Everyday 3D printing
3D printers made big headlines last year as prices dropped and more companies introduced a product. But whether there will one day be a 3D printer in every home will depend on reliability and usefulness. While today, one can print small prototypes, nuts and bolts and last-minute jewelry gifts, 3D printers aren't very useful for regular households. Experts theorized about the day when consumers can print everyday items, like a new toothbrush or a pair of glasses. Until then, this is more sci-fi than reality.
Crowdfunding hasn't replaced venture capital but it is becoming the route for entrepreneurs to raise startup money -- or get quick feedback on whether a product or idea just isn't going to work. And Kickstarter has taken the lead by introducing millions of people to a new way of spending money and supporting companies or products they like. By only pledging money to projects they consider worthy, users help fund startups in exchange for cashless rewards.Game companies scored big last year, with nine raising more than $1 million each. Several tech gadgets also attracted millions of dollars, not to mention publicity. Independent musicians and filmmakers have long turned to Kickstarter to raise funds for their films, which got actor Zach Braff's attention. Braff just got his own movie funded on Kickstarter in 3 days, despite criticism that as an established actor, he didn't need it and was taking attention from unknowns.
But coming soon is a whole new way to invest in a company with equity crowdfunding. If Kickstarter dominates this next stage -- money in exchange for equity -- we may see an entirely different way people invest in companies.
MoviesNetflix (NFLX - Get Report) changed the way consumers pick movies -- no more late fees or fighting traffic to get to the video rental store. Then it added video streaming so Netflixians all over wouldn't have to wait the day or so to get a disc in the mail. With Netflix streamed movies available on almost every internet-connected TV, game console and other media devices, the company is considered a large cause of why pay TV subscriptions are declining. Next up: Netflix is producing original content and extending the life of beloved TV shows cancelled too soon for fans. Who isn't looking forward to the next chapter of "Arrested Development?"
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