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The human love for invention began when our ancestors first created tools millions of years ago. Since then, we've invented ways to control fire and, in the last few thousand years, we've upped our game by inventing the wheel, the lever, and the computer.
Modern inventions involve more than rubbing two sticks together. New gadgets require manufacturing processes and machines; new video games require 3D assets, developers, and designers; new movies require cast, crew, and special effects.
Fortunately, inventors can now turn to the Internet for crowdfunding the costs of creation. When thousands of supporters each invest a small amount of money, that money can add up into enough capital to bring a new product into the world.
Diagram of crowdfunding model. Six people are shown next to a dollar bill, and arrows flow from the dollar bills to a large stack of money in the middle.
Why are supporters willing to part with their money? For crowdfunded gadgets, supporters can be the first ones to own the gadget, and often at a discounted price. For crowdfunded movies and games, the rewards could be anything from autographed prints to an opportunity to meet the creators. Crowdfunding campaigns may offer larger rewards for higher levels of pledged money, so that they can both bring in a long tail of small pledges and also benefit from a few supporters with more cash to give.
Screenshot of 3 fundraising campaigns on IndieGoGo. The first is for a gravity-powered light, the second for a science comedy web series, and the third for an animal-themed video game.
Crowdfunded projects on IndieGoGo with a range of funding goals.
Crowdfunding is also a way to raise funds for charitable causes, where the reward for donors is simply the joy of giving back. For example, DonorsChoose.org is a crowdfunding platform that empowers K-12 teachers to raise funds for classroom needs. The teachers need much less funds than inventors, but for their students, a few hundred or thousand dollars from strangers can make a big difference.
Screenshot of a campaign on DonorsChoose.org where a teacher is raising money to buy multicultural literature for their classroom.
A DonorsChoose.org campaign for multicultural books.
🔍 In May of 2019, the US Federal Trade Commission issued a warning for consumers to avoid crowdfunding scams, campaigns that take money from supporters but don't deliver on their promise.start superscript, 1, end superscript Research some crowdfunding scams and reflect on how you might avoid sinking your own money into a scam.

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