Online crowdfunding may be a relatively new phenomenon, but it has become one of the most popular routes for startup ventures, indie artists, and organizations to raise money. From cutting-edge gadgets to charity campaigns, hundreds of incredible projects have been made possible through the contributions of crowdfunding participants — and many of them have not only met their campaign targets, but blown past them by millions of dollars. These are some of the most successful and popular crowdfunding projects we’ve seen in recent years.
1. Pebble Time: The original Pebble Smartwatch became one of the most popular campaigns on Kickstarter when it surfaced in 2012, with nearly 70,000 backers and a whopping $10 million in funding. Pebble Time, the third-generation version of the smartwatch, surpassed the success of its predecessor with over $20 million raised on the crowdfunding site in 2015.
2. Prison Architect: Earning over $19 million in funding from the independent distribution platform Steam Early Access, Prison Architect is exactly what it sounds like. In this simulation video game, released by the British developer Introversion Software, players have the power to construct and manage their own prison system. The game was officially released in 2015, and according to Slate, “appears destined for long-term cult success”.
3. COOLEST Cooler: Against all odds (presumably), designer Ryan Grepper has succeeded in creating a product that is cooler than the cooler. The COOLEST Cooler, described as a “portable party”, comes equipped with a battery-powered blender, a phone charger, a waterproof Bluetooth speaker, and a cutting board, among other features. The crowdfunding project raised over $13 million on Kickstarter in 2014, far surpassing the original $50,000 campaign goal.
4. The Baubax Travel Jacket: The Baubax Travel Jacket is one of those things that you never knew you needed but now can’t imagine living without. Described by CNN Money as “The Swiss Army Knife of travel wear”, this garment has a built-in neck pillow and eye mask, attached gloves and hand warmers, and pockets. So many pockets. The project was brought to life by over 44,000 backers who pledged upwards $9 million on Kickstarter.
5. MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 Reboot: MST3K is a U.S. comedy series created by Joel Hodgson. Set in the “not-too-distant future” and featuring sentient robots who mercilessly mock ‘the worst movies ever made’, the show aired from 1988 to 1997, and has since gained a cult following. Hodgson initiated a campaign for the show’s revival on Kickstarter, and thanks to the efforts of over 48,000 fans who raised more than $5 million, the series reboot is set to broadcast on Netflix sometime in late 2016 or early 2017.
6. Flow Hive: Flow Hive is wooden a beehive box with an attached valve that lets beekeepers harvest and extract honey without harming the bees. The project’s creators raised over $12 million on Indiegogo in 2015, and have since seen over 35,000 orders and counting.
7. Exploding Kittens: Described as “a highly strategic kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette,” this card game targets “people who are into kittens and explosions”. This contingent is surprisingly large — creator Elan Lee was able to crowdfund over $8 million to bring the game to life, and it has seen massive commercial success.
8. Ouya: Games tend to do extremely well on crowdfunding sites, and in Ouya’s case, so do game consoles. While this fundraising effort ended in 2012, it is still considered one of the most successful campaigns on Kickstarter after raising over $8.6 million — millions more than its original $950,000 goal. Ouya’s chief executive, Julie Uhrman, was proud to proclaim that this proves “consoles aren’t dead”.
9. Shenmue III: This action-adventure video game is the third in the Shenmue series, with the two previous installments having been released on Sega Dreamcast in 1999 and 2001. Shenmue III’s Kickstarter campaign was led by director Yu Suzuki, whose company Ys Net obtained licensing for the game. The project met its initial target of $2 million within a record eight hours and ended strong in July 2016 with over $6 million. The game will be released in December 2017 for Microsoft Windows and Playstation 4.
10. Pono: Neil Young (yes, that Neil Young) has been lauded as a “marketing genius” for his star-powered Pono Kickstarter campaign, which raised around $6.2 million in 2014. This digital music player received rave reviews across multiple tech and music sites for its “unrivaled” sound quality. The Pono uses the FLAC audio file format and allows audio files to be loaded onto the player similar to a USB device.
11. The Grid: The Grid is a website building platform that utilizes AI software, and is designed to give even novice users professional results. Launched by CEO Dan Tocchini and a team of web developers and designers, the Grid’s Kickstarter campaign had raised over $5 million by mid-2015. The official release date is TBA.
12. Project Reading Rainbow: This campaign, aimed at bringing the beloved children’s show “Reading Rainbow” into the digital age, is considered one of the most successful projects on Kickstarter. Led by LeVar Burton, who hosted and co-produced the series, the five-week-long campaign raised around $6.4 million — far beyond the initial $1 million goal (which was met in about 11 hours). In early 2016, Burton spoke with Education Week about how the funds are now being used to educate and inspire children.
13. An Hour of Code for Every Student: Launched by Code.org, this charity program managed to raise over $5 million in 2014, making it the most successful campaign on Indiegogo at the time. Mark Zuckerberg, John Doerr, and Rich Barton collectively donated over $1 million to support the project, which has helped expose tens of millions of students from over 180 countries to computer science.
14. Super Troopers 2: It may not be as noble of a cause, but the Indiegogo campaign for a sequel to the 2001 film Super Troopers was met with equal enthusiasm. The Broken Lizard comedy team, who wrote and starred in the first movie, raised over $4 million in funds for the second installment, which is now in preproduction.
15. The Micro: The Kickstarter campaign for the world’s “first truly consumer 3D printer” raised over $3.4 million in 2014, far beyond its initial goal of $50,000. This compact 3D printer can now sit at your home desktop for a cool $349.
16. The Sonders eBike: Storm Sonders was able to crowdfund over $6 million USD on Indiegogo in 2015 for his Sonders Electric Bike — what’s been marketed as the world’s most affordable and versatile eBike. The bike comes with a 350 watt geared-drive motor, is rechargeable, and at speeds of up to 20 MPH, is suitable for all terrains. The eBike received glowing reviews on sites like Yahoo, TechCrunch, and SlashGear.
17. The Dash: A Kickstarter campaign for the world’s first smart earbuds secured over $3.4 million in pledges back in 2014, but the final production version wasn’t released by German company Bragi until early 2016. Whether or not the wait was worth it is still up for debate; the product has gotten mixed reviews on tech blogs. But still, the future is now.
18. Conan: Not only high-tech gizmos rake in the big bucks on crowdfunding sites; this board game based on the saga of Conan the Barbarian managed to bring in over $3 million back in 2015. Created by Monolith Board Games, Conan was the most successful board game campaign in Kickstarter history.
19. Wish I Was Here: Zach Braff’s use of Kickstarter to finance his 2014 filmWish I Was Here
20. The KAISR Inflatable Air Lounge: Don’t you hate it when you’re vacationing on a Caribbean island but it’s taking too long to let the air out of your inflatable lounge chair and it’s just really bringing down your buzz? The folks at KAISR Original have seen to it that you will never face such a predicament again with their Ultimate Inflatable Air Lounge, which garnered over $4 million in funds on Indiegogo. The device deflates within seconds using light, air-tight fabric, and can be used on any surface.
21. Wasteland 2: Another old favorite brought back by Kickstarter, the campaign for Wasteland 2 resurrected a 1988 Electronic Arts game to resounding fanfare. Easily one of the most successful game projects on Kickstarter in 2012, Wasteland 2’s 61,290 backers pledged $2.9 million.
22. ParcelGenie: ParcelGenie, described as “the world’s first gift messaging app”, allows users to send hand-wrapped gifts and messages to friends and family with the click of a button. The developers managed to raise $2.6 million through the crowdfunding platform Angels Den in 2012, and the app has since received a good deal of praise, including being named as the “UK’s Most Promising Tech Startup in 2012”.
23. 3Doodler: Just when you thought the 3D printer couldn’t get any more compact (see No.15), 3Doodler came along. The world’s “First & Best 3D Printing Pen” allows users to create 3D masterpieces with the flick of a wrist. The Kickstarter campaign, created by WobbleWorks LLC., raised over $1.5 million to bring this idea into fruition, and it’s now available to buy online for $99.
24. The Pilot: This Indiegogo campaign was created in May 2016, and within a few month’s time, had already amassed around $2.8 in funding. The Pilot is the world’s first smart earpiece with the ability to translate between languages. Its release date is slated for May 2017, but the gadget has already attracted plenty of buzz. “The Waverly Labs Pilot is as close as I’ve seen to the Universal Translator I was promised by Star Trek when I was a kid,” wrote Forbes tech contributor Geoffrey Morrison.
25. ONAGOfly: The Smart Nano Drone: The ONAGOfly is a palm-sized drone with GPS navigation. It boasts a high-res camera, obstacle avoidance, instant take-off and landing abilities, and P2P streaming, among other high-tech features. The Indiegogo campaign ended in February 2016 with over $3 million, and product is now available for preorder.