Dragon Innovation Kicks Off Crowdfunding, 2 Projects Rocket Ahead

Dragon Innovation, one of the key players in Boston’s new wave of hardware entrepreneurship, is showing off some early success with its new crowdfunding website.

The site went live today, and two of the initial projects—which range from high-tech to basic tools—are hits with customers after just a few hours.

Tessel, a microcontroller with add-on sensors that can be linked to the Web, exceeded its $50,000 goal Thursday morning, tapping into a crowd of developers and tinkerers who want to control real-world devices.

One guy in the promo video, for example, said he used the JavaScript-programmable device to turn his home-brewed beer fridge on and off automatically, based on a thermometer reading, so it would keep the burgeoning beer at the right temperature. Tessel is made by Technical Machine of Needham, MA.

Ollie, a credit card-sized steel or titanium tool, was about to reach its $1,000 goal as of noon. Ollie boasts metric and standard hex-nut wrenches, a spoke wrench for bikes, a straightedge ruler and protractor, and bottle opener, among other features. It’s made by Wayland, MA-based Onehundred.

There are several other projects in the initial batch for Dragon Innovation, including a Bluetooth- and wifi-based wearable baby monitor built into a onesie and a device that makes tablet-based text jump around so treadmill runners can read more easily.

Dragon Innovation is also offering Pebble smartwatches, which are on sale elsewhere for the same $150 price (including the Best Buy down the street from my office). Pebble is already one of the biggest crowdfunding success stories out there, raising millions of dollars on Kickstarter to pay for its production runs.

Instead, the offer is a little thank-you to Dragon Innovation, which helped Pebble get its device built overseas. That’s where this story gets a little more interesting—Dragon Innovation, founded by early iRobot executive Scott Miller, is a manufacturing consultancy that lends its expertise in working with Chinese companies to up-and-coming hardware startups.

The new crowdfunding site is a way for Dragon Innovation to get its clients some early financing and market-testing, without handing over that part of the process to outside companies like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Miller, also a partner in the Boston hardware accelerator Bolt, does note that Dragon Innovation clients who use the crowdfunding site aren’t locked into using his company if they get enough money to build their project.

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