FundaGeek, Kickstarter and Crowd Funding

With the ubiquity of the internet people have devised new ways to fund interesting projects. I am thinking in particular about crowd funding where someone pitches a project and lets the community, possibly made up of 1000s of individuals, make a donation depending on whether they think the project is sufficiently interesting or not. Donations can be as small as $1.  In return, the donors get ‘rewards’ depending on the level of donation they make.

One characteristic of the crowd funding web sites is that they are not places to get start-up funds for a new company, there are plenty of places to get start-up money already. What crowd funding sites aim to do is to allow everyday people access to resources to do interesting projects that may or may not have any immediate practical value, let alone a ‘profit’. One example of a typical project from kickstarter is “One Day on Earth – filmed in every nation in one day” project where the aim was to get the world wide online community to film over 3,000 hours of footage to create a picture of One Day on Earth.

One of the more popular sites in this category is kickstarter.I have contributed to a number of projects on this site. There aren’t too many science projects on this site, in fact there isn’t even a science category but there are a few examples such as the following which were of interest to me:

1. “The Nature of Code Book Project” which is a book publishing project to develop a book on “unpredictable evolutionary and emergent properties of nature in software”

2. “Grandroids: Real artificial life on your PC” an artificial life project by the well respected computer scientist and roboticist Steve Grand

3. “Periodic Table of Elements Dice

What I want to report here is a new crowd funding site called FundaGeek which is currently at prelaunch (and which I have absolutely nothing to do with). This enterprise will expressly support technical innovation and basic research through crowd funding. What might be useful is the ability to use FundaGeek to obtain initial funds to gather preliminary data or develop prototype software which could be used to go after larger sums, perhaps from other charities or government agencies.

What is appealing about crowd funding is that unlike the normal process of obtaining support from say federal agencies, where 2 or perhaps 3 people decide, here 1000s make the decision. Although the dollar amount that one can obtain is generally smaller, the process is much more democratic. It’s not going to replace the NSF or NIH but it could be used to get a project started, especially software, theoretical or computational projects.

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