|Airing's maskless, cordless, continuous positive airway pressure device--Courtesy of Airing|
Startup Airing has raised more than $1 million from about 10,000 donors via the crowdfunding site Indiegogo
Participants will be among the first to receive its maskless, cordless, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device to treat obstructive sleep apnea, a welcome alternative to today's uncomfortable, bulky contraptions. And those who donate $500 to Airing receive membership in its research panel.
"We will run ideas by you, get your feedback on everything from product attributes to pricing to our marketing and communications. You'll even get a fancy certificate you can frame as a keepsake once Airing is produced," company Indiegogo page says.
But the keepsake might not be earned until 2017, when delivery commences, assuming the FDA clears Airing's device, which is not a given, of course.
After all, crowdfunders are investors, so they assume some financial risk when they give money in the hopes of accelerating product development and being among the first adopters, The Boston Globe points out.
South Korea's Charmcare raised $50,000 last year via Indiegogo to support the first wearable blood pressure monitor, but it doesn't appear to have succeeded. In May, its latest words on Indiegogo were: "Thank you very much for not suing us with a greatest kind of patience I have ever witnessed," The Globe reports.
Crowdfunding has its success stories too. Most famous, though outside of the med tech realm, is virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR. It had a glorious exit. After raising $2.4 million in crowdfunding via Kickstarter in 2013, the gaming company was purchased by Facebook for $2 billion in March 2014.
And after raising $1.6 million for its biosensor (which remains unapproved) via Indiegogo, Scanadu has gone on to raise about $45 million in traditional venture capital financing.
It is unlikely that the FDA will inhibit crowdfunding of medical devices unless it interferes with patient safety.
Kickstarter prohibits companies from marketing products to treat or prevent medical conditions, while Indiegogo's rules are more relaxed. It only monitors the site for fraudulent campaigns, harmful products and inappropriate rewards for crowdfunders, such as alcohol.
Several campaigns have promised to deliver unapproved medical devices (often at a discount, meaning they cost more than the original payment made by the crowdfunder) if and when they get the FDA's go-ahead.
Startup Empatica is crowdfunding a wristband to detect impending seizures. The company is careful to promote the unapproved product as a "medical quality device" (as opposed to "medical device").
Delivery of the device has been delayed twice.
But financial backer Heather Jenkins of Virginia is still excited about the device, according to The Globe. "That would be awesome to have that extra warning," she told the paper. Jenkins is worried that her next epileptic seizure might occur in an unsafe location, not her home or the hospital.
- read more in The Boston Globe