Crowd Funding. It's about a Conversation

By: B.J. Rao

Abstract: Featured article from Blaise Pascal Magazine issue 25

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Crowd Funding. It's about a Conversation By B.J.Rao 

Crowd funding or crowdfunding (alternately crowd financing, equity crowdfunding, or hyper funding) describes the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their resources, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. Crowd funding is used in support of a wide variety of activities, including disaster relief, citizen journalism, support of artists by fans, political campaigns, startup company funding, movie or free software development, inventions development and scientific research. (Wikipedia) 
Trying to raise money for your idea, product or business? 
Crowd funding might be the answer. Not just as an alternative to traditional investment mechanisms, but as part of a bigger plan in the process of liberating your idea. 
Crowd-Funding and Delphi 
What does crowd-funding have to do with Delphi? And, why are we even bringing up this subject in Blaise? Well for one thing we have just launched our own crowd-funding project. It involves Delphi. 
Also, many of us Delphi programmers are freelancers, own and run a business or at least have 1 or 2 Delphi applications on the market. It's safe to say that there are many entrepreneurs amongst us. And, some of us have been very successful. This small article is an extra-curriculum to Blaise Pascal Magazine. It's an introduction to crowd-funding, Delphi and our own project. 
What is Crowd-Funding? 
We have probably all heard about it by now; Crowd-Funding. In case you haven't, crowd funding is a mechanism that allows you to fund a project through contributions. Basically, you place your project on some type of internet crowd-funding platform which provides the means to find contributors for your project. 
You have created something interesting, useful or just plain cool. The idea is that people may like what you are doing and want to contribute to it in some way. This may be by sharing it with others, spreading the word. Also, some may even go as far as sending you money to help finance your project. 
It should be obvious that crowd-funding is not something new. It’s been around for as long as we can remember. What is new is what the internet brings to this mechanism. More specifically the web of digital connections that links most all of us together. Social media in particular. Our global village. Being connected at such a vast scale resembles some form of collective consciousness. 
"Hello World?" The world might just say "Hi" back and even support what you are doing in a very big way. Within that process crowd funding bypasses some of the traditional funding and development mechanisms. What's more, it puts you and your idea in direct contact with the most important part of your project; your backers…your fan-base. It's a dream scenario for any creator. 
Yet, to many the crowd-funding idea and workings may be a bit confusing. The reason is that it's not exactly an investment mechanism. At least not in the traditional sense. In addition, the reason why certain projects find funding in this manner may not be immediately apparent as would seem. 
Crowd-Funding vs Venture Capital 
You probably know the situation. You have got a great idea, an inspiration. You have worked it out and its merit is clear. A new product or solution and even a new business could unfold from it. Or, maybe you just want to get something organized that makes change in the world. The objective now is gaining the means to do that, sharing it. Liberate that idea. Yet, in most cases you'll be needing investment, people and money. Those that participate get a stake in the business somehow. 
Securing investment through traditional means can be a daunting undertaking. It's no walk in the park. The process of finding, communicating and convincing investors about investing in your idea can be very challenging. Finding the right investor at the right time tends to be a hit and miss tactic. Most of the time you may miss and your time is precious. Investors are looking for ideas that are tangible, workable and make sense to them. Its got to be a sure thing in the mind of the investor. You need to build that business plan and the perception. And, that can take time, a lot of time. 
But why try to convince just a few investors at a time? Crowd-funding can bypass this and put you and your project/product in direct contact with a very large audience. You get to test your idea and its value on the market. If it works, well, sky is the limit. And, many have proved that it can be an effective way to find incredible levels of funding in a very short amount of time. 
We are not talking about just thousands, we are talking about finding hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars in support. 
Yet, what's confusing to many is that those people who contributed to the project typically do not get a stake in the business! You are not buying into the business. There is no traditional ROI (Return of Investment) in the form of cash. To the contributors the investment is in making the project happen. They are making a statement. Typically the project creators will reward their contributors with the actual product or souvenirs or some other type of recognition for their support. 
It should be stated that the reason for this construct has, for a greater part, to do with legislation. Yet, President Obama has recently made changes to this legislation and we can expect things to change. 
This new legislation would make it much less difficult for entrepreneurs to find funding through crow-funding. More specifically it would make it less difficult for most anybody to invest in a business or product. This is part of the JOB act. But that's another story. It would seem that crow-funding will displace the traditional means to achieving investment. Actually this is not entirely true. For one thing, crowd-funding is not for everyone. 
Crowd funding should not be seen as a replacement for the investment mechanism. Rather it can, in some cases and for some people, supplement the process.
A successful crowd funded project can serve as a stepping-stone, a prelude to achieving greater chances for finding investment from venture capitalists. Crowd-funding allows you to prove yourself and your idea to others. 
A Good Conversation can Mean Millions 
Marketing is conveying a message. And, traditionally it was more or less a one way street. Not so today. Letting the merit of your product speak for itself is in many cases not enough these days. 
The most important relation for most any business is its relation with its customers. A great idea, a great technology, a great solution? Yet, its the interaction and relation between you and your customers that can make for great solutions, products and business. We have seen how important it is for many business to involve what they do in social media. Crowd funding works in a similar manner. 
Yet, crowd funding is not just about you, your product/project. It's in many ways about your story. Crowd funding projects are also called "conversation projects". The idea is that they are special enough to talk about. The question is, will the conversation spread and will it spread fast enough for you to find support. 
Sure, many projects have become successful just because they clearly fill in some need and/or solve some problem. Yet many others seem to be equally successful for their conversation merit. Reviewing the many projects out there it will also become apparent that there are many really good projects out there which could not find support. They could not seed enough conversation. 
You can find many internet crowd-funding sites these days. And, you can expect many more. Probably the most popular in recent times is Kickstarter. 
Kickstarter is a crowd funding site for creative projects. It's about allowing just about anyone with a creative idea the means to capture an audience and find support in a short amount of time. It's about liberating great ideas and sharing something unique with the world. Kickstarter is platform to host your project and find support. 
Our Project 
Our own crowd-funding project was recently launched on Kickstarter. It's a new macro lens for the iPhone called the PhoneScope 3D. We have seen many of these add-on's before. But this one is different. 
The PhoneScope 3D includes a special attachment called a Light Lens which provides lighting of the magnified view. But probably the most unique aspect is that it can also make 3D surface scans of your magnified view in astounding detail. No, not the kind that needs special glasses. This is real 3D. 
The surface geometry is captured. 
We worked on developing the technology and project for many months. Most of our spare time and funds have been invested into it. It's always a risk. But we are making something that we believe is useful. 
To us, the spectrum of application is wide for a device such as the PhoneScope 3D. But it may not be readily apparent what the target group is yet. Introducing new technology is a difficult process. Remember how difficult it was to introduce the desktop computer? 
What can be said is that the PhoneScope 3D combines a classical optical instrument, the magnifying glass, a high tech 3D scanning technology, with one of the most popular mobile devices today, the iPhone. 
Vision technologies such as the telescope, microscope and 2D camera have opened up new areas of science and even allowed us to go as far as the moon. They have had a profound impact on society, how we see things and how we share information. The PhoneScope 3D contributes to this by enhancing what we see, capture and share. It does this while also adding the factor of mobility. 
Delphi was used as the software development solution 
in every aspect of the project. The workings of the device are simple. The Light Lens attachment includes a series of microprocessor controlled ultra-bright LEDs. These illuminate the scene from various directions. Your iPhone captures these as images. These are processed using our specially developed software to reveal the 3D geometry. This entire pipeline has been achieved using Delphi. 
Typically, before you launch a crowd-funding project you will have already built a campaign of contributors. A crowd-funding platform such as Kickstarter will place your project in the spotlight. But as new projects come in your spotlight ranking will be displaced by others. Your network and promotions campaign needs to take over in order to follow through. 
The big question is if our project is interesting enough to talk about. Is it interesting enough to start a conversation? 
We have till January the 8th to find out. 
That's when our project ends. 
All software and technology development was carried out in Delphi. We are going to be suppling a web-based solution with a Delphi run console application on the back-end. 
As XE3 matures and more is added it will pave the way to build even more intricate solutions with Delphi. We are anxiously anticipating the release of Mobile Studio 
Learn more about the project or become a backer:
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