Ten great Hong Kong projects made possible by crowdfunding
Local people are using the web to find funds for their ideas, from monastery renovations to smartphone headsets to alfresco Shakespeare
Whether it’s US$10 to make a potato salad (the joke scheme by Ohio native Zack Brown that wound up raising US$55,000 in September last year) or US$100,000 to produce a short film, crowdfunding is now being used to finance projects of all shapes and sizes.
Cinematographer Christopher Doyle, known for his work with director Wong Kar-wai, turned to Kickstarter to complete his Hong Kong Trilogy documentaries.
And, through a 60-day campaign via Hong Kong platform FringeBacker, veteran local journalist Ng Hiu-tung has raised more than HK$4 million to set up an investigative news agency for the city. His FactWire venture is set to begin operations in December.
With sites from Indiegogo to GoFundMe offering easy access to applicants, anyone with a wonderful (or weird) initiative has a chance of securing sponsors.
Here are 10 interesting projects in Hong Kong made possible through crowdfunding.
Ting Wai Monastery
More than 90 years have passed since the Ting Wai Monastery was built in Ma Wo, Tai Po and time has not been kind. Termite infestation and the ravages of weather have rendered major structures such as its Grand Temple and Orchid Garden mostly unusable. Although the administrators lacked funds to make major repairs, they did not want to accept financing deals from columbarium operators and property developers that might compromise their integrity as a peaceful haven for Buddhist study and contemplation. Instead they sought help from the public through FringeBacker. Launched on June 30, the campaign has raised more than HK$1.2 million from over 670 backers – more than double the HK$500,000 initial goal – with a month still before the drive ends. With these funds, Ting Wai administrators will be able to hire engineers and surveyors to properly assess the site and draft a renovation plan.
Visual artist Rachel Ip Hiu-yin drew inspiration from the selfie craze to create a non-profit photobook titled 100 Self-Portraits of Hongkongese. With participants from ordinary folks to professional photographers, the aim was to encourage the public to re-evaluate the purpose and importance of selfies in people’s lives. Besides serving as a social critique, the selfies also provide a unique lens into the personalities of Hong Kong. In partnership with Brownie Publishing, Ip raised more HK$ 25,000 through FringeBacker within a month. The unusual collection of selfies was also presented at an exhibition at PMQ in June.
Dark Age Z
Local game designer and distributor Smoothie Games used Kickstarter to launch a strategic board game pitting armies of a medieval kingdom against marauding zombies. The game is played from the perspective of the king, and its goal is to protect the frontier from attacks by the walking dead. The player who secures the most points by defeating zombies wins. Smoothie opted for crowdfunding as a way to gauge public reaction to its inaugural project, and raised more than US$24,000 from 419 people within a month. The game is now in its final stages of production.
Founded by Martin Kessler, PhoneJoy created a pocket-sized game controller pad that uses Bluetooth technology to connect with any television, monitor tablet or smartphone. The device can also be expanded to slot in a smartphone. Its Kickstarter campaign to produce the controller began in December 2012 and raised nearly US$$70,000 from 1,108 backers in one month. The company won the Best Startup at the 2014 Hong Kong ICT (information, communication and technology) Awards.
XG Virtual Reality Headset
I AM Cardboard, a local company known for producing virtual reality headsets from cardboard, went one step further and created a headset rather like Samsung’s Gear VR, in which a smartphone slots in front of the lenses. A Bluetooth clicker makes for a hands-free experience. The company’s Kickstarter campaign to produce the new headset was launched in January 2015. After a month and a half, more than 1,200 people contributed US$86,248 – four times the initial goal.
Stepping out without an umbrella in a Hong Kong summer, when downpours can appear seemingly without warning, is asking for trouble. Four recent graduates from Polytechnic University have come up with a solution to save you the embarrassment of running from awning to awning with a folded newspaper over your head. Umbrella Here is a simple lighting device that can be slipped on to the end of an umbrella and turned on to signal that the user is willing to share their brolly. When not in use, the light becomes a weather indicator; glowing red when it’s hot, blue when it’s cold and pulsing when it’s raining. The device comes with a mobile app that allows users to check the weather and turn the light on or off. Beyond producing a weather accessory, its creators want to use the device to bring communities closer. The Umbrella Here website enables people who have shared an umbrella to continue conversations and forge new friendships. The project raised almost US$16,000 one month after it launched on Kickstarter in August 2014.
Created by award-winning designer Joe Kwan and entrepreneur Chris Chan, Anicorn watches have an unusual way of showing the time. Replacing regular watch hands with three concentric discs, time is indicated by the alignment of the discs with a small indent at the top of the watch. It became a Kickstarter Staff Pick soon after its launch in October 2014 and raised more than C$50,000 (HK$292,000) within a month.
Anyone who’s ever travelled to a foreign country is likely to have faced the hassle of juggling two phones. A local smartphone accessory company is about to change all that. PIECE is a dual SIM gadget that can hold any card (GSM, EGSM, DCS or PCS) and activate a second number on a phone using Bluetooth technology. The device is the size of a credit card and designed to fit in pockets, wallets or attached to the back of a smartphone. The SIM card adapter also doubles as an anti-theft device that will beep if separated from its phone by more than 10 metres. With two weeks remaining on its Kickstarter campaign, PIECE has drawn pledges totalling more than C$296,000 since it launched in July.
The name says it all: furniture that can be folded away into a book. Hong Kong-based designer Mike Mak created Bookniture in partnership with US design house Plateaus. The multifunctional item was inspired by Mak’s own need for compact furniture in the space-starved environment of Hong Kong. Using an origami structure made of heavy-duty custom paper and inspired by a honeycomb shape, the “book” turns into a cylinder when opened up and can support weights of over a tonne. Bookniture can be used as a chair, table and even stacked to become shelves. The project raised almost US$450,000 within a month of its Kickstarter launch in February 2015.
Shakespeare in the Port
Following a successful FringeBacker campaign last year, the three-and-a-half week outdoor Shakespeare festival held in Cyberport in April again tapped the site for financing. Led by artistic director Meaghan McGurgan, the programme featured classics such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and King Lear as well as productions from local artists. This year the event raised HK$28,200 from 50 backers.