While Kickstarter has become the biggest brand in crowdfunding and helped give rise to a number of hardware projects, it wasn’t primarily built with products in mind. Now, a new startup out of Los Angeles called Christie Street, is trying to push a fundraising platform that embraces inventors and hardware products while also applying a high level of scrutiny and review to ensure that backers are protected when they support a new project.
Christie Street, which takes its name from the location of Thomas Edison’s lab, reviews products to ensure that they can actually be built, have the right funding goals and have lined up the right factory to produce the finished product. Projects and their funding goals will only get approved if the product has enough capital to get manufactured. The company also offers a concierge service to provide advice like trademark assistance and launch support to get a project going.
When the project is finally approved and hits its goal, Christie Street doles out the money in three allotments. The first third of the money comes after the product is actually turned from a prototype into a sample. The second comes when the inventor lines up the tooling to get a golden sample built. And then the last third is released when manufacturing actually begins.
These safeguards ensure that supporters are protected during the process. So in the event a project can’t get to the first milestone, which is the hardest, backers can expect to get 2/3 of their money back. If a supporter chooses to, they can also pay additional 10 percent for insurance to get their entire pledge back if the project stalls. Pledgers can also pre-order as many units they want instead of just one typically offered for Kickstarter projects.
Christie Street was born out of a real need by founder Jamie Siminoff, who previously launched a high-capacity charger called Pop on Kickstarter through his Edison Junior design lab. He said with Kickstarter’s tougher rules on products, including a ban on home improvement projects, Siminoff realized he wouldn’t be able to submit his next project called Doorbot, a Wi-Fi smart video doorbell. Doorbot is now the first product offered on Christie Street.
“We didn’t want to build this but we felt this had to be built. There needs to be a site that allows inventors to invent and build stuff,” Siminoff told me in an interview.
Siminoff acknowledges the site will not scale the way Kickstarter has and he’s OK with that. With so much review and advice happening, Christie Street will probably only have 10-15 projects at a time on the platform by next year.
Christie Street will take a standard 5 percent cut of successful projects. It’s unclear if there will be enough revenue and demand to keep Christie Street up and running. The startup is funded with $1 million in family and friends investments.
I think Christie Streets serves a good purpose for both inventors and supporters. Inventors have a dedicated platform that helps bring their products to life. And backers have a more defined risk process, that provides them more ways to understand how their money is being used and protections for when a product fails. These protections can also be good for inventors who falter, because Christie Street spells out what supporters can get back, potentially lowering the risk of lawsuits.