Crowdfunding provides investment risks, opportunities

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In recent years, crowdfunding websites have grown in popularity as starting points for modern day inventors and entrepreneurs. Crowdfunding works by allowing small businesses to appeal directly to large numbers of average citizens for investment, rather than relying on a few rich investors.

Kickstarter, one of the most popular crowdfunding websites, has projects ranging from software and electronics to humanitarian projects. A recent Kickstarter project is the Volta Flyer, a solar-powered glider intended to teach kids about electronics and engineering. It works by powering a small propeller via a super capacitor that is in turn charged by a lightweight flexible solar panel on top.

The glider is able to fly between 10 and 15 seconds before the capacitor is drained. The company has already had past success with a solar powered car but is currently at about $13,000 of their $39,000 goal. If it’s successful, backers who pledged $40 or more could expect a Volta Flyer by March of next year.

Boogie Dice, a set of programmable gaming dice, has had success on Kickstarter —  meeting not only their goal of $50,000, but raising a total of $185,000 — allowing them to also meet stretch goals.

This means they’ll use the additional funds to add more variety or additional features. The dice work by using a motor and a tilt sensor to roll and can be programmed for sound detection, motion detection, to run on a timer or to roll randomly. In the two stretch goals they met, they added glow in the dark dice and allowed requests for different dice shapes. Backers who pledged at least $22 should get dice and a charger of their own by March of next year.

There are a variety of crowdfunding types some in which investments are simply donated to the company, some in which the company agrees to payback investments or provide a product, and some in which the investor gets a share in the company. While crowdfunding can be a good way for businesses to get started and regular people to invest in the products they actually want, it’s still a fairly new concept with its own share of hurdles. For instance, when new businesses fail to deliver on their promises.

The Buccaneer 3D printer started on Kickstarter back in 2013 offering an easy-to-use 3D printer with good resolution at an affordable price. According to Cnet, in exchange for a $447 pledge and $50 shipping charge, backers would receive their own printer along with five printing cartridges.

At the time, the project was very successful raising $1.4 million, while their original target was only $1 million. According to Tech in Asia, on Oct. 13 of this year, the company posted a note to their backers on Kickstarter explaining that only 40 percent of the orders have been delivered and the company has frozen operations after running out of funds. They are currently seeking other funding sources, and their project comments section remains filled with complaints of investors losing their money.