I am a long-time Futurist, and technologist. In my career, I have spanned the birth of personal computers, to the rise of Cloud Computing.
First I look to useability and then I look to the construction of the prototype.
In my columns as a futurist, I often look at things beyond the cutting edge. People always talk about the cutting edge of technology. I prefer to remind people that the bloodied edge is the other side of the cutting edge. That's the edge that you get cut when you cross it. But beyond the cutting edge is actually where innovations often occur. For example, a startup that starts on Kickstarter and releases a product. Now is the product the finished commercial go by that Walmart version of the product? No, it is far from that, it's a little rough and hard to use, but the concept is interesting. The second version of the product released is closer to a mass market product. This version is more integrated with the software and more flexible software overall. That evolution is what interests me in the technology space today. Not the idea often, but the process of moving from in your head to a real product. That product then moves from niche market to the broader commercial ready solution. I want to share my simple rules for evaluating early technologies on various crowdfunding sites.
The first rule I always look at is usability. Now usability is an interesting problem. Five or six different 3D printing pens were on the market five years ago. To describe them easily, consider them handheld 3D printers. Now the reality of the 3D printing pen is twofold. The first is that it has to be simple to operate. Most of them were easy to use. But we have to define what that is. First, I am not very artistic, so using a handheld 3d printer was not easy in terms of output. For me, a hand-drawn Eiffel Tower takes more skill than just picking up a pen. I'm not going to discuss my lack of artistic ability. Usability in the case of a handheld 3d printer had to do with software, filament, and loading. Interesting side note, the 3d handheld printer I use now can print more than simply plastic. Ease of loading, connecting, and up to the point of artistic style, using the device is usability. Now I use the 3D pen predominantly to repair damaged plastic items. Again, I'm not an artist, but it works as a repair tool for me. Sometimes you have problems or parts break, and you wish to reattach the part. I use a 3d pen to do that, and it works well. However, useability is about connection, software, and setup. That is my first consideration, does the solution appear useable?
Next, I look for the construction of the actual thing, unit, or item. That seems odd, but if we go back to those three 3d pens, two of them that I've used got very warm to the touch. Warm enough that you had to put it down for a time. The construction is critical. It needs to be something that lasts more than six or seven weeks. Now, if you know the crowdfunding world, many crowdfunding technologies are prototypes and beta models. The reality of data models is that there will not always be a finished production model. That means you must evaluate their overall construction (plastic lasts less than metal and so on). Now, if you go on Kickstarter and look at a project, you don't always get a clear impression of the future construction of the item. So ultimately, for me, that construction risk is the biggest in crowdfunded projects. But it is also the second thing I use to evaluate a project.
The last piece is legibility, do I connect with the story they are telling?
The last one is legibility. Legibility is not a focus on perfect English. It is in reading the project description does the product make sense. If I can read the description and the product makes sense, that is legible. Usability and construction are pretty straightforward, and most people can look at that and pretty quickly determine whether this item meets my requirements for what I need. The last one, this concept of legibility, says that when you read the product description, you connect with the shared story. I warn you here; this is where aspiration and reality often collide head-on in a product that arrives at your house that is not what you thought it would be. Usability is the hardest one to see in a crowdfunding description. Legibility is, however, your connection to the project. You connect with the story they have shared. I find I am willing to wait a lot longer for a product if I had that initial connection to the story!
As for the three simple rules that I use when considering technology that is not yet on the market, in other words, projects that I'm going to back on crowdfunding sites. First, usability, is the object, or does the unit or item do what I need to do? Construction, does it look like the people building this understand that this is not to use once and throw anything? Finally, the legibility or readability of the actual vision of the project creators. Does the project make sense? I have backed projects that I thought, at best, ambitious and, at worst, would never succeed. My last measure when I realize a project will not succeed is whether the creator refunds the money. Many creators walk into the darkness once they fail to build or deliver their initial product. A disappearing creator is the risk of Crowdfunding. But if you follow these three simple rules when looking at something on the crowdfunding site or when considering adopting new technology, you'll find that these rules will save you a lot of money.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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