Boston area projects rake in $28M through Kickstarter

boston kickstarter cambridge brattle theatre
Brattle Theatre Creative Director Ned Hinkle shows the cinema’s new digital projector, funded through a Kickstarter campaign.
Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

Maxwell Bogue was prepared for the best, but also for the worst: that his project, the development of a 3-D printing pen, wouldn’t get enough public support to get it off the ground. 

But within two days of posting the project on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter, Bogue’s 3Doodler pen received $1 million in pledges. Eventually, 26,000 people pledged more than $2.3 million in 34 days.

“We were jumping up and down and at same time we have to make all of these units. Before the Kickstarter had finished we had already called the factory to tell them the order had to be significantly larger than we had negotiated,” said Bogue whose company WobbleWorks is based in Boston.

Bogue’s project is one of thousands of Boston-area efforts that has raised millions through Kickstarter. Kickstarter announced earlier this month that more than $1 billion was pledged to various projects through its website, which launched in April 2009. Of that total, nearly $28 million was pledged by people to fund projects in the Boston area.

The Brattle Theatre in Cambridge launched an effort last year to fund the nonprofit’s acquisition of a digital projector as well as a new heating and cooling system as its current one was about to fail. It wrote on its Kickstarter page that it was “depending on the kindness of strangers (and loved ones).”

“If we had no AC in the summer and no heat in the winter it would have been the end. It would have been really damaging,” said Ned Hinkle, the theatre’s creative director. The $140,000 goal was surpassed.

When popular food truck Mei Mei Street Kitchen wanted to open a restaurant, the founders turned to Kickstarter to help fund their quest to receive sustainable certification. The restaurant’s 24-day drive last June netted $36,000, about $8,000 above their goal.

Margaret Li, a Mei Mei cofounder, said the owners turned to Kickster because “opening a restaurant is shockingly expensive.” They used the funds to buy things like low-flow toilets, start a composting program and purchase materials to repurpose in their restaurant including joists from an old paper mill that now serve as countertops.

Li said the restaurant, which opened in November, received its sustainable certification. The restaurant also features a design that includes the names of the people who donated to the project.

“What Kickstarter is really wonderful for is creating a sense of community and allowing people to buy in and feel a part of the item or business that’s being developed,” she said.

While many Boston-area Kickstarter projects have wrapped up their fund-raising efforts, there are others that are still active.

ScratchJr is an educational software that helps young children learn to program their own interactive stories and games. It’s being developed by professors at MIT and Tufts University as well as the Playful Invention Company.

While the project has reached its $25,000 goal, it has 36 days left in its online campaign and will use additional funds to develop a mobile version and create more resources for parents and teachers.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.


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