Who’s Who: Designer taps social networks to finance invention

EVERETT — Hunched over his new Apple iPad tablet, Bernie Graham thought there had to be a more comfortable way to use the cool device.

The project manager for a construction company in North Bay, Ontario, eventually posted his ideas at Quirky.com, a

website whose motive is to design a product a week from ideas its users submit.

That’s where Graham, 47, met Jim Young, a 38-year-old Everett industrial designer and owner of his own home-based design firm, James Arthur Young Design. Young said he and Grah

am admired each other’s idea submissions on Quirky.com. Graham sent a message to Young last June.

Graham’s idea was to make a mount that held the iPad on his thigh, allowing him to type with both hands. With their fifth and final prototype, Graham and Young devised a mount that’s true to Graham’s original vision. The rubber-backed leg mount features a ball socket with an adhesive pad that attaches to the iPad, so users can place the device at whatever angle is comfortable and remove it from the pad without leaving marks. It also holds other tablets and e-readers at an angle on a desktop with grooved slots in the legs. It folds into the size of a wallet.

They call it PadPivot.

It’s pretty slick, but what amazes Graham and Young most is how much buzz PadPivot is generating online.

“You wouldn’t believe how many Japanese Twitter fans we have,” Graham said. “It’s getting some legs.”

Even though Young and Graham met at Quirky.com, the website rejected their idea for PadPivot. They still wanted to proceed with manufacturing, but tooling costs for the plastic molds were the stumbling block. Young figured they’d need at least $10,000 to make it happen.

“Then we stumbled upon this Kickstarter,” Young said.

Kickstarter.com bills itself as the world’s largest online funding platform for small projects such as PadPivot. Think of it as Facebook meets venture capital.

On its website, Kickstarter says it’s “a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors. We believe that a good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide, and a large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.”

Kickstarter uses all-or-nothing funding so no money changes hands until projects are fully funded. That means less risk for project solicitors and their individual backers should pledges fall short.

On Jan. 14, Young and Graham posted PadPivot at Kickstarter.com with what Young thought was a conservative goal of raising a minimum $10,000 in 60 days to keep the project rolling — maybe $15,000 or $20,000 if they got lucky. Young said lots of family and friends in the Quirky.com online community pledged $1,000 the first day.

Then Crunch Gear reviewed PadPivot two days later. After that, he said, “the pledge number was going up by thousands of dollars. We made our goal by Friday (Jan. 21).”

Kickstarter.com will release full funding for PadPivot on March 14. As of Feb. 8, 1,659 backers had pledged $69,047.

What about all the extra money? Young said it will first go to fulfilling Kickstart pledges and shipping product. With 1,640 pledges of $25 or more, Young and Graham are committed to making at least 1,925 PadPivots.

He and Graham will be able to pay for the booth at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco, where they were able to pitch PadPivot in the “indy spotlight” usually reserved for software developers. It’s also where Young and Graham met face to face for the first time.

“It’s interesting how we’re doing this through social networking,” Graham said.

The money may even allow a trip to Asia, where PadPivot will be assembled. Young said Graham’s brother-in-law will act as their representative with whatever Asian manufacturer they pick.

Young said PadPivot will have a retail price of $30 to $35 when it goes on sale. He hasn’t talked with the Apple Store about selling PadPivot there, but a couple of other retailers are interested in carrying it, he said.

Young said PadPivot has given him the exposure he wanted as a talented industrial designer, enough so that he wonders if it might be time to move his home office into the unfinished daylight basement and hire some help.

“The exposure is bringing me more work,” he said.

Young said he and Graham will talk about whether to do another project together or a followup to PadPivot. Does Graham the inventor have any fresh ideas in the pipeline?

“Not that I can say!” he said.

Learn more

Watch a video of how PadPivot works or make a pledge at Kickstart.com: kck.st/gmzC2U.1BBFB4C0

See Jay Young’s other design projects at jay-design.com.

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