Tech Startups in Arkansas Look to Web For Funding

As young, technologically minded entrepreneurs prepare their businesses for startup, many are turning to crowd-funding to scare up elusive capital.

One such successful crowd-funded startup is Quintessential Universal-Building Device of Little Rock. QU-BD (pronounced “cubed”) manufactures 3-D printing technology, including both parts and entire units.

QU-BD printers are intended to be mainly for personal use and compete with the popular MakerBot products. QU-BD sells three sizes of personal printers, the largest of which can create an object the size of an average person’s head. The printers range in price from $799 to $1,699.

Nathan Meyers, one of the co-owners, said Kickstarter provided a “primary blasting-off point.”

“We used it as a marketing platform for getting our product to mass production,” he said. “The demographics of people that get on that website is they’re younger and have disposable income and good jobs. It was a great way for us to be able to go out into the public realm without spending too much money on advertising.”

The team set a goal of $5,000, and the project ended up being funded for $73,361. Most backers received extruder parts for 3-D printers designed by QU-BD.

QU-BD didn’t rely on Kickstarter for the whole project. Before the campaign, Meyers and his team already had a warehouse, a mill, a lathe and tooling to machine their products. The team also marketed elsewhere.

“We actually went to a maker’s fair,” Meyers said. “It was basically a trade show for small, independent businesses that manufacture products. About 100,000 were attending, and it was about 30 days before the Kickstarter campaign. So people were already expecting us to do that, and we had about $10,000 in sales before day one.”

So far, QU-BD sales are rising after an initial boom-slump following the Kickstarter campaign, Meyers said. He said QU-BD is also selling its extruder parts to other 3-D printer manufacturers.

“So it’s been really great. We’ve been able to get our competition to buy our stuff,” he said.

Retrocade

In Sherwood, a group is working on crowd-funding a venue featuring classic arcade games. The Z82 Retrocade is a project envisioned by Daniel Solis and Terry South, both of whom have repaired arcade games professionally for many years.

Like QU-BD, the Retrocade project already has several elements in place. For example, Solis and South won’t need to buy games: Their warehouse in Sherwood is already full of more than 100 classic game cabinets. About 10 of them — including mainstays like Ms. Pac-Man, Centipede, Asteroids and Missile Command — are fully restored. Solis said the space could feature about 50 games once they are restored.

The audience is there as well. Each month, the Classic Gaming Association meets at the warehouse to play. (Two members are actually competing for the state record on Donkey Kong.)

Essentially, Solis and South want to have a space where gamers can play the games whenever they want. Unlike regular arcades, visitors wouldn’t need to bring a stack of quarters to the Retrocade. They would pay a flat fee and all of the games would be available in “free-play” mode.

The two men have a business plan that basically needs the Retrocade to break even.

“Money’s been tight, though, so we started the IndieGogo campaign,” Solis said.

He said IndieGogo was selected over Kickstarter because the former allows the funding to go toward the project even if it doesn’t reach its goal.

As of this writing, the Retrocade campaign had about $800 raised of its $45,000 goal. The biggest problem, Solis said, is that the project isn’t able to obtain out-of-state support, since the rewards of investing are useful only to locals.

“There was no sense in giving away trinkets like tokens,” Solis said. “It had to be local.”

To that end, they have been publicizing their ideas at local conventions and hobby stores.

Solis noted that even if the project doesn’t reach its IndieGogo goal, it won’t be off the table. The pair is determined to make the Retrocade a reality.

“It will work,” Solis said.