UPDATE/CORRECTION: The status of the Mail Pilot email app project was incorrect in the initial version of this story, which has since been updated. Your columnist regrets the error. —MikeA
Yancey Strickler had a surreal and exciting experience when he recently returned to Blacksburg to visit his parents.
Just down the road from his parents’ house, he saw signs for the filming of an independent Western called “Restitution,” funded by more than $6,000 raised through Kickstarter.com, the company Strickler co-founded.
Kickstarter is an online funding site that allows a creator to pitch a project and ask people to pledge money to make it happen. In exchange, the backers often receive copies of the finished project or other rewards.
Already high profile, Kickstarter saw its renown grow exponentially in 2012, when 17 projects exceeded $1 million in funding.
“I don’t think it’s even something that we thought about or planned for or even hoped for,” Strickler said of the site’s multimillion-dollar successes.
Though the Roanoke and New River valleys can’t boast Kickstarter campaigns on that scale, they have their share of success stories.
Roanoke computer technician Jeff Rowberg raised $12,000 to help manufacture a sensor-studded glove that performs the same functions as a computer mouse and keyboard. Virginia Tech professor John Boyer, known by his nom de plume, “The Plaid Avenger,” raised $23,000 to create an educational cellphone app. Floyd businessman Haden Polseno-Hensley had enough successful campaigns that he said he is done for now. (Full disclosure: I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for an anthology project in July that raised $10,000.)
According to figures provided by Kickstarter spokesman Justin Kazmark, as of this month there have been 40 projects successfully funded through Kickstarter that were launched within a 50-mile radius of Roanoke. Blacksburg has the lead with 12, Roanoke has 11, and Floyd comes in third with 6. In the most recently successful project,Blacksburg student Clara Keller sought $525 to make a functional mermaid costume. She’s raised $545 so far.