’t charged until the project meets a specified pledge goal. There can be more than one goal.

Support levels include escalating pledge amounts with more benefits, such as earlier availability. Hardware platforms, for example, may include development tools. Projects can hit their goals, though there’s no guarantee supporters will get these benefits since business ventures can fail for all kinds of reasons. Still, these goals can show that a project is off to a good start.

There are lots of other interesting tech projects on Kickstarter. For example, the TinyDuino is an a Arduino that’s the size of a quarter (see “Arduino Expands Into More Demanding Applications”). And the tech section is just a small part of the whole Kickstarter site.

I’m looking forward to getting my Ouya box and Project Ninja Panda Taco game. I want one of the Parallella boards too. If Adapteva hits $3 million, the next step will be a 28-nm, 64-core chip.

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