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Jorno inventor Scott Starrett talks to TUAW about Kickstarter and crowd-sourced funding


Scott Starrett is an inventor with a dream -- to manufacture a pocket-sized folding Bluetooth keyboard making it simple for anyone to have access to a "real" keyboard when using an iPhone, iPad or other mobile device. With about a day to go in his Kickstarter fundraising, Starrett still isn't assured of reaching his US$100,000 goal -- the Jorno project is currently about 90 percent funded. I talked with Starrett today to ask him about the Jorno project and crowd-sourced funding in general.

TUAW: With a little over a day to go, I see that you're at close to 90 percent funding. Are you confident that you'll make it to your funding goal?

Starrett: We don't take anything as a given, so we're doing everything we can to get to our funding goal. We are so grateful for the enthusiasm and support of all the donors to date.

TUAW: How long have you been trying to get the Jorno concept funded (i.e., Did you try another source of funding prior to Kickstarter)?

Starrett: We've been pursuing various funding options for about a year.

TUAW: What made you want to try Kickstarter for funding rather than traditional methods (getting friendly with a VC with deep pockets, selling the idea to a manufacturer, etc...)?

Starrett: Kickstarter was really the last resort. We pitched countless VC and "angel" investors, and despite a nice set of early orders and a great design, they all turned us down. Hardware is not considered a "hot" investment right now. Ironically every single VC guy told us he would buy a Jorno unit as soon as it's on the market.

Jorno inventor Scott Starrett talks to TUAW about Kickstarter and crowdsourced funding

TUAW: If funding for Jorno doesn't make it through, will you try again with a lower goal?

Starrett: Yes, we may go back to VC/Angels and see if they can close the gap and then we can try again with a lower goal. It is a great data point that we were able to capture $90K in hypothetical sales over the course of just one month. That is a testament to the need for Jorno and the solution that Jorno offers.

TUAW: Would you consider redesigning Jorno with different components to achieve your design goal of a pocket-sized foldable keyboard, but with a lower cost of manufacturing and hopefully a lower funding requirement?

Starrett: The funding requirement is really related to the fixed cost of plastic molds, not the per-unit-cost. So a lower cost of manufacturing wouldn't help us, since even a simpler design would still have significant tooling/mold costs.

TUAW: Do you have any suggestions for other inventors who may be interested in using Kickstarter, Indiegogo or other crowd-sourced funding sites?

Starrett: Just do everything you can to connect with possible donors. It's easy to get lost on the Kickstarter platform if there is nothing calling attention to your project. Working with the Max Borges Agency was extremely helpful to us in getting the word out.

TUAW: Anything else you'd like to say to TUAW readers?

Starrett: Would love their support if they want to check out our campaign! ( Also, many of us would not have a chance if it were not for crowd-funding -- so thank you for your ongoing enthusiasm for our project and other crowd-funded projects.

Many thanks to Starrett for agreeing to an interview at a stressful point and time, and best of luck to everyone involved in the Jorno project. Be sure to check out our previous Jorno post for a video of the pocketable keyboard in action.

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