Some months back I spent around one hundred dollars for a watch that I had never seen, that did not yet exist, to be made and delivered by a bunch of people I had never heard of. Sound crazy? Well, I wasn’t alone. Over 69,000 people decided to do the same thing. That is the story of the Pebble smartwatch for which over $10 million dollars was raised through Kickstarter crowd funding, a record amount. (I read that the original funding target had been $100,000!)
I received my Pebble last week, and I have to say I think it is a beautiful product, and very cool with its connectivity with my iPhone. I also feel good to be one of the many people that helped bring this product to market. Pebble and Kickstarter have changed the rules about bringing cool consumer products to market.
Japanese electronics have lost much of their cool over last two decades. Japanese giants like Sony, Sharp, and Panasonic have fallen from grace. However, I don’t think the Japanese have lost their sense of cool or extraordinary ability to innovate. Maybe Kickstarter-type crowdfunding and people like the upstarts at Pebble are precisely what Japan needs to revive its moribund electronics industry. The Japanese already have a cultural penchant for pulling together in large numbers to achieve something great. The Kickstarter model seems like it might be a natural fit for Japan.
The only questions may be whether Japan Inc. will tolerate such brash and unchoreographed business practices, and will the government permit such unusual financing methods. Who can say? All I know is I would be happy to kick in ¥10,000 to help bring a cool Japanese smartwatch to market, particularly if I could get one of the first models. Wouldn’t you?