Local companies get a kickstart with crowdfunding

Jan 10, 2014
Local companies get a kickstart with crowdfunding
Taylor McClenny of ParasitX explains his company's BeerBug brewing technology in a Kickstarter video.

When Taylor McClenny and the team at ParasitX wanted to take their newly developed digital device for craft brewers to a higher level, he turned to the website Kickstarter.com to help with funding.

It was a success.

They set a goal to raise $25,000 in 30 days. Their project was so well-received that they raised more than $59,000 in a month.

"It was pretty awesome to receive such a positive response," he said.

The Newport News-based company invented BeerBug, which uses an innovative sensor system to accurately measure, record and report the specific gravity, alcohol content and temperature of fermenting beer. It goes a step further to record the information in a cloud server so the data can be accessed from anywhere.

The company's three founders include Yorktown resident Jim Vogeley, who gained notoriety as the founder of nView, which made the early LCD projectors in the 1980s. Other founders are Vermont resident Dave Wright and McClenny, a recent Christopher Newport University graduate who serves as general manager.

Kickstarter began in 2009 as a way for independent films, games, music, art, design and technology projects to be funded by people who have an interest in helping small projects succeed.

Donors can help financially on a small scale by pledging as little as $1. The creators keep 100 percent of their projects.

Those who help fund them do not gain financially, according to the website, other than to receive a small reward as an incentive to give.

Those seeking funds make a plea via short video presentation that explains their project. A timeline and requested amount must be established.

ParasitX offered an incentive of a company T-shirt to those who gave at least $25.

McClenny said that proved to be popular.

McClenny said the Kickstarter process did create challenges for the team.

When they were having sensor problems, the pressure was on to solve them quickly.

"We had to solve it because we had 400 backers breathing down our necks," he said.

"That took a lot of thought and resources."

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Adrienne Adams, founder and CEO of the Green Gi, in Hampton, is also seeking a kickstart from the crowdfunding website.

She is in the midst of creating a white kimono used for Brazilian jiujitsu that is made from hemp. This is Adams' second product.

"A lot of people have been asking for it. But I need to get the [financial] backing before the release," she said.

Adams is working with Norfolk-based Poco Productions to create her video presentation, which is in the final editing stage.

She said working with a professional video production company has been valuable.

"They know how to make it professional. They know the tricks of the trade, like how to avoid audio feedback or have an echo. And I don't enjoy being in front of the camera. They were able to help with that."

A challenge for Adams was writing her script to get the important elements across in the short time.

"It needs not to be longer than two to three minutes and still get the essence of the main points across," she said. "Everything cannot be shared because then you lose your audience. But I needed to tell why my idea is awesome and why I need help getting started."

Right now she is seeking royalty-free music to go with her video presentation.

"I don't have the money to spend to pay royalty for music," she said.

On the business side Adams is working to determine the amount she needs to raise as well as incentives for contributing certain amounts.

"I am thinking of offering a 100 percent hemp T-shirt for contributions that are over something like $30 to $35 that will only be available through a Kickstarter contribution," she said.