Charles Davis

Crowd funding websites are still fairly new to many people. If you are not familiar with them, a simple explanation is that they are sites that people can submit their projects to and ask the general public to send them money. While new rules coming into force soon will allow you to obtain an equity, the current mode is outright donations or the chance to make an advance purchase of an item. Most of the original crowd funding sites where for musicians, writers and other creative types. Soon inventors were looking for start up funding and charities were looking for donations.

Big business is now involved as well and it is being accepted as a means to raise funding. Forbes magazine has even done feature articles on how to get crowd funding. In 2013 an estimated $5.1 Billion was crowd funded online.  The scuba diving industry and closely related items have also turned to crowd funding some successful, some not.

The small Pacific Ocean country of Palau is taking big steps to protect its environment. Two years ago, it teamed up with its neighbors and created a regional shark sanctuary covering 5 million square kilometers. Earlier this year, the country shocked the world by banning commercial fishing within it 200 mile economic zone.  Palau’s waters are home to over 1,000 species of tropical fish, and their new national marine sanctuary will cover approximately 600,000 square kilometers, an area about the size of France. The country's constitution requires leaders to “take positive action to conserve a beautiful, healthful and resourceful natural environment.” They seem to be following that mandate. However, Palau's plan had a major problem. They own only one patrol boat to enforce the marine park regulations. Like so many others, Palau turned to crowd funding and it been reported that they successfully raised $100,000 to purchase drones and other monitoring equipment.

An established woman's watch company, the Abingdon company is a boutique business that has a narrow niche. They design and manufacture fashionable, functional watches for women aviators.  For the last two years they have been researching and designing a new watch to expand their market to female scuba divers. They have designed a watch they named Marina and state that it easily stands out as a rare and one-of-a-kind entry in the woman's dive watch market. The companies goal is to keep the final retail price of the watch, which will be available in seven colors, below the $1,000 mark. To meet that target amount for their initial production of 500 watches they need to raise $63,000 by their kickstarter campaign. Backers at different levels can get different incentives. There were ten offers of Getting a free watch for a $450 pledge, they have already been taken. They still have a distance to meet their goal but they are doing well so far.

An underwater film producer did not do as well. A crowd fund project for the first three episodes of a television series called “Around The World Under The Sea” did not meet its goal. The project was for the production of a series that showed the variety of marine life in different parts of the world. They wanted to raise $50,000 for the project but fell short having only $50 in pledges.

UK-based SCP Marine Innovation created an equity crowd fund campaign. They were willing to give up about 10% of the company to raise about ₤72,000. The goal was to put into production and sales their “x2 Underwater Jet Pack”.  The device used arm mounted thrusters, controlled by thumb push buttons. The power is by a lithium battery-based technology, digital motors and wireless technology. The company got off to a good start but failed to meet its goal. A promotional video showed the prototype in use. They had hope to sell the jet back for £3,500 ($5,700).

A project that met only a part of its goal was a new dive light, called the SWES dive light. Sea Water Energy System (SWES) uses a new type of fuel cell that creates electricity from sea water. The dive lights will be available in one LED (110 Lumen) or three LED (300 Lumen) configurations. The lights have been tested to 100 meters. When switched to the on position the light will come on and stay on when in contact with salt water. No moving parts and no batteries, with four hours of use a day, the light would need to be serviced once every three or four years to replace the anode. The dive lights are not the company's goal, but are more of a proof of concept. The designer have created a motorcycle battery size SWES that produces 98 VDC. Their goal is to create electric boats powered by seawater.

Last year a company named Dive Nav wanted to raise $20,000 for a new product. Bluebuddy is a device that records depth, time and temperature. When you purchase the device you set up the parameters in which you wish it to operate, such as record time, depth and temperature every 15 seconds. To use simply attach the Bluebuddy to your BCD. When you enter the water the device automatically operates according to your setup.  After your dive an app on your smartphone can retrieve that data by blue-tooth. You can review your dive log using your smartphone, and even post it to social media sites. The device was offered on the crowd funding site with a recreational model tested to 40 meters and one for techs tested to 130 meters. The campaign raised about $32,000 and the device is available at dive shops around the world and online.

There are many other campaigns going on, some for product development, others for environmental issues and scientific studies. I have been thinking of starting one myself. There are a couple of ships I would like to search for.

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