AN inventor from the region has raised more than £135,000 in less than a month to launch his latest creation, thanks to crowd-funding initiative Kickstarter.
County Durham man Craig Rothwell is the brains behind the iControlPad2, an open source controller with a keyboard which is compact and usable on almost any tech device.
The device, which is fully programmable, and has Bluetooth, will now reach the market thanks to donations from supporters all over the world.
Crowd-funding is where inventors and entrepreneurs post pitches for their ideas and products online, often via an uploaded video, and ask for donations to help the project get off the ground.
In return, contributors do not get a share of the company, but the company usually agrees to give them a product or service in return for their contribution, which gets more attractive the more the donor contributes.
Mr Rothwell, 33, turned to Kickstarter to fund his project following disputes with his bank that led to him being forced to return almost £1m of donations from backers keen to support a previous venture.
He said: “We had to pay £5,000 for the bank to monitor us giving money back to our customers. I was told we could not raise money like that because I had not gone through the bank and it was not willing to take liability.
“The bank suggested it might allow us to keep the money, but only if I was willing to sign over my house as a guarantee.
“Ultimately I decided it was just going to force me to give it back and got a law firm involved.
Our lawyers said we could win, but that it would take years to fight. I have to choose battles carefully and I didn’t want to get into a fight with my bank.
“There is no easy way to raise money in the UK without depending on banks.”
Kickstarter is the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. It allows people to pledge money to support projects they would like to see developed. The creators of the project set a funding goal and if it is reached in 29 days, they get to keep the money raised through pledges.
Mr Rothwell said: “The experience is something like having an eBay auction with no reserve, but 100 times more stressful. We basically gambled all the work we have done.
“If Kickstarter failed, it would have been curtains for us, but it worked – the product has been funded by the people who want it. It has been quite good fun for them as they get to be involved in something and they get to follow us as the product is developed.
“The product also has more worth to them as they feel they have helped make it happen instead of just going into a shop and buying it.”
Mr Rothwell plans to turn to Kickstarter again when it comes to getting his next project, the Pandora 2, off the ground.
He expects the process will be much easier the next time round as Kickstarter is to launch in the UK at the end of the month.
For more information about Mr Rothwell’s products, which include the iControl- Pad2 and the Pandora, the world’s first open source gaming console, visit gbax.com