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Sam Putman wields MakerBeam's hardware

Berkeley, Calif.
Crowdfunding through Kickstarter.com
Amount raised: $17,922
Date launched: August 2009

Sam Putnam and his partners started raising cash just three weeks after coming up with the idea for MakerBeam, an Erector set-like building system that can be used to build robots and other precise machines. They didn't approach investors or banks: Traditional funding would have been complicated because MakerBeam planned to give away the intellectual property for all of its designs.

Instead, the founders turned to Kickstarter, which connects creative projects with an audience willing to pledge money to the ideas. Creators offer donors prizes and incentives, and give Kickstarter 5% of the money raised if the projects are successfully funded.

MakerBeam's promised perks ranged from behind-the-scenes access to the project's development for $1 backers to beams, connectors and institutional sponsorship credit in return for pledges of $1,024 or more.

Pledges came from individuals, businesses and even a few universities. By October they totaled almost $18,000 -- way beyond the company's $10,000 goal. "Good rewards and a good idea are probably the main things we think played into the enthusiasm and success," Putnam says.

MakerBeam is now delivering beams and connectors from its beta production run and is thinking about its next round of funding. The company, still comprising a team of three, is considering going back to Kickstarter for that, Putnam says.

NEXT: Boutique Larrieux

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