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Business and Economy

In Wake of Kickstarter Changes, Rockport Entrepreneur Sets Maine Record

Keith Shortall

ROCKPORT, Maine - A Rockport entrepreneur has set a Maine record for fundraising on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. But he wouldn't have been able to use Kickstarter at all, if the company hadn't changed its rules this past summer.  

Audio from video: "My name is John Galley. I'm a part owner of Orion4Sight sunglasses, and we're here with our Kickstarter campaign to ask for your support."

Click on the Kickstarter page for Orion4Sight - that's 4Sight with the numeral "4" - and you'll see a video of John Galley, talking about his company's sunglasses. "These have been mission-tested by elite special forces commands of the U.S. government, such as Navy Seals and Rangers," Galley says.

Galley and his partner have been selling sunglasses to the military for years, and now want sell a similar version to consumers. But they needed funding to get production underway.

"Our choice was either to postpone this consumer product initiative, or I would need to go out and borrow money, or even sell some interest in the company, and we didn't want to do those things," Galley says. "And the wonderful thing about crowdfunding is it's an opportunity to raise capital to help produce a product, and the way in which you do it is your supporters essentially pre-order the product itself."

Credit Keith Shortall / MPBN
John Galley wearing a pair of Orion4Sight sunglasses.

Here's the thing:  At first, Galley didn't think he could use Kickstarter. He'd already checked out the site, and found that sunglasses were a prohibited category. He was exploring other options.

But then, he heard Don Gooding of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development on MPBN's Maine Calling, talking about a change in Kickstarter's rules.  "So Kickstarter, very recently, I just read the article, they have changed so they are no longer approving or disapproving projects," Gooding said. "I think that's a combination of them scaling, as well as a lot of competition in the marketplace."

"I immediately went on the Web to see if, possibly, sunglasses were now permitted, and lo and behold they were," Galley says. "And the rest of the story is becoming history."

Galley launched the Kickstarter campaign on Aug. 12. It's been going well.

"It has been nothing short of unbelievable," he says. "We had no idea it would become this sort of a monster. I'll just give you the latest statistics:  We've been at this now for 25 days and we still have one week left in the campaign. And we now have 1,830 backers, as they are called. And because some of them have ordered more than one pair, we now have orders for 2,250 pairs, and the gross revenues that we have in this 25-day period now stand at $214,619 dollars."

Mike McGregor, Kickstarter's vice president of communications, says the company did change its rules in June, after concluding that they were sometimes confusing. "And so we took a long, hard look at ourselves and thought, 'OK, how can we make these as simple and clear as possible?' " McGregor says. "And, in that process, we kind of went through them and, OK, maybe some of those things didn't need to be rules."

Kickstarter does still have rules, requiring that products' claims be honest and clearly presented, and don't offer financial incentives or fund raise for charity. McGregor says Kickstarter wants to provide a place where projects can speak for themselves.

Audio of Galley from video: "Your images will be crisper in their appearance. Colors will be more saturated and accurate."

John Galley's sunglasses clearly did. His advice for other entrepreneurs considering Kickstarter? "You have to have a good product," Galley says. "You can't have something that's just ordinary, that's not going to get the necessary traction to attract support. So you have to have a good product, and you have to have what I call a hook. It's not just good enough to have an ordinary product, it has to be something special to attract attention."

In this case, a great deal of attention. Galley says the money raised on Kickstarter will not only fund production of Orion4Sight sunglasses, but will help the company develop a line of prescription sunglasses.