Early last NovEmbEr, scott WilsoN Was fEEliNg
a little gloomy. The partnership in a startup he had worked on relentlessly for a year had fallen
apart, leaving him with little but regret over the time he had spent away from his family and his
Chicago design studio, Minimal.
But this is the United States, a country famous for second acts. So after a few days of moping,
Wilson, a serial entrepreneur with a corporate stint as global creative director of Nike’s watch
division, jumped back in. He had a new idea—and a novel plan for funding it.
Wilson’s brainchild was an innovative watch that grafted the body of an iPod Nano onto an
aluminum case, turning the little touch screen into a cool, wrist-circling gadget that could wake
you up in the morning, play your music, and even, with the help of a Nike+ chip mounted on the
side, track your daily run.
The challenge, of course, was how the designer—
who normally makes his living providing creative
services to clients such as Steelcase, Google, Dell, and
Microsoft’s Xbox—could raise the money to bring the
concept to market. Potential partners had balked at
his design, saying it would be too expensive to produce.
That’s when Wilson turned to Kickstarter, the web-based funding platform for independent creative
projects. He posted his idea on November 16. Within
a week, he had raised $400,000 from 5,000 backers.
Within a month, 13,500 people from 50 countries had
ponied up nearly $1 million. In total, he sold 21, 120
units on Kickstarter and roughly 20,000 more through
his own site, lunatik.com.
Then Apple took notice and called Wilson to urge
him to sell his wares in its stores. This brings us to
the particularly delicious part of the story: When
Apple offered its customary profit split, Wilson
pointed to a Kickstarter survey indicating that 76%
of his buyers had purchased a Nano because of the
wristband. In other words, his accessory was spurring
Apple sales. “That let me negotiate more favorable
terms,” Wilson says. And now, Apple is selling twice
as many watchbands as it had forecast.
This is a brand-new kind of American dream, one
that mixes design, technology, and fresh business
models. That Apple has ridden a design-infused wave
to extraordinary heights is widely acknowledged,
inspiring corporate leaders everywhere to reevaluate
the potential of design. But Apple is only one edge in
a powerful new entrepreneurial ecosystem, one that
stretches across companies of all sizes and throughout
all industries. America’s greatest business success of
the late 20th century was Silicon Valley entrepreneurship, which spawned so many companies and spurred