In An Age Of Austerity, Can Crowdsourced Funding Help Take Risks?

Crowdsourced projects, and crowdsourced funding, are no stranger to this blog.  Today’s entry is connected to a funding site new to me, Indiegogo.  While science and technology are not a particular emphasis of the site, two potentially high-profile projects come from that area.

The first, and it’s perhaps ironic to see in light of the latest success on Mars, is an effort to fund a space research, education, and exploration start up.  Called Uwingu and based in Colorado, the effort is looking for $75,000.  The organizers explicitly see themselves as trying to fill in the gap left by continuing cuts to NASA funding in various areas.  Here’s a recent video discussion with Alan Stern, one of the organizers and a former senior official in NASA’s planetary sciences work.  (The discussion starts roughly 2 minutes in.)  The project page is a bit cagey about how the group would take the $75,000 stake and build it into a sustainable research fund, but I want this to succeed.

Also on Indiegogo is part of a garage-style innovation project sponsored in part by Google.  Hosted in Germany (but open worldwide, provided you can communicate in German), it’s called Greunder Garage, and Google will match successfully funded (via Indiegogo) projects from start-up entrepreneurs in any field (to a maximum of 10,000 euros).  Before projects get to the crowdfunding, there will be training provided by entrepreneurs and business scholars online.  The crowdfunding phases should start in early September.

Sadly, I think governments will be increasingly risk averse to investments in science and technology going forward.  So projects like this will likely become common rather than rare.  Hopefully these projects should continue the mythic tales of those who create new companies in their garages.  These days it just helps to have a good Internet connection near your workstation.

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