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Crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter can help launch new products with the help of a few (or a few thousand) investors. Some enterprising entrepreneurs, like the ones featured below, rely on crowdsourced money to bring to market eco-friendly products designed to generate profits and help make the world a better place.
All of the following campaigns were successfully funded between 2012 and 2017. We checked in on them to see where they are today. Read on -- and get ready to be amazed!
Product: WakaWaka Portable Light and Power
Founders: Maurits Groen & Camille van Gestel
Year launched: 2014
Funding/backers: Raised $296,588 from 2,257 backers on Kickstarter
What is it? WakaWaka means “shine bright” in Swahili, which is a perfect name for this solar-powered portable light and power pack. Globally, more than one billion people live off the electrical grid making it difficult or impossible to study, cook or care for the ill once the sun goes down. Candles, campfires or kerosene lamps are a major source of toxic fumes, as well as accidental fires leading to injury and even death. Another big problem in developing countries is the prohibitive cost of charging mobile phones. WakaWaka addresses both issues.
Eco-angle: Harnessing the sun’s power to provide light and energy.
Is it still around? Yes! This Dutch company has expanded their product line to include larger power banks, they’ve partnered with more global NGOs and are selling their products online and in hundreds of stores across the world. Adhering to their mission of “Share the Sun,” the WakaWaka has recently been “shining bright” in Syrian refugee camps. The product has helped Nigerian girls and women fleeing militants, and it’s being used in rapid disaster response through International Rescue Committee.
Product: Sondors Electric Bike
Founder: Storm Sondors
Year launched: 2015
Funding/backers: Raised $6,051,571 from 15,000+ backers on Indiegogo
What is it? An electric bicycle that can travel at speeds up to 20 mph for up to 50 miles between charges. The rider has the option of coasting or pedaling while in motion.
Eco-angle: Commute without burning fossil fuels.
Is it still around? Absolutely. The founder has since launched two additional crowdfunded campaigns and now has a stable of five bike models, including two folding cycles. More than 30,000 Sondors have been sold in 42 countries.
Product: Air-Ink, which is ink made from pollution (yes, you read that right!)
Founder: Anirudh Sharma
Year launched: 2017
Funding/backers: S$41,067 (Singapore) raised by 688 backers on Kickstarter
What is it? Ink that is literally made from the carbon pollution from diesel exhaust. Graviky Labs, creator of Air-Ink, grown out of MIT labs, created a tailpipe retrofit called Kaalink to collect exhaust from diesel-powered motorbikes and engines. The carcinogens and heavy metals are removed, leaving a black carbon compound used to make the ink for four different-sized markers and for screen printing.
Eco-angle: Reduces the amount of soot in the air. So far they’ve cleaned 1.6 trillion liters of air.
Is it still around? Kind of. The product is currently being shipped to the original backers, but the founders hope to make the markers and ink available to the public soon.
Product: BioLite Campstove
Founders: Jonathan Cedar & Alec Drummond
Year funded: 2014
Funding/backers: Raised $1,032,443 from 3,783 backers on Kickstarter
What is it? A camp stove that uses only small twigs or scraps of wood to create a smokeless cooking fire which also converts to energy for charging devices via its USB port. That’s so hot!
Eco-angle: Originally conceived as a solution to the air pollution and fire hazard suffered by those in developing countries who cook indoors, the stove uses small amounts of available energy sources (sticks) to create a pollution-free fire hot enough to cook food and power devices off the grid. The company has staff in the U.S., Kenya and Uganda and has been carbon-neutral since 2015.
Is it still around? Definitely. Since first launching four years ago, BioLite has expanded their product line to include five stoves plus accessories, solar charging packs and solar-powered lights aimed at two main customer bases: emerging markets in off-grid areas and recreational hikers and campers. The products are sold online, in hundreds of international stores and distributed in developing countries through partnerships with NGOs.
Product: Nebia Spa Shower
Founders: Philip Winter, Carlos Gomez Andonaegui and Gabriel Parisi-Amon
Year launched: 2015
Funding/backers: Raised $3,126,114 raised by 8,559 backers on Kickstarter
What is it? A steam/spray shower head that saves up to 60% of water over regular shower heads while still maintaining the experience of a “regular” shower. The product is adjustable and comes with a wand.
Eco-angle: It saves water! Depending on where you live, one ten-minute shower a day saves about $202.92 or 102,200 glasses of water a year.
Is it still around? It sure is. Sold online at the Nebia website, Amazon, a few retail shops and they have a showroom in San Francisco, CA.
Product: Solar Roadways
Founder: Scott Brusaw
Year launched: 2014
Funding/backers: $2,283,943 raised by 50,178 backers on Indiegogo
What is it? A modular paving system of solar panels that can withstand even heavy big rigs. Installed on roads, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, bike paths and playgrounds, they generate electricity to power homes and businesses connected via driveways and parking lots.
Eco-angle: A nationwide system could produce more clean renewable energy than a country uses as a whole.
Is it still around? Yes. The campaign has reopened to include more backers during the research and development phase. Based in Idaho, the company is working on pilot projects there and also has been contracted with the Federal Highway Administration to do road testing.
Product: Everlast Notebook
Founders: Joe Lemay and Jake Epstein
Year launched: 2016
Funding/backers: $1,823,227 raised by 28,138 backers on Kickstarter
What is it? It looks like a regular old notebook, but it has the ability to send whatever you write/draw to anywhere in the cloud - Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote, email, Slack, Box, iCloud - to store your ideas digitally. It works with a Pilot Frixion pen and only erases with water.
Eco-Angle: It’s reusable.
Is it still around? You bet. The company behind the notebook, Rocketbook, has a line of five notebooks, including a mini version, a color style for kids and its original microwave-to-erase style (funded on Indiegogo). They’ve sold over $10 million of product after initially being laughed off Shark Tank.
Product: LIFX light bulb
Founder: Phil Bosua
Year launched: 2012
Funding/backers: $1,314,542 raised by 9,236 backers on Kickstarter
What is it? A cloud-connected, Wi-Fi smart LED light bulb. It can be programmed from a smartphone to go on/off or be dimmed at certain times. The bulb changes colors and can sync with your music.
Eco-Angle: LED bulbs use 1/10th of the energy of incandescent bulbs and last much longer.
Is it still around? For sure. Since mailing out their first bulbs to backers in 2013, they’ve expanded their line to 14 products including neon-looking “beams” and “tiles” and mini-bulbs. The lights work with Alexa, Google Home and Cortana, Nest and more. LIFX is sold on Amazon, at Home Depot and at many other retailers.
Want to learn more about crowdfunding to see if it’s right for you? Check out these posts:
Before you go
QB Community members, have you tried crowdfunding? What crowdfunded campaigns have you supported in the past and what was your experience as a backer?
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