It’s a beautiful thing when businesses align profits and purpose for a better world. And with the growth of crowdfunding, the concept of launching a company funded by others, an increasing number of social entrepreneurs are turning to sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to make an impact. As host of Art of the Kickstart, a podcast and blog on all things crowdfunding, I’ve seen my share of mission-driven startups. Let’s look at some of the most successful and inspiring crowdfunded companies of all time.
1. Rainforest Connection
The United Nations has officially declared deforestation to be one of the leading causes of climate change today. The destruction of our jungles and rainforests threaten extinction of local plant and animal life and the long-term consequences of the increased emissions are even more devastating to consider. That’s what Topher White and the team behind Rainforest Connection are dedicated to fighting. Raising $167,299 in a highly successful Kickstarter during the summer of 2014, RFCX seeks to end illegal deforestation and save old phones in the process. Their solution, a sensor network of recycled smartphones uses built-in mics to thwart loggers by guarding vast areas of jungle(one square mile a piece). In other words, each installed device is the eco-equivalent of taking 3000 cars off the road.
Modern agriculture can’t feed humanity’s growing numbers. We produce more than enough food to feed the planet yet millions starve every day. Additionally, many large scale farms use harmful chemicals and questionable practices to produce pretty much everything we put in our mouth. Founded to bring better, healthier and more sustainable veggies to consumers everywhere, EcoQube crowdfunded over $454k in their two Kickstarter launches to open aquaponics to the masses. And with aquaponics, an eco-based high yield farming technique that requires less than 2% of water of traditional farming approaches, founders Kevin and Eric hope to help speed the advancement of modern, small scale farming.
3. WakaWaka Power
Of all the crowdfunding campaigns I’ve interviewed for Art of the Kickstart, undoubtedly one of the most successful and inspiring ones was WakaWaka. Formed by Camille van Gestel, this Dutch startup raised $48,399 in the close of 2011 to eradicate a common problem in rural Africa: access to electricity. Kids coming home from school, unable to complete homework because it’s too dark to read, women put at greater risk. The team created a portable, incredibly inexpensive solar LED light – something affordable and in high demand in the 3rd world and built a killer, carbon reducing company in the process. To date WakaWaka’s raised over $764k on Kickstarter and continues their mission of better, more efficient energy and lighting for all.
Each year Americans throw away a combined 50 billion plastic water bottles. In addition to filling landfills, bottled water production accounts for an additional 17 million barrels of oil a year. The case for the reusable water bottles is clear.
Unfortunately, these bulky beverage containers are hard to carry around – Hydaway is hoping to change that. After falling short on his original collapsible water bottle campaign, Niki Singlaub came back to Kickstarter with a bang: $263,086 pledged for pocket-sized water on the go.
5. Global Village Construction Set
The sharing economy is changing the way we live, travel and get around, and open-source technology is making everything faster, cheaper and more transparent. One social entrepreneur is looking to bring these advancements to the creation of homes in the third world. Founded by Marcin Jakubowski, a Polish American physicist, Global Village Construction raised $63,573 on Kickstarter and is poised to revolutionize small scale, low budget housing, a necessity in impoverished parts of the world. Easily accessible, low cost construction equipment and the knowledge to make it useful.
6. Edyn – Connected gardening
Another crowdfunded startup making waves in the world of gardening and personal farming is Edyn. Edyn’s tech team, which raised $384,201 in the summer of 2014, is focused on empowering farmers any scale, be it hobbyists or huge farms, with the data needed for growing plants while saving water in the process. The smart garden system combines an array of sensors, an automated watering valve and a detailed gardening database to not only monitor sunlight and soil conditions but determine exact watering needs, save water vs conventional timed sprinklers and adjust accordingly. And these benefits only scratch the surface. Imagine the potential for better, more informed agriculture on a massive scale.
7. Smart Citizen – Eco Monitoring App
When it comes to climate change and meaningful societal shifts, information is power – that which is measured is improved. Smart Citizen is comprised of a team of international scientists, designers and engineers looking to crowdsource the future of environmental monitoring. Built with an open-source framework and off the shelf Arduino components and sensors, Smart Citizen’s hardware and software systems aim to make individuals more in tune with the environmental conditions of their world and over time track meteorological data to health science and humanity confront climate change. Though lofty goals, Smart Citizen raised $68,000 in the summer of 2013 and have been busy implementing the system ever since.
8. Glowing Plants
What if electricity and fossil fuels weren’t needed to light the homes and highways of the future? What if that technology was here today? Led by researchers out of Stanford and Cambridge, one biotech startup made big waves to the tune of $484,013 to do just that. With DNA research into bioluminescence, the process by which certain algae and fireflies emit light, the Glowing Plant Project has successfully created most notably among other things, glowing roses. Now with the exposure of their Kickstarter and close to half a million in funding, the team looks to push future and revolutionize the night light.
9. GoFar Car Eco Monitoring
Eco-friendly cars are finally gaining momentum. Unfortunately, going green is rather expensive. GoFar is a Kickstarter startup looking for an inexpensive solution to driving pollution. Rather than reinvent the car, GoFar’s created a monitoring device to help track and boost driver efficiency. The more you know, the further you go and GoFar’s $160,150 Kickstarter is helping the company grow, scale and save some gas in the process.
10. SolSource Sun Cooker
A fully stocked modern kitchen is something most of us take for granted. Unfortunately, in many rural areas around the globe, access to electricity and thus a hot meal are limited. One Earth Designs is focused on changing this with SolSource, a fuel and emission free solar grill designed to help individuals anywhere enjoy the comforts of healthy cooking. Built for backyard barbeques and Himalayan hamburgers alike, SolSource’s eco-grill raised an impressive $142,413 to alter the face of outdoor cooking everywhere.
Images via corresponding projects
About the Author
Matt Ward is a physical products entrepreneur and crowdfunding expert behind Art of the Kickstart, a podcast and blog on all things crowdfunding. While he travels the world, he also coaches crowdfunding campaigns to success and is trying to revolutionize the way we work with Shido Stand – the first laptop case and stand desk in one for better health, productivity and posture on the go.