What startup projects have you led or participated in, self, VC or crowd-funded?

Continuing the discussion from What have you crowdfunded?:

Since we are trying to keep the topics tidy, that was a good question from @ihermit2. I have not been in from the ground up on anything. Closed a school down once. Not fun. Built some buildings, but no commercial enterprise. How about you all?


Not complaining because it’s probably easier for the vast majority of members, but y’all are really messing with the file structure in my head. I have simple FIFO memory.


When I started at my current position 18 years ago, it was just me and my direct supervisor in my Department, and she had just 1 season of experience ahead of me. There were about 50 people in our NY Office in total at the time, and about 500 in one office in Dublin.

She moved on to other things many years ago, but she, others, and I, have grown the group from us 2 to over 50, in 5 locations (including overseas), our NYC Office of 50 has grown to well over 1,000 (and expanded to several other cities), and the Dublin Office has grown several times over (and also expanded to several other cities & countries).

It’s an amazing thing to grow a business.

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I launched an audio company 9 years ago with a stack of credit cards and a home equity loan in our guest bedroom. In a world filled with cheap, disposable plastic, our goal was to create an environmentally ‘neutral’ consumer electronics company. We began with wood cabinets, ideal for sound reproduction, look absolutely beautiful and were 100% renewable. We replaced 85% of the plastic with wood and planted 100 trees for each tree used in production. Currently we’re environmentally ‘negative’ - we’ve offset more carbon then we ever created.

We added earphones in 2010…

…and compact bluetooth sound systems in 2012…

The highpoint for Vers was placement in both AT&T stores AND 30 or so Apple Stores for holiday 2014!

In the end, consumer electronics is a very difficult business to make money in, even if you have an awesome product like ours - China manufacturers are very difficult (but necessary) to work with (Dan has hinted at this), large retailers as brutal beyond words and our investors were looking for a path to a payout.

I’m proud of what we accomplished - we did what we set out to do!


I imagine that @joker would be one who has started something.

I haven’t gone entrepreneurial myself. But I am hoping some of my students do so. First year of my class someone made a POV dome clock. Second year had no likely contenders for starting any businesses, the standout project was a laser cutter (but I don’t see the group trying to compete with Glowforge), this last year I have a group that just met with investors for essentially a supercharged Fitbit.

So… I am going to read Hot Seat and do some other investigating on how to encourage people who want to run a startup. Would be fun to watch companies grow from my course.


I started my first real company with a couple of friends in 1997, we offered a bunch of services like 3D modeling and rendering for architects, and touch screen kiosks for trade shows (back when trade show work was good money). I ended up as the last partner standing after a few years and basically continued on as a freelancer, adding web development to the mix.

In 1999 I did a venture funded software startup that helped people with health conditions find clinical trials that were looking for participants. The dotcom bust killed that one and I swore I would never do it again.

In 2009 I changed my mind and worked with a designer building a company doing just-in-time printing and delivery of “do it yourself” illustrated story books. I wrote a lot of code in Flash to make it all work, and my partner created a ton of cool characters one could arrange and write stories about. Then Apple declared Flash to be dead and we were never able to raise any money (that might not be the only reason…). We even tried a kickstarter campaign but it failed to fund.

I swear I will never do that again. :slight_smile:


Part 2: I started a second company with my then 15 year old son. The big idea for this one: manufacture within 100 miles of our Boston HQ (no more China), launch everything we invent on Kickstarter (no more credit cards or banks). We’ve run 10 successful projects so far, created 60 SKU’s that shipped out to 65 countries - lots of fun!

We were debt free and cash positive on our first day of business, a great entrepreneurship lesson for my son …and have gotten to work with some truly amazing manufacturing talent in our neighborhood; all made possible by our awesome backer friends on Kickstarter.

Looking forward to integrating Glowforge into our process…


The one that speaks most of me… Years ago, four Government engineers developed a new technology critical to certain Defense and Aerospace industries. After seeing the impact of their efforts, three of the engineers decided to leave the Government lab and start a tech company clear across the Country. They spent some months trying to convince the fourth to join them. Three became multi-millionaires at about 35 years old. I am still working at that same Government lab. But I got a nice plaque.


@jacobturner Yes, I started my side business of doing custom playing cards aimed at the collector market (yes, there are collectors of anything and everything) in 2011 via Kickstarter. At the time, funding of playing cards was a very new thing and there were only 5 or 6 previous projects on there. Now, I think there are close to 2,000.

I am considered an “old timer” at this point and sell a variety of playing cards and related accessories via my website (Encarded Playing Card Co). Through a lot of careful planning and hard work I’ve been fortunate to be profitable the entire time and generally sell out everything I make, so I guess in some small way I’ve been doing things right. I even incorporated last year. :smile:

I have several thousand loyal customers and, in the case of my last limited edition project, have enough pent up demand that I sold out my run in a day. I have to say, that was pretty fun to watch happen.

The Glowforge is going to be a really big part of what I do, as I have a serious need for precision cutting and engraving of paper, engraving of wood and acrylic and being able to customize things in very small runs. To date I’ve had to send all that out to eye-wateringly pricey third parties which has made me hesitant to really explore my creative options. With the GF I will be able to freely try crazy ideas at will and come up with some very cool and limited items for my loyal following.


Started a software company in the early '80s that made a modem program for the Commodore 64 that could download files, a rarity at the time. Distributed the program on cassette tape! Wrote it in machine language, byte by byte. Then developed a program that allowed two people on two C64s to simultaneously draw in one graphics image, using joysticks (there were no mice for the C64). Business halted when it came time to get serious with my grad degree. Resurrected the business a decade later as an art business.


I am currently trying to turn my hobby making into positive cash flow and finally have the product that just might do it for me.

Right now there is no kick starter or third mortgage to jump start it. I’m just trying to build it with sweat equity.

The things I’ve learned in the first month about my product:
*Putting a demo unit in someones hands and letting them use it has a huge conversion rate.

  • Photos and descriptions, not so much.
  • People that want this sort of thing often can be up sold, thus I am desperately working on 2.0 that will have a lot more potential for custom work.


Since putting it in peoples hands it what is selling it I will be looking to possibly put it into some local shops as well as try to be ready to do some kind of smallish boothed/tabled show by fall.


Statistically, your first startup will fail.

Mine did.

My sister had the transcription skills and I was a good sidekick, I guess. The plan was to do a pretty book including the transcription of a funeral. A funeral highlights all the best things about a person - the highlights and essential dates. A succinct history of a life. Then add photos, art, and anything else, to create a personal history.

Marketing was a problem. succinct explanation of what we offered was a problem. Our inexperience was a problem. We weren’t efficient with our spending and we didn’t make enough to get it into profit.

My sis counts that experience as tuition and now runs two successful small businesses: a licensing company for local artists and a printing etsy.

I haven’t yet returned to the entrepreneur efforts.


So, you basically hired out a photographer/journalist to a funeral, and produced a biography for the departed?


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I, along with a few friends, started an REO real estate company shortly before the housing bubble burst in 2008. By the time we were 2 years old we had almost 100 employees and were the premiere purchaser of foreclosed homes from Fannie Mae, as well as a number of other large banks.It was a real eye opener to work that high up in such a huge industry. You get to see things you couldnt even imagine. We purchased homes as low as $1 a piece - sometimes whole neighborhoods for pennies on the dollar, saw towns that looked like they were straight out of mad max, boats in streets, homeless mansions, and the list goes on and on.

Luckily we were in a position to try to right the wrongs a lot of the banks had made. We put a lot of people back in their homes after the banks foreclosed on them, and found others even better homes. At the end of the day in so many cases, the only victims in these situations ended up being the banks who took advantage of people. That made the job worth even more to me.


Set a tape recorder by the microphone. Transcribed and then added photos and anything else the client wanted included. They provided most photos and stuff, we did go get the obituary from the local paper.
I was pretty pleased with the final product for the few that we did.

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My brother-in-law in the audio-visual business had a flurry of funeral homes setting up multimedia presentations for funerals that included high-definition projector with motorized big screen, surround audio and internet streaming for those unable to attend - and of course the option to purchase a DVD of the ceremony.
Quite impressive.

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Some of you have backed a LOT of Kickstarter and similar campaigns. It’s great to support fellow entrepreneurs. But from what I have read some are backing products that they believe are too good to be true, or have little chance of delivery. You might want to check out the Pavlok bracelets. They are designed to give you a 255V shock to correct bad behavior.

From Pavlok website: “Pavlok utilizes Pavlovian conditioning — it releases a mild electric stimulus while users do bad habits. It can be triggered automatically (via a smart phone) or manually (by pressing a button).”

I read today that they are trying to work out details of how to link the bracelet to your bank accounts. It the balance goes below a preset level, you will definitely know it.


Reminds me of a certain Cheers episode

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My projects are a little different than those that have been mentioned here. I’m a part of a Pirate Singing Group known as Scales and Crosstones. We have successfully Kickstarted two different CD Projects.

The first time we did it was certainly eye-opening. Second time was better, and we hope to improve our A/V skills more for the third time around.

To take a look at both projects, you can click here.

(I’m the guy with long hair and red doublet)