Crowdfunding has given us some great success stories over the years such as Pebble, Oculus (now owned by Facebook), and Misfit. But it is better suited for side projects or bootstrapped startups struggling to raise funds for building a product, and certainly not for an e-commerce behemoth with billions of dollars in its coffers. Yet, Amazon – with a market cap of over $1.65 trillion dollars at the time of writing this – is doing just that by launching a new initiative called Build It that is essentially crowdfunding in disguise.
The plan is simple. In Amazon’s own words – a product will only be built if it meets pre-order goals in a specific interval (30 days, as per Amazon’s FAQ section). But there’s a small difference here. You have to show your interest in a product without paying a cent, and you’ll only be charged if the product actually gets built. The pledged amount will be deducted from your bank account once the product ships.
Amazon will use the platform to make experimental products that stand the risk of failing if launched as mass-market devices. So, it’s a win-win situation for both Amazon and its customers. The first three products Amazon is making as part of its Build It initiative are a Smart Cuckoo Clock, a Smart Nutrition Scale, and a Smart Sticky Note Printer, all of which have set a deadline of March 19 to meet the pre-order goals.
The Smart Cuckoo Clock, priced at $79.99, looks like a regular clock with a mechanical cuckoo and pendulum. But it can be paired with Alexa to let you set timers and alarms via voice commands, and see the countdown on its LED display. It will sync with a compatible Echo device and is powered by four C batteries.
With an asking price of $34.99, the Smart Nutrition Scale will tell you details such as calorie count, carbs, and sugar content of food items you weigh on it. All the information from the scale will be displayed on a paired Echo Show.
The third product from Amazon’s Built It initiative is the Smart Sticky Note Printer, which lets you print notes such as shopping lists by just asking Alexa to do so. Notably, it won’t require any ink or toner to print your notes, but you will have to buy the sticky paper rolls separately. This one costs $89.99 and sounds like a useful device to put on your kitchen counter or fridge.