What Makes a Great Crowd Supply Project?

A quick look through the Browse section of our website reveals everything from laptops, electronic test equipment, and educational crafting kits to food, clothing, and coffee presses. What could all these things have in common? While diverse in form and function, Crowd Supply products are carefully vetted and reviewed to ensure they share some fundamental qualities, both practical and philosophical.

Practically speaking, we require all projects to result in a manufactured product, have a clear plan for achieving the funding goal, and have a good plan for spending those funds in order to deliver the final product to backers. We evaluate the project's team, pricing, manufacturing, marketing, fulfillment plans, and many other factors that go into a successful product launch. Where there are gaps, we make suggestions and point to resources that might help.

The philosophical qualities we look for in each Crowd Supply project can take many forms, but they boil down to these: a respect for user rights, a strong relationship to a community, and a desire to empower users. Different projects necessarily manifest these qualities in different ways and degrees. Some projects are born from these foundations, while others adopt them along the way.

At first glance, you might think these two sets of qualities, practical and philosophical, exist on different planes that rarely intersect. However, our experience at Crowd Supply shows a compelling correlation between the two - projects and creators guided by strong principles tend to have better laid execution plans and ultimately deliver more delight to their backers.

What does that look like in real life? Let’s take a look at three distinct projects that found success on Crowd Supply. They each demonstrate all the practical underpinnings we look for in potential Crowd Supply projects while embodying the philosophical underpinnings we hold dear.

Community: Felton & Mary’s BBQ Sauce

Felton and Mary Campbell ran a popular Southeast Portland BBQ restaurant for nearly 20 years. With high-quality, hand-made food, Campbell’s was a community fixture. The Campbells treated customers like family, regulars would call them Mom and Dad. If someone was down on their luck, the Campbells were happy to help them out and let them work off a meal doing dishes.

The restaurant has long since closed, but Felton and Mary’s grandson Tory decided he wanted to honor their memory and help preserve a part of Portland history that is rapidly being subsumed by condos and gentrification. So he worked with local suppliers and manufacturers to recreate Campbell’s signature BBQ sauces.

Tory turned to Crowd Supply to get the project off the ground. The results speak for themselves: the project attracted 220 pledges to raise 163% of its original goal and shipped delicious BBQ sauce to backers on schedule. Why did it succeed?

One big reason is that Tory was personally committed to his project. His family name and legacy were on the line. That passion fueled a lot of hard work: testing recipes, finding the right ingredients, and helping to generate positive reviews.

Another critical driver for success was that there was a local, deeply-rooted community of backers and supporters around the project from the beginning. Tory was able to use the legacy of Campbell’s to build up support and interest. He bolstered his campaign with interviews of old Campbell’s customers and he highlighted his family’s history in Portland. He also provided his community with frequent updates, keeping them engaged throughout the campaign. The community bolstered his commitment, and his commitment helped him build and utilize the community. This virtuous circle is a key element in a successful campaign.

Empowerment: Circuit Stickers

Passion and commitment are also at the core of Circuit Stickers. But in this case, the passion is less about keeping a family tradition alive and more about educating and empowering kids and adults. Circuit Stickers were invented by Jie Qi, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab who was looking to find better ways to engage people learning about electricity and electronics.
Art and electronics are lifelong interests for Jie - she believes they can be used to spur the imagination and provide opportunity for personal creativity and expression. In Jie’s words, "Perhaps, at a higher level, people are trying to balance out the massive and anonymous information intake of our digital selves by engaging in more personal and creative activity through our physical selves. That is, to go from digital consumers to physical creators."

Jie must have been on to something because Circuit Stickers became a runaway hit, finding diverse audiences from artists to educators. Circuit Stickers succeeded because they empowered a community of like-minded creators and educators. Circuit Stickers are helping to train the next generation of makers. This democratization of electrical engineering knowledge demystifies and makes accessible technology that would otherwise remain inscrutable. Knowledge is power, as the old saw goes, and Circuit Stickers are helping to make that power accessible to anyone.

User Rights: Librem Laptops

You could say that unmasking inscrutable black boxes is also at the core of Purism’s Librem laptops. The Librem 13” and 15” laptops are truly unique computers. They are not the result of a focus group or a product development department. They are not based on market research. They are based on principle: the Librem laptops are the only personal computers built chip-by-chip to protect the user’s privacy.


Purism’s dedication to this basic principle informed every aspect of their development and their campaign. And that dedication attracted a community of like-minded, equally passionate backers. In fact, Purism was able to use that community to help them understand what their customers really wanted. During the Librem 15 campaign, backers contributed feedback that led directly to the implementation of things like “hardware kill switches” that physically disable the built-in microphone and camera, and the WiFi and Bluetooth radios to protect users’ privacy. Backers not only benefit from the immediate advances in user rights afforded by the Librem laptops, but also from Purism’s long-term efforts to free the few remaining inscrutable components used in most personal computers.

Basically, Purism’s commitment to user rights helped them find and build a community of like-minded backers. Those backers, in turn, helped Purism improve their product in ways that further hewed to that ideal. That feedback loop led to over $975,000 being raised for the production of two laptops that otherwise wouldn’t have existed.

We're All In This Together

All three of these campaigns succeeded because they were well aligned with both the practical and philosophical standards we hold dear at Crowd Supply. We believe in projects that find or grow a community. We believe in projects that empower individuals to experiment and build things rather than mindlessly consume. We believe in projects that respect and protect the rights of their users. And we know that when creators are driven by a deep and lasting passion, their projects will ignite a similar passion in their backers and they will succeed.

In the next few weeks, we will be sharing more about our core values at Crowd Supply and the ideals that guide our business and the projects we help bring to life.

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