San Diego’s 10 Top-Funded Kickstarter Tech Projects of 2014

Securing venture funding for tech startups has never been easy in San Diego, especially after the great recession came to town in 2008. But in recent years, crowdfunding has opened a new outlet for technology innovation in San Diego and other regional hubs. (Our list of San Diego’s 10 top-funded tech projects on Kickstarter is below.)

When Daniel Lee, Daniel Chesong Lee, and Daniel Synn launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter last November, they hoped to raise $100,000 to help them produce Hush, noise-masking “smart earplugs” they had developed over the previous year. They met their $100,000 goal in five days. When their Kickstarter campaign ended in December, Hush backers had committed a total of $593,255—and validated an idea that originated in an undergrad class for entrepreneurial-minded engineers at UC San Diego.

Hush CEO Daniel Lee

Hush CEO Daniel Lee

As a recent college grad, however, CEO Daniel Lee said he didn’t have the necessary credentials to raise funding from VCs. Lee was able to raise about $150,000 from angel investors in San Diego, but he says crowdfunding was really his only option for raising enough capital to actually begin producing Hush earbuds.

As for the crowdfunding experience, Lee said, “We were pleasantly surprised by the press coverage we got, just by virtue of getting funded on Kickstarter.”

Indeed, technology journalists pay close attention to successfully funded projects in technology and industrial design on Kickstarter, according to John Dimatos, who oversees technology and design projects for the Brooklyn-based company. Even though the crowdfunding platform is primarily focused on creative projects, Dimatos says Kickstarter also has become an online watering hole for the technorati.

John Dimatos

John Dimatos

Because he worked at MakerBot Industries before joining Kickstarter two years ago, Dimatos says he watches how the maker community interacts through the comment sections of Kickstarter projects in certain tech categories. For example, some audio projects, such as wireless speakers and headphones, generate hundreds and even thousands of comments—and serve up interesting conversations about innovation as well as the latest industry gossip, Dimatos said.

It’s a willingness to share ideas and expertise that has benefited Hush, Lee said.

“There are definitely some technically minded people who are making some awesome suggestions” for Hush, Lee said. (There are 340 comments about the Hush project on Kickstarter.) “We have received over 20 e-mails in the past month from people who are trying to improve our product.”

So what’s trending among the Kickstarter projects in San Diego?

We seem to share the same fascination with 3D printers, drones, and personal display technologies that appear on Xconomy’s nationwide list of the top-funded tech projects on Kickstarter in 2014. Many of San Diego’s tech projects on Kickstarter also seem to require a combination of both hardware and software development skills.

Here’s our list of San Diego’s 10 top-funded tech and design projects from 2014:

1) The Pocket Drone started with a $35,000 goal and raised $929,212 from 1,946 backers in March. Developed by AirDroids, and billed as the world’s smallest heavy lift micro-copter, the Pocket Drone is powerful enough to carry a high-quality action camera and folds up smaller than a 7-inch tablet.

2) OwnPhones, with a $250,000 goal, raised almost $767,472 from 3,526 backers in August. OwnPhones is using 3D printing technology to create custom-fitted wireless earbuds. A customer uses OwnPhones’ mobile app to record a video scan of their ears. They upload the video to OwnPhones, which converts the video to 3D data. Customers can select from thousands of styles, colors, and materials to create truly unique earbuds.

Undress3) The Undress set out to raise $22,000, and raised $615,663 from 7,297 backers in November. While apparel might not seem to fit as a technology project, the Undress qualifies as an innovative design that enables a woman to change her clothes in public—like taking off a wetsuit at the beach—without baring all. With several proprietary features, the Undress earns more points for practicality and function than it does as an example of high fashion. The video is worth watching.

4) Hush started with a goal of raising $100,000 and raised $593,255 from 4,415 backers in December. The noise-masking earplugs block out noises to let you sleep and connect by Bluetooth to a smartphone mobile app that plays soothing sounds. The app also can be set to let important calls through and to sound wake-up alarm.

5) Aurora, a dream-enhancing headband, set out with a goal of raising $90,000, and it raised $239,094 from 1,428 backers in January. The headband, created by iWinks, monitors the user’s sleep and plays special lights and sounds during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, promoting what iWinks calls “lucid dreaming.” The company says its headband also can be paired with a smart alarm clock or smartphone app.

Lume Cubes (Credit- Justin Bridal Photography and Magnetic Creative)

Lume Cubes (Credit- Justin Bridal Photography and Magnetic Creative)

6) Lume Cube set a target goal of $56,000 and raised $229,517 from 1,660 backers in December. The Lume Cube is a 1.5-inch cube that shines with 1,500-lumens for photographers and videographers who need an external flash or video lighting. The Lume Cube can be synced with iPhone and Android smartphones, GoPro, and other cameras to adjust the brightness and duration of lighting.

7) XY started with a goal of raising $45,000 and raised $205,121 from 4,091 backers in April. For the absent-minded, the XY team designed a Bluetooth LE-powered tracking tag that syncs with your smartphone and can be easily attached to key rings, laptops, luggage, and other valuables. A smartphone can be synced to multiple tags. The mobile app chimes if you leave an item behind and helps find lost items.

HUD projector mounted outside helmet

HUD projector mounted outside helmet

8) Nuviz, a head-up display (HUD) for full-face motorcycle helmets, set a goal of $185,000 and raised $200,017 from 495 backers in January. The hardware device can be retrofitted on the outside chin bar of helmet, and it uses a liquid crystal on silicon microdisplay to display a bright image on transparent shield in the lower right corner of a rider’s field of view. Nuviz is a joint venture between San Diego’s Holoeye Systems and APX Labs of Washington DC.

9) Nanoleaf Bloom set a $30,000 goal and raised $192,973 from 2,062 backers in September. After successfully funding an energy-efficient light bulb on Kickstarter in 2013, the Nanoleaf team returned in 2014 to make the bulb even more energy efficient. The Nanoleaf Bloom transforms the on-off switch of any light into a dimmer by using a built-in microprocessor in the light and clever programming to dim the 75-watt replacement LED light bulb.

10) Steak Locker planned to raise $68,500, and raised $191,010 from 362 backers in July. Steak Locker combines old world dry aging techniques with modern technology to help foodies dry age steaks from their favorite butcher at home. Founder Nadia Bruno says U.S. prices for dry age steaks currently range from $30 to $50 a pound. The startup company is developing the first commercially available fridge, also known as a state-of-the-art digital hygrometer controller, to professionally and safely “dry age” prime cuts of beef.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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