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james_siminoff(1) Christie Street’s Jamie Siminoff

Given the publicity surrounding Kickstarter’s rule changes for hardware projects and funded projects that fail to deliver, it was only a matter of time before alternative crowdfunding services started popping up. It’s already happened. There’s Selfstarter, a site developed by the creators of Lockitron after their project was declined by Kickstater. And now there’s Christie Street, a hardware crowdfunding site that will audit projects before they go live to help ensure product delivery for backers and product success for inventors. Backers can even pay a little extra to ensure they’ll get all their money back if the project isn’t successful.

Jamie Siminoff, a self-described “serial entrepreneur” who founded companies such as Unsubscribe.com, PhoneTag, and Nobelcom, says he created Christie Street because he wasn’t satisfied with the changes Kickstarter made and the service’s inability to thoroughly vet the many projects it receives from diverse subject areas.

“Our view about how it should be done is Christie Street,” he says. “Auditing on the way in and escrowing on the way out.”

What that means is that applicants are vetted to see if their proposed object can be manufactured the way it’s presented, whether the costs of components pencils out, and whether the proposed manufacturer is reputable. If an applicant doesn’t have a manufacturing partner, Christie Street will help find one.

The service is dedicated to physically created products — no movies, video games,  or software. While his previous businesses were software-based, Jamie says he’s a tinkerer at heart.

“I’ve been a physical product guy stuck in a tech world,” he says. “It’s always been my passion.”

For a maker looking to take his or her product to market, Christie Street offers quite a service, for which they charge 5 percent of funds raised — same as Kickstarter. But the real appeal of Christie Street might be for project backers.

Christie Street will keep a tight rein on backers’ money. Funds will be held in escrow and disbursed in thirds as a project moves from initial concept, to prototype, to production. If a project fails or looks like it’s going to fail, Christie Street can pull the plug and will refund the remaining money to backers and keep its cut. Backers can even insure their pledge for 10 percent of their pledge value to make sure they get all their money back if a project goes south or drags on too long.

The goal, Jamie says, it to add “credibility” to the site and create a robust community built on transparency and a reasonable expectation of success.

Christie Street’s first project is DoorBot, a video-enabled door bell that allows the user to see who’s at the door via their smart phone. So far it’s raised $63,00 of its $250,000 goal, with 40 days to go.

Jamie knows the project well. It’s his. Edison Junior, Jamie’s design studio and holding company for Christie Street, was located in his garage, and he was tired of trekking to the front door for every peddler who rang the bell. When he went looking at the available crowdfunding sites, he was dissatisfied with what he found so he decided to create his own.

“I’m not going to pay people 5 percent to do nothing,” he says.

DoorBot is Christie Street’s first project, a fact that he admits makes him “judge, jury, and executioner,” but he said he wanted to get the site rolling with a live project. (Isn’t it interesting that Selfstarter and Christie Street both started with front door devices?) Since launching the company last week, he says he has at least 10 project proposals that he’s very excited about.

What do you think, makers? Is this a site you would use?

Stett Holbrook

Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.


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