The proliferation of online crowdfunding through websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo certainly are changing the way we fundraise. It’s also inviting consumers into the process of participation through empowerment.
One local company is seeking to take this concept of collaborative creation to the next level.
4S Labs is a unique Minneapolis startup and the brainchild of entrepreneur Sean Stevens, formed with the purpose of bringing to fruition an idea that he had last year: designing a smartphone attachment that will eliminate the need for the wallet, which he views as an outdated and burdensome item.
“Now that we have smartphones, so much of that utility is taken inside the phone itself,” says Stevens, calling out contact lists, commerce tools and e-coupons as examples. “Since so much of that has come on board with cell phones, let’s kill the wallet altogether.”
The walletcase peripheral itself is hardly a revolutionary idea, but Stevens is frank in expressing his dissatisfaction with the options currently available on the market. Without exception, he finds that existing walletcases are either too bulky, or they don’t hold enough cards/cash/etc. to provide meaningful value.
“If we can’t carry what you’re carrying, then we lose.”
Who is “we,” exactly? To bring his product to life, Stevens has assembled a team of specialists, which he cherishingly refers to as the “nerd herd.” He’s brought on talent to assist prototyping, manufacturing and marketing. As 4S Labs is a new company with limited resources, around 20 people have contributed so far in various ways, often coming on board with donated time or agreeing to forego their payment until a later time simply out of passion for the project.
Now, they’re using Indiegogo as a crowdfunding platform, with a goal of raising $50,000 by November 5th. The crowd participation aspect of this project goes beyond contributing money for perks, however. Stevens wants to involve customers in every step of development, allowing their suggestions, votes and input to shape the product, all the way from which design they use (there are four different models to choose from, with unique looks and functions) to the name that will ultimately be attached to it.
These presently unnamed peripherals are intended for the early adopters that are iPhone 5 customers.
“We want to blur the line between what is a customer, a designer, a marketer, a funder and a partner,” Stevens says. “The more people are involved in the process, the better the product will feel in people’s pockets.”
Pending participation, 4S Labs hopes to go to market in January.