Published: September 21, 2011
Dario Antonioni, who runs Orange22, a design consultancy in Los Angeles, said he decided to try Kickstarter after seeing Mr. Wilson’s success, which sent “shock waves” through the design community, empowering designers.
Mr. Antonioni, 38, turned to Kickstarter in July to finance the Botanist Minimal bench, a bentwood seat he designed. In the past, he said, his firm would have risked its own money, hired a manufacturer and hoped for enough retailer and consumer interest to turn a profit, or at least break even.
“The beauty of Kickstarter is it does away with that whole model,” he said.
The appeal for backers, particularly those who finance design projects, is what they get in return: a gift like a T-shirt for smaller contributions, and for larger ones, a well-designed product at a substantial savings. Mr. Antonioni’s backers, for example, could get the Botanist bench by pledging $299; it will eventually retail for around $800, he said.
Mr. Antonioni has raised more than $36,000 on Kickstarter, exceeding his $20,000 goal and enabling him to place an order with an Asian manufacturer. And in the process, he said, he received valuable feedback from “a global audience” without doing costly market research or renting a booth at a trade show. “We don’t need a business plan,” he said. “We don’t even have to leave our studio.”
If the designers like Mr. Antonioni sound excessive in their praise, consider the challenges they face in an economy where research and development money has dried up, many design firms aren’t hiring and attracting investors is a time-consuming, low-yield endeavor. Mr. Wilson said that when businesspeople are approached with new product ideas, they can be overly cautious and “hedge their bets or demand crazy terms or retail margins” — if they are willing to lend money at all.
As Mr. Antonioni put it, “If I went to the bank today and said, ‘Can you give me $37,000 to make furniture?’ they’d laugh at me.”
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