A kickstart and a...goal!

PHOTO: A kickstart and a...goal!

They had an idea.

The world liked their idea so much that this group of Singaporeans raised US$100,000 (S$125,000) in just 10 minutes on crowd-funding site Kickstarter.

And it all started with a simple plastic container - or the lack of, really.

Mr Tsang You Jun, 25, was actually trying to get his hands on a container of a certain size and dimension - and an extensive search had been fruitless.

He then approached two friends, Mr Roger Chang, 24 and Mr Brendan Goh, 26, and asked them whether it was possible to simply create one from scratch with a 3-D printer.

The rest, as they say, was serendipity.

The guys researched it, found that it was not only pretty possible but there was a possibility that 3-D printers could be put into each home.

Mr Chang roped in his former business lecturer at the National University of Singapore, Adjunct Associate Professor Neo Kok Beng, 48, to provide advice on business strategy.

Says Prof Neo: "There are already high-end printers used to produce medical apparatus. But there is an untapped market on the mass market front. Our product now is all about allowing users to utilise the technology themselves."

After about nine months of trial and error including experimenting with various designs and systems, their 3-D printer was ready.

It melts recyclable, biodegradable plastic to create objects up to 10cm long, 12cm tall and 15cm wide.

The objects are ready to use the moment they are made, as the plastic in the printer hardens almost instantly when it exits the nozzle. Kitchen utensils, small toys, iPhone covers, food containers, key chains, door handles and many other objects can be created in this way.

Says Mr Chang: "These are the things you can use every day."

A teacup, for example, would take about an hour to print. Larger items like figurines can take up to six hours.

The objects created can come in various colours - yellow, blue, green - which are the colours of the plastic.

It was then that the group decided to set up a project on Kickstarter.com to raise funds to manufacture the printers, which the founders say will be aesthetically pleasing and simple to use.

Since listing the project little more than a week ago, people from all over the world have given their pledges.

The project has managed to raise more than US$750,000, more than seven times its funding goal.

So how does it feel to be a little company from Singapore that has managed to take the world by storm?

Says Mr Chang "We feel very encouraged. We didn't expect so much support."

Little did they expect their project to create home 3D printers would meet with such strong support.

The company proposed this project on crowd-funding website Kickstarter.com over a week ago, and has managed to raise over $700,000, or seven times its funding goal.

Roger Chang, 24, a co-founder and director of the company, tells The New Paper on Sunday: "We feel very encouraged. We didn't expect so much support."Kickstarter.com is a crowd-funding site on which several Singaporeans have been proposing projects.

Three of the company's four co-directors are friends, and the fourth taught one of the directors in university.

The whole idea for a 3D printer came about in August last year (in 2012) when one of its co-directors, Mr Tsang You Jun, 25, wanted to build a plastic container with specific dimensions for a separate project.

Mr Tsang thought of creating the container through 3D printing, and asked Mr Chang and Mr Brendan Goh, 26 (name and age checked), to collaborate and build a 3D printer.

Mr Chang, who has a degree in business administration from the National University of Singapore (NUS), has been putting together devices as a hobby since he was young.

He tells TNPS: "Ever since I was four and received my first Lego set, I've been fascinated by how things operate.

"I would take apart devices around the house and try to put them back together again."

Over the years, some of the objects he has disassembled - and re-assembled - include CPUs and motorcycle engines.

He's also fashioned waterpipes for smoking shisha using scrap materials.

Through research on the internet, the group soon discovered the potential of 3D printing, and decided to develop an affordable 3-D printer that anyone could use.

They intended this printer to be user friendly, aesthetically-pleasing and of good quality.

Says Mr Chang: "We realised there was a market for such printers because the existing printers were expensive and broke down often."

Mr Chang then roped in his former lecturer in NUS, Adjunct Professor Neo Kok Beng, 48, to provide advice on business strategy.

The lecturer had explored the commercial viability of using 3D printers for medical purposes about 10 years ago (in the early 2000s), but the project never culminated into a commercially viable product

Says Mr Neo: "There are already high-end printers used to produce medical apparatus. But there is an untapped market on the mass market front. Our product now is all about allowing users to utilise such technology themselves."

After about nine months (duration checked) of trial and error, experimenting with various designs and systems, their 3D printer was ready.

It melts recyclable, biodegradable plastic to create objects up to 10cm long, 12cm tall and 15cm wide (dimensions checked).

The objects are ready to use the moment it is made, as the plastic hardens almost instantly when it exits the nozzle.

Kitchen utensils, small toys, iPhone covers, food containers, key chains, door handles and many other objects can be created in this way.

Says Mr Chang: "These are the things you can use every day."

A teacup, for example, would take about an hour to print. Larger items like figurines can take up to six hours.

The objects created will also come in various colours - like yellow, blue, green - which are the colours of the plastic.

It was then that they decided to set up a project on Kickstarter.com to raise funds to manufacture the printers.

The company aimed to raise US$100,000 (S$126,000), and this amount was reached in 10 minutes.

As of Thursday night, over $700,000 has been raised by 1,807 backers.

He acknowledges that there is still a long road ahead.

He says: "It's not like we are a huge success already.

"We treat the support as pre-orders.

"The real effort lies now in delivering the printers to each of our backers."MISS!

PROJECT NAME: Dusty Revenge: The Art Of Revenge

PROPOSED BY: Local multimedia design studio PD Design Studio

GOAL: US$12,000 (S$14,990)

AMOUNT RAISED: US$3,932

NUMBER OF BACKERS: 89

FUNDING PERIOD: April 24 to May 24, 2013

WHAT IT IS: A 150-page artbook in full-colour, based on the newly released video game, Dusty Revenge, created by the studio.

The hack-and-slash video game features an angry rabbit who is out to avenge the death of his beloved.

The artbook was to contain conceptual art and descriptions featuring the design and evolution of the characters.

Backers would have received copies of the game, postcards, posters, T-shirts and soundtracks.

Says one of the game's creators, Mr Ken Poh, 38: "In our opinion, it wasn't all unsuccessful. Through the project, more people got to know about our game.

"The funding goal could have been lower perhaps - especially for an artbook which is not a ground-breaking invention per se - but we didn't have much of a choice.

"To enjoy the economy of scale, we would have needed to commit to a huge quantity with the book printers.

"Even though our project didn't take off, we think Kickstarter is an excellent invention.

"We chose Kickstarter because it allowed us to raise funds by themselves. It also lets us get a good indication of the amount of support we might receive if we decide to proceed with this project

"For video games in particular, the bigger names tend to get more attention on Kickstarter.

"As for the artbook, we currently don't have any other plans to raise funds for it. Whether it materialises depends on how well the game does.

"If the game does well enough, we would love to have the artbook printed so that fans can opt to purchase a copy. There's something really special about raw, unfinished concept art.

"In any case, we have come a long way in making the game and are very happy with how it turned out. We are now gearing up for a more coordinated and widespread release of the game on other digital distribution platforms.ONGOING

PROJECT NAME: Onikagi: Modular leather wallets for humanity.

PROPOSED BY: Local designers Jackson Aw, 23, and Ken Huang, 26

GOAL: £5,000 (S$9,700)

AMOUNT PLEDGED SO FAR: More than £4,000

NUMBER OF BACKERS SO FAR: More than 130

FUNDING PERIOD: May 27 to June 26, 2013

WHAT IT IS: This social enterprise aims to produce handcrafted, customisable leather goods such as wallets, coin pouches and card holders.

These goods can come in different colours and with magnetic mounts or snap fasteners.

They are produced by traditional craftsmen in Bandung, Indonesia, whom the project creators hope to support and help.

Backers will receive a wallet, which the creators aim to ship in October this year.

Says Mr Aw: "Our project goal is to secure enough funds to purchase more efficient equipment for this leather-making community and also to train new apprentices so that they can have a life skill that they can depend on.

"Ken specialises in the creation of leather camera cases.

"Once, I tagged along when he visited the leather craftsmen who created such cases in Bandung. I was appalled by their living conditions.

"These craftsmen stayed in the slums near the city. Their water was contaminated and they constantly faced food shortages. They were also unable to pay for medical help.

"That's when we came up with the idea for the wallets. We wanted to help the craftsman, and put their skills to good use.

"We chose Kickstarter because it allows us to gather funds.

"The website also gives us the world's opinion on projects. It is pretty obvious which projects will succeed and which will not.

"From this valuable feedback, we will be able to improve on our existing project.

"Using Kickstarter also eliminates venture capitalists and angel investors; you are answerable only to the customers who backed your project.GOAL!

PROJECT NAME: Between Earth And Void

PROPOSED BY: Local artist Ren Zi, in his early 40s

GOAL: US$2,000 (S$2,500)

AMOUNT RAISED: US$4,324

NUMBER OF BACKERS: 53

FUNDING PERIOD: Jan 31 to March 2, 2013

WHAT IT IS: An art exhibition featuring digital prints on bamboo paper.

While creating this series, the artist experimented with various printing techniques and materials like aluminium, light-boxes and various mixed media.

The month-long show was held about two months ago at The Factory along Lim Tua Tow Road.

Backers received a mixed-media collage created specially for them.

The once-commercial writer used Kickstarter to kick-start his dream of bring an artist.

He says: "The amount raised was actually more than twice of my goal. I was heartened that people have faith in my work.

"The exhibition also turned out to be a success. Out of the 15 available paintings, nine were sold.

"Furthermore, I didn't expect some of my supporters to come from as far away the US and Europe. I only realised this when I was sending out the artworks to my supporters on Kickstarter.com.

"Being on the website was a very positive experience on the whole.

"In general, Kickstarter makes it easier for people who support the arts to find your project.

"Rules for both creators and supporters are also clearly spelt out, which lessens the chances for misunderstanding.

"The downside is that you need an American or British bank account to propose a project.

"My curator is based in New York and so this was possible for me."What is Kickstarter.com?

Kickstarter.com is an online crowd-funding site based in New York that people can use to raise funds from the public for their projects.

It has funded films, stage productions, video games and technology-related projects since its launch in 2009.

More than US$650 million (S$812 million) has been pledged by more than 4.2 million people so far, according to the website, and this amount has gone to fund more than 42,000 creative projects.

To use it, project creators set a funding goal and deadline.

If people like a project, they can pledge money to make it happen.

Projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money, and to date, 44 per cent of projects have reached their funding goals.

Backers are not to profit financially, but project creators offer rewards, such as invitations to the movie premiere, to thank backers for their support.

Kickstarter is not involved in the development of the projects themselves, but if a project is successfully funded, it applies a 5 per cent fee to the funds collected.

Notable creators who have used Kickstarter to produce work include TV host Ricki Lake and director Paul Schrader.

It has met with its fair share of controversies, such as project creators who later went on to plagiarise other works.

Film-maker Zach Braff was also criticised two months ago for using his celebrity status to raise funds.




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