Kickstarter Canada's First 3 Months: The Funded, The Funding, And The Fallen

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When it comes to crowdfunding, some will win, some will lose, and some were born to sing the blues... | PraxisPhotography via Getty Images

Kickstarter, the crowdfunding website that has served as a platform for thousands of projects to date, just celebrated three months of operation in Canada, and by all accounts its expansion north of the border has been met with considerable success.

There are currently more than 550 active Canadian projects on Kickstarter. Half of those are based in Toronto, with Vancouver and Montreal not far behind.

But does the Kickstarter model really work? The site's stats page (updated daily) pegs its funding success rate at 43.77 per cent. Meanwhile, a group of scientists claims to have developed a formula that can determine whether or not a campaign will succeed within its first four hours.

However, Kickstarter is not the only game in town; their longstanding rivals at Indiegogo have been operating in Canada for a year now, and have successfully funded some blockbuster campaigns of their own, like the Tesla Museum proposed by Matthew Inman (creator of mega-popular webcomic The Oatmeal).

But despite Indiegogo hitting the internet two years before Kickstarter's 2009 debut, some reports state that Kickstarter has earned around six times as much as its competitor has across all successfully funded campaigns.

In its first three months, Kickstarter Canada has seen its fair share of success stories, hopeful up-and-comers, and crushing disappointments. The very first project to start funding in Canada -- Sandblox, a set of toy molds for beaches and sandboxes -- failed to meet its funding goals.

Check out our gallery of 12 of the coolest, craziest Canadian Kickstarter campaigns so far. A more complete list of projects follows below.

12 of the Coolest (and Craziest) Canadian Kickstarter Projects
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Community Quilt Project
This humble campaign was started by a Mississauga, Ont., high school class seeking to raise $500 to purchase quilt-making materials. The finished quilts would then be donated to local shelters and charities. The students raised almost $1,000, and the quilts are due to be completed in 2014. Stretch goal gifts included knit change pouches and “virtual hugs”, as if this entire thing wasn’t heartwarming enough already.

Kids Photography Academy Online Classes
Online photography courses for children. The concept pretty much sells itself (and it literally did, easily surpassing its $7,500 goal). The KPA intends to launch as a public pay-per-course academy that teaches children the fundamentals of photography through a combination of tutorial videos, easy-to-read documents, and “homework” assignments that task them with going out into the world for specific shots. The next generation may now have a fighting chance against Instagram and its myriad filters.

Cup Cuff
This one is brilliant in its elegance, and just eked past its $10,000 goal; a reusable sleeve for coffee cups, modeled after men’s shirt sleeve cups. There are a variety of styles, notable not only for their overall quality (we’re talking real fabric, buttons, and straps here) but also for their commitment to the look of each particular shirt style. There is a certain type of person who wants a fashionable disposable coffee cup, and this is for them.

Knot Theory Infinite Bow Ties
First off: bow ties are cool. Having established that fact, the makers of this modular collection of bowties (interchangeable bowtie fronts and back that could be mixed to create literally thousands of different looks) eclipsed their $1,000 goal by an amount that needs to be seen to be believed — basically fourteen-fold. Those are the types of results you can expect from the project’s founder, a software engineer turned fashion designer.

Concordia Satellite
A small team of engineering students at Concordia University were asking for $15,000 to fund a humble, yet noble, goal: building a satellite to launch their project (a self-healing fibre-reinforced composite material) into space to test its viability. To put things into perspective: a team of students raised enough money to make science fiction come true. If that’s not the true meaning of Kickstarter, what is?

AEON Attire Smartphone-Friendly Leather Gloves
Proving that no one is willing to abandon their iPhones, not even for inclement weather, this Kickstarter for leather gloves with conductive fingertips (allowing you to use touchscreens while wearing gloves) blew past its $2,500 initial goal and then kept going. And going. And going, to the point where it had earned international attention and several times more than its initial goal. But then again, is anyone surprised that Canadians threw money at a better pair of winter gloves?

Boredom will be a thing of the past during playtime, thanks to Peekapak; a monthly adventure/playtime/storytelling kit that gets delivered to your door (or to your neighbourhood communal mailbox — thank you, Canada Post) bursting with fun ideas and activities for the little ones in your life. It turns out that people like fun, educational programs for children; it soared well past its $7,500 goal, and the creators are already taking orders for regular Peekapak subscriptions from non-backers.

Scarborough Library Revamp
In a scenario straight out of a heartwarming television movie, the new librarian at a Toronto inner city school turned to Kickstarter for the funds to update and renovate the school’s library. Did she get enough books? Was she supported or opposed by the administration? We won't spoil the ending, but $1,500 is a pretty reasonable goal for such a monumental project.

A gluten-free, entirely vegan, healthy sliced bread that’s also delicious? It seemed like the creators of RightBread had accomplished the impossible, yet they were only asking for $1,000, enough to produce a first batch of proof-of-concept bread that would be delivered to backers. The recipe and creation process for the bread is so intensive that it cannot be made in existing bakeries (pre-used equipment would contaminate the vegan aspect of the bread), so it was clear that these bakers were serious about their loaves. They met their goal several times over, and are now working towards establishing a physical store/bakery.

Nelvana of the Northern Lights
In 1941, a Canadian named Adrian Dingle created Nelvana, an Inuit Goddess who was not only Canada’s first comic superheroine, but one of the first in the world, period. The full run of Nelvana comics was thought to be lost to time, until now. This project asked for $25,000 to fund a reprinting of the comic’s entire run in one bound edition, and fans and newcomers alike united to double that amount. In the span of a couple of months, a lost chapter of comic history was rediscovered, resurrected, and reborn.

Still Funding

Billed as “ridiculously comfy pima cotton onesies for ‘adults’”, these outrageous outfits blur the line between pajama and hipster-chic. With weeks of funding still remaining, and over half their goal already met, you may be seeing quite a few liquid gold hoodie-onesies being sported in the new year. Or not.

Squeeze Ford Stress Toy
No, you’re not in a drunken stupor: this is a Rob Ford stress ball, and it’s well on its way to being funded. Can the world handle any more Fordmania? That’s squarely in the (possibly stressed) hands of this project’s backers.

NASH The Movie
You may have heard of Steve Nash, the NBA superstar and multiple MVP winner. You may also know that he’s Canadian. A Vancouver documentary crew secured unparalleled access to Nash, and they’re in the middle of raising money for production and editing costs for the final film. Unlike many film projects, tiers of this project include a physical and digital copy of the final product, which gives potential backers a tangible reward for their donation (we’re looking at you, Veronica Mars).

Commercial Drive Parklet
A ragtag team of community builders, artists, and engineers intend to transform two parking spaces on a busy Vancouver street into a public space with benches, small garden pots, and a general aesthetic boost to the area. The project has already received critical approval from the city zoning committee, so all that’s left is to hit that funding goal.

Backstab Game
Board games are cool again, but your one friend who will not stop raving about Settlers of Catan already told you that. Backstab is a card game that mixes strategy and roleplaying as you take on the roles of kings and courtesans in a bid to — you guessed it — backstab all the other players before they can do the same to you. A Canadian Senate expansion pack is not planned at this time.

Stratus Watch
The concept is as simple as it is unprecedented; a titanium wristwatch with a face that you can choose. You can choose from dozens of patterns and colours from the manufacturer, or design your own and submit it to them. The watches exude a clean, straightforward charm, and even the lowest funding tier gifts you one of them.

Shot Time
In what could easily be the ruin of many a young soul, this is a shot glass that measures the amount of liquor consumed over a period of time; a potent mix of a stopwatch and a case of acute alcohol poisoning. The consequences of such a device are best left to the imagination, but if it meets its funding goals, the consequences may become very real, very quickly. Hooray for progress?

Canadian Black Garlic
Exactly what it says on the tin; backers are funding the creation and shipping of various black-garlic-based condiments and seasonings. The majority of the project’s funding goal will go to securing a large batch of Canadian-grown garlic, and the rest will go into the blackening and production/packaging process. Is there anything more Canadian than authentic Northern delicacies?

Public Opinion Polling eBook
Yes, there is an eBook about how public opinion polling went in 2013. While it’s almost predictable that this project is based out of Ottawa, it has a realistic funding goal, and it seems to be well on track to meet that goal within the next couple of weeks.

Like the mirror universe version of the Shot Time, the SpecShot is a two-in-one system that scans your drinking water for contaminants and then posts the results online. This process could be equal parts fascinating and harrowing, depending on your results, but the ultimate goal is to spread awareness through hard data, and hopefully inspire some change to our water quality standards.

Fell Short

This project was the very first registered with Kickstarter Canada, and it raised tens of thousands of dollars during its funding period. Unfortunately, it didn’t meet half of its $63,000 funding goal, bringing a somber end to an otherwise historic campaign.

Ultrachic Bamboo Clothing
This collection of locally-produced organic women’s clothing (fashioned out of bamboo, of all things) failed to make a dent in its $16,000 funding goal, despite of (or perhaps, because of) its home location of fashion-forward Montreal.

Hopeo Organic Underwear
Along the same lines, this Vancouver-based collection of organic cotton underwear could not raise $10,000, although it came fairly close.

Single & Dating In Vancouver
This ambitious web sitcom, hoping to accurately capture modern Canadian dating life, sought funding in the middle of shooting a six-episode first season to film the final three episodes. While the $1,900 funding goal was relatively modest, the campaign only raised a quarter of that.

The Canada Grill BBQ
When anyone claims to have invented “the world’s greatest barbecue,” it often makes sense to take notice. Yet despite a variety of backer rewards and a comprehensive breakdown of how and why the Canada Grill is a technological feat, the campaign failed to raise the $25,000 it asked for.

Load Apparel
Looking like a cross between Under Armour and modern superhero outfits, Load Apparel sought funding for extreme fitness athletic wear. The clothes looked sharp (provided you had the rippling physique to fill them out properly), but $55,000 proved to be too steep of a funding goal for the project.

More Than Maple Syrup: A Film About Being Canadian
A documentary about the true meaning of Canada seems like an easy winner for the first months of Kickstarter Canada, but the project could not summon enough patriotism to meet its $17,500 goal. Oh, Canada.

Joe King Vs…
An ambitious project that would continue the legacy of what the creator calls “the first Canadian computer-generated comic” sought to release bound collected editions of new storylines of the Joe Vs…series. Maybe because of Nelvana’s success, the comic failed to raise its $10,000 funding goal.

Saved By The Status
In what was either a genius documentary concept, or a shameless attempt to get paid to freeload across the nation (or both), this film would chronicle the filmmaker’s journey of travelling across Canada using only Facebook statuses to reach out for food, shelter, and transportation. This project failed to even approach its $5,000 funding goal, so the world will never know how far Facebook can go.

Elliot Documentary In an interesting piece of meta filmmaking, this documentary follows the career of a struggling actor trying to be recognized as “Canada’s first action hero.” The film itself faced its share of struggles, falling short of its $10,000 funding goal, and leaving the story of Elliot to be told at another time.

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