I just backed a new project on Kickstarter that I consider a fascinating experiment. Who knows how well it will work, but if you are interested in how Crowdfunding is changing the landscape of funding early stage ventures, science projects, and projects at the intersection of art and technology, it is worth checking out the Dragon Empire project on Kickstarter, and the companion Lightning Gun project website.
Adam Weigold, who is an Australian-born laser physicist turned entrepreneur based in San Francisco (so someone I can definitely identify with), has the long term goal of developing a novel new technique that will prevent terrorists from shooting down planes with shoulder mounted missiles. The underlying science, which he calls Laser Powered EMP (LEMP) is as yet far from completely proven, but is based on what appear to be sound concepts. As Adam freely admits, this is basically a science project, but one that has huge potential for society, and most likely a pretty sizable commercial potential too.
This is not something that would be funded by the Venture Capital world in its current form, and in past years it would likely languish indefinitely in some scientific never never land unless it was picked up by either an academic research group, or a large aerospace contractor as an internal development project. In the brave new world of crowd funding, it seems like there may be a new option, and this is what Adam is exploring in a very creative way with his Kickstarter project.
Rather than immediately trying to fund a science project using crowd funding, Adam has first gone off and written the first few chapters of a science fiction book, called the Dragon Empire, about the near future, LEMP weapons being used freely in combat, and an invasion of the USA by Chinese forces! His current Kickstarter campaign is actually designed to fund completion and publication of this book, and in the process to build enthusiasm and interest for the actual Lightning Gun science project.
As Adam tells it, he is really trying to turn science fiction into reality with the help of the crowd. And there is a planned “next step” in his financing campaign, which I am not supposed to reveal just yet. When you learn about it, I think you will agree with me it is also a pretty creative idea.
The reason I find crowd funding so exciting is because of the potential for new approaches like this to changing the world, that could not have easily happened in prior times. I am really enthusiastic about this idea, and am hoping Adam will meet his initial funding targets and move to Part II of the master plan.
In case you are wondering, I bought the Hoodie. 🙂