Crowdfunding sites, and Kickstarter in particular, have taken thousands of projects and products from concept to reality. The campaigns that have proven the most popular and raised the most cash, according to statistics from Kickstarter and Indiegogo, are a surprising mashup of trend-setting, category-creating and sometimes just plain cool. Case in point -- the Coolest Cooler, a 60-quart cooler with a built-in rechargeable blender, Bluetooth speaker and USB charging port. An earlier version of the cooler failed to make its original Kickstarter goal, but on its second try it set the all-time Kickstarter record, raising over $13 million from over 62,000 backers.
Pebble launched what appears to be the coming smartwatch revolution all the way back in 2012, raising over $10 million on Kickstarter, a record that stood for over two years. Pebble followed up with the Pebble Steel and set the stage for Android Wear and the Apple Watch.
This little Android-powered gaming console quickly raised over $8.5 million on Kickstarter back in the summer of 2012. Since then, it's faced a rocky road plagued with production delays, lackluster reviews and stiff competition from bigger names. Ouya isn't giving up though -- the company recently struck a deal with Xiaomi to bring its games to Xiaomi devices in China.
Neil Young's super-high-quality Pono music player raised over $6 million on Kickstarter with the help of perhaps the most star-studded pitch video ever, featuring dozens of musicians, record executives and music fans endorsing the $400 device that promises to reproduce sound as it was originally heard in the studio.
The Micro is among a new crop of 3D printers looking to make the technology accessible and inexpensive enough for average consumers to print plastic chess pieces and phone cases to their hearts' delight. The notion of having a home 3D printer for as little as $199 enticed almost 11,000 backers to put their money down early to get in line for a Micro. In all, the printer raised over $3.4 million on Kickstarter.
Bragi's Dash is a computer in your ear. The smart Bluetooth headphones connect to your smartphone or tablet, functioning as a fitness tracker with a suite of sensors and a standalone media player when not connected. This gesture-controlled earbud of the future convinced nearly 16,000 Kickstarter backers to give an emphatic thumbs-up, shoveling over $3.3 million into the German company's account.
Unlike the other 3D printer on this list, the Form 1 launched in the fall of 2012 on Kickstarter with the goal of making a high-resolution 3D printer less expensive rather than making a far cheaper, lower-resolution system. About 1,000 backers willing to put down at least $2,300 each was enough to raise just shy of $3 million.
One of the nerdier Kickstarter projects to raise millions, the SCiO is a tiny handheld spectrometer that can be used to perform molecular analysis on all types of objects after the readings are sent to the cloud for processing and the results are spat out in an app. Almost 13,000 backers pledged over $2.7 million in cash to support the dream of a device that can tell you how ripe your avocado is through the peel, confirm that a Tylenol capsule really is Tylenol and much more.
The most recent multimillion-dollar campaign and the first on our list to come from Indiegogo is for one awesome motorcycle helmet. Skully's AR-1 does something like jam all the technology from "Knight Rider" into your headspace. It features a heads-up display, rearview camera and GPS navigation. Backers had the option of putting down a $499 deposit or paying the full price of $1,499. Combined, over 1,900 backers put down over $2.4 million, far beyond the campaign's $250,000 goal.
Though it comes in at No. 10 on our list in terms of crowdfunding dollars raised, the Oculus Rift is probably the biggest crowdfunding success story ever. Less than two years after raising $2.4 million for this next-generation virtual reality headset, the company, Oculus VR, was purchased by Facebook in a $2 billion deal. That's enough cash to buy hundreds of Coolest Coolers for each of the Oculus Rift's original 9,000 backers.