Springboard IoT, the Cambridge, UK accelerator aimed at startups in the Internet of Things space, is jumping on another popular bandwagon — albeit, one that makes a lot of sense — by adding crowdfunding as an option for the teams taking part in the 3 month program. It comes in the form of integration with Kickstarter, which recently launched in the UK, and gives participating startups another avenue to capital alongside Springboard’s traditional Investor Day which will see them present their wares to VCs and angel investors.
As we’ve noted before, hardware startups appear to be ‘having a moment’ (see Paul Graham’s recent missive), and certainly Springboard IoT is shaping up to be well-positioned to exploit this trend. Springboard is already a respected brand in the European accelerator space and its founder Jon Bradford has managed to pull in quite an impressive range of partners for its Internet of Things voyage — one that takes advantage of the beefier hardware companies in the Cambridge region.
These include the chip company ARM, Unilever, Neul, and the super-trendy Raspberry Pi. In addition, Springboard has announced that Bosch, Cosm, Living PlanIT and Nokia Growth Partners are also partnering with the program, while Cambridge-based Makespace will be providing the Springboard teams with access to things like 3D printers and laser cutters, and kit for electronics, woodwork and textiles so that they can rapidly prototype their wares. Sign me up already!
The list of mentors is also on point and includes Hermann Hauser (Amadeus), Sherry Coutu, Niall Murphy (Evrythng & The Cloud), Usman Haque (Cosm & Pachube), Pilgrim Beart (AlertMe) and Brad Feld (Foundry Group & FitBit).
Applications for the program close on 13th of January, after which the ten participating teams will be selected for the 3 month bootcamp kicking off in March. Springboard is citing £100,000 in support for each team. However, in actual cash terms, rather than ‘in kind’ or via free services from the likes of Rackspace, Amazon, Microsoft etc., this will consist of £5,000 per founder to a maximum of £15,000 in return for 6% equity, which seems in line with many other accelerators. Alternatively, startups that are already backed can shun the cash investment element in return for giving away just 3% equity.
Back to today’s Kickstarter news. I asked Bradford what a Kickstarter campaign could bring to the Springboard IoT teams and he candidly suggested that going down the crowdfunding route means that more control reverts to the founders as they might ultimately choose not to raise funding from angels or VCs, instead taking advantage of the “presales” model that Kickstarter supports. And it’s certainly true that the platform seems to work best for hardware startups who can use it validate their idea via future ‘customers’ actually voting with their wallets — see the recent lessons from Storybricks’ failed Kickstarter campaign.
Specifically, Bradford says that Kickstarter may work best for products that appeal to ‘early adopters’, which in one sense is anybody interested in the burgeoning Internet of Things. However, the choice to use crowdfunding or take angel/VC investment isn’t mutually exclusive. Bradford points out that a successful Kickstarter campaign could enhance a startup’s value.
Or perhaps its investment readiness — VCs are wont to follow, after all.