Feb 142012
Alden Saddles Jersey

This is not a picture of the most phallic pinwheel ever.

What do you see when you look at the pitches for Kickstarter projects? Having founded a company before, I see a lot of hard work necessary to make something worth owning, but I’m not sure every budding DIY entrepreneur shares that same feeling.

Next week I fly to Portland to talk to a guy about a bike. Actually a lot of bikes. Given recent non-disclosable developments with this whole suspension system I designed, I’ve been thinking a lot about the viability of a new bike company. Some very serious people I admire and respect have expressed interest in doing something with the design I’ve patented, and I’m humbled and more motivated than ever to develop some bikes. I think I’m just waiting for a fortune cookie that says, “Make bikes, dumbass.”

Like every other company that doesn’t exist yet, this one would conceivably be currently in the “seeking funding” stage. Carbon fiber molds ain’t cheap. Under the circumstances, I’ve been thinking about my old friend, Kickstarter. Could you use Kickstarter to help launch a bike company?

A lot of the bike projects I continue to see on Kickstarter tend toward the thinner definition of “manufacturing.” The t-shirt above, for instance, can be yours for only $60 if you’d like to help fund Alden Seats, a guy’s venture wrapping already produced bicycle saddles in stylish “brogue style” leather, which, one imagines transforms them from boring old “saddles” to luxurious “seats.” Brogue is the new hotness, and these saddles are fetching, if slippery and potentially brick-like.

Alden Brogue Saddle

Likewise, the artisan behind this, Carson Leh, seems like a nice enough fellow. It’s just that most of what I see on Kickstarter has a kind of non-committal quality, whereas I’m talking about actually producing things that would cost a lot of money to develop and a lot of money to buy. Consider Carson’s bio from his project page:

Son of the Pacific Coast, born in Marin County, raised in beautiful Port Townsend Washington and a graduate of Western Washington University. I’m currently enjoying America’s Riviera known as West LA. I spend my summers rafting the great rivers of the west from Arizona to Alaska. When not trying my hands at winemaking, architecture, and everything in-between, you can find me jumping curb cuts on my bike, eating tamales and climbing the waterfalls in Malibu.”

While my politics trend toward “angry-hippie” as much as anything else, Carson strikes me as primarily a young man with a bit of a work ethic issue. I’m apparently old and unhip enough to believe that if you’re quite literally asking people to give you money, you might want to tone down the “my life’s a perpetual vacation” thing a little. But, as indicated, I’m a stickler for accountability, and not entirely at ease with the latest forms of do-it-yourself business. If I were to consider partially funding a major production effort through Kickstarter, I’d just assume I had to be absolutely and unquestionably accountable to my investors. I’d have a hell of a lot to do, and I honestly don’t think it’d leave that much time for exploring “winemaking, architecture, and everything in-between,” and I can guarantee my waterfall climbing skills would go all to hell.

The dynamics of the new DIY economy are unique, though. Consider that one of the comments for the “Alden Seats” project states simply, “Carson…can’t I please have a t-shirt?” Clearly there’s some new form of “meta-freeloading” out there, wherein even asking people to give you money prompts some people to reply asking for a free t-shirt.

So could a new bike with what’s potentially the world’s greatest suspension system be partially funded by the people, for the people? It’s something I’m wondering. What do you think? We’d be talking straight gift certificates redeemable for their full amount. Maybe some t-shirts at a reasonable investment price, but I promise no bullshit poster pamphlets for those who’d donate their hard earned cash to the effort, and I vow, here and now, never to show that angle of a pelican on any t-shirt we’d ever make.

  6 Responses to “The Rorschach Pelican Test”

  1. Thanks for the post on my project! I think you might have read a little too deep into my bio though. Or at least taken what I do in my spare time as what I do will ALL my time. I do have a real 9-5 job, I’m no Trustafarian…..hell I don’t even have health insurance.

    I just received a fortune cookie this week that said “your new project will soon gain momentum” So maybe you will get yours too, think positive…

  2. This young man has more talent, vision and dedication in his little finger than you will ever dream of having. He is 23 years old, he is working in his field of design promptly after graduating from college (one year early) In addition to his “day job” for an accomplished architect, has successfully designed and sold his environmentally sound, hand made bike seat designs and has now done all the legwork necessary to launch a bike seat manufacturing company. What were you doing when you were 23, Mr. Angry Hippie?

  3. I appreciate you taking the time to respond. More than anything, I’m just fascinated with what motivates people to post projects on Kickstarter and to contribute to those projects. Though you sound like you really are a very hard working guy, I actually think the tone of your bio probably drives more people to contribute to your project, whereas a more somber, “nose-to-grindstone” tone might not be as well received. I really think that’s probably the case, which makes Kickstarter drastically different from classical venture capital stuff, and I’m genuinely fascinated with that. It sounds like you’re putting all you have into this, and I can certainly respect that. If you find the production runs expansion begins to get traction for you, I’d also be happy to make introductions for you at any of the major U.S. bike distributors. I have a whole lot of years working with those guys. Here’s hoping fortune cookies are right for both of us.

  4. Carson’s been in touch with me directly, too. I’m sure he’s a fine, hard-working lad, and he certainly has a dedicated if slightly reactionary support network. Fortunately, I keep most of my talent in my middle finger, so it’s not really a fair comparison, but he seems like a dedicated guy, and a little similar to me, actually (I graduated from college a year early, too, and finished grad school in two years). For what it’s worth, I was an English professor when I was 23. Then I started my own company and sold it, and stuff like that, but, honestly, none of that ended up requiring much talent. I drew a cartoon of my family for my wife’s birthday once, and I’m probably more proud of that than anything.

  5. Hey! I am the person who asked for the t-shirt … not because I wanted to scam a freebie … but because I gave to the business at one of the higher levels which didn’t include a t-shirt as an incentive. So, be careful when you make judgements and assumptions. Oh, another assumption you make is that Carson is not hardworking …. WRONG! I have known him for years, and work ethic is one thing he has plenty of. Good Luck Carson.

  6. Thanks for writing and hope you got your t-shirt.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.