Kickstarter isn’t helping all product designs

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The generic image of ‘old man at a computer’ might not be as relevant today, but online crowd funding is still not reaching an audience that could benefit from it, limiting product development

Browsing Kickstarter is always a great way to find new designs, exciting ideas and inventions often built out of an individual’s needs that can be shared with someone with an equally isolated need elsewhere in the world.

Yet this crowdfunding godsend isn’t always a path to equality in product design. A quick look this morning found a world of Raspberry Pi add-ons, wristwatches, gadgets and gizmos, body armour for your chihauhau… products not necessarily aimed at a specific demographic.

Yet despite an ageing population, there’s very little in the way of products for those getting on in their years.

The reason, I think it’s safe to assume, is that there are few people in their senior years trawling crowdfunding pages, looking to splurge their pensions when there’s a nice quiz show on the daytime TV and the back pages of the Sunday supplements contains all the Skymall-esque nonsense they think they need.
Equally, and more concerning, is that the rest of us are less willing to invest in products that won’t benefit us today.

Crowdfunding is meant to help develop and evolve ideas and products, rather than simply be another online shopping hub, so surely we should be doing more to think of our own futures, and the conditions effecting many in today’s society.


Admittedly, this is a bit hopeful, but having woken this morning with my knees creaking like those of a 90 year-old retired carpet-fitter one product on Kickstarter’s pages caught my eye: Neela.

Without a single backer (the chihauhau armour by comparison has 9 freaks willing to dress their pet like a polystyrene dinosaur) and slightly brutalist sandwich-press aesthetics, it stood out.

The creation of Bruce Wenham, a Kiwi who has worked for years tiling floors and doing other crippling floor work, it’s a contraption that helps lower you into a kneeling position, and that assists you back to your feet with minimal effort.

Some of the prototypes in the development of the Neela

It’s not internet connected. It’s not stylish. It’s not a shop-ready, lightweight, composite model. It’s an evolution of some metal-bashing and bungee cord, which has reached the current prototype, and seems to work well – well enough that you can imagine it helping you reach another bottle of scotch from out the back of the drinks cabinet in your old age.

The funding round of NZ$150,000 is to help pay for a team of industrial designers to turn this into a more rounded product – adding in some aesthetics and manufacturing nouse.

Will it reach its goal? Like most projects on Kickstarter it’s doubtful, but that’s not because it’s a bad idea, or because there’s already a world of similar products flooding the crowdfunding sphere (another multi-tool? Protein shake bottle?), but because foresight is not something online crowdfunding currently lends itself to.

The concept of sites like Kickstarter is still so alien to many that it continues to make the headlines of provincial newspapers, and till this changes (or we all age) then products that might benefit a large and fast-growing segment of the population will remain trapped in the same fund raising and development hell of old.

Can Kickstarter help products like the Neela? Probably not

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