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Website Gives Local Products, Idea Boost

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Since 2009, an Internet site called Kickstarter is harnessing the power of social media to help people with ideas or products that can change the world.

Just like the name suggests, the website relies on contributions from people who use the site, to give a person's project the initial boost it needs. Many high-profile projects in the past couple of years have used Kickstarter, from the Pebble smartwatch, to the movie "Veronica Mars", which is set to be released in 2014. Even actor Zach Braff, known for his role on former NBC comedy series "Scrubs", used Kickstarter to fund his latest project.

The site's potential to products and ideas have caught the attention of some Montanans.

"Before I went to South by Southwest, I wanted to do an EP, and just have that ready to go." said musician Chris "CR" Smith. His song, "This Way Home", was the official song of HGTV TV series House Hunters International.

"I want the community to really get behind us, and push us out to a national level." said Nick Miles, frontman of local band "No Cigar".

"We're actually gonna manufacture it in Montana." said Kevin Scharfe. He is working with Karl Schwartz to manufacture "The Ripple", a combined bowl/plate dish where the bowl can detach from the plate itself. All four people have something in common: projects that need money to get off the ground.

They all found Kickstarter.

"I looked into it a little bit, and decided 'yea, this is gonna be the easiest way to go.'" said Chris.

The concept for the site is easy: a visitor to the site who wants to contribute can choose any project they like, and make any amount of donation. Those behind the project will get 90% of the money, according to Chris, after commission fees collected by Kickstarter and the payment processing company responsible for collecting the contributions.

In exchange for the support, a backer can get a number of gifts. For Chris' project, a $5 contribution will give the backer a digital download of the EP, while a $50 contribution will net the backer a spot on the studio backup vocal team.

Meanwhile, for Kevin and Karl's project, a $25 contribution gets the backer one of the combined bowl/plate dish, among other things.

"It's a whole other world to send it out to the public, and have people from Sweden, China, Canada, and all over the entire planet to say 'we believe in this product too'.". Said Karl.

All of them say managing the Kickstarter campaign is no easy task: they have to film and produce a well-made video describing their project, and also spread the word out to others in order to make the project a success. For Chris and Nick, however, they say the service makes the lives of up-and-coming musicians a lot easier, compared to the past.

"I believe Jimmy Eat World, the lead singer mortgaged his house to put out the record that put them over the top." said Nick, referring to the Mesa, Arizona-based band's 2001 self-titled album, titled as "Bleed American" before the September 11th attacks.

As well as people who believe their next product will change the world.

"When we look back at this years from now, hopefully when this product is all over the place, Kickstarter will have started it for us. It really is a kickstarter. Exactly what the name says." said Karl.

An update on the three projects mentioned in the story:

Chris' EP project campaign ended in February. The project managed to raise $7,710, thousands of dollars over the original target of $2,000.

Karl and Kevin's project campaign ended Friday. It managed to $29,154, almost $10,000 over the original goal of $20,000.

Nick's project campaign is set to wrap up on March 31st. As of Friday, it has raised $978, which is below the target of $1,750.

To learn more on Kickstarter, click on Connections.

This story aired as a part of "Kenny's Tech Korner", local stories on technology by KULR-8's Kenneth Wong that airs on Fridays on the KULR-8 News at 10. If you have any technology questions or story ideas, please leave a message on the KULR-8 Facebook Page, or send Kenny an e-mail at