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Start Up Study - webOS phones and tablets
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Old 02/27/2012, 06:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Hello Nation,

I'm trying to build an opportunity check document (mini business plan) for a webOS powered start up (building smartphones and tablets). Before contacting HP, I wanted to hear for the community and developers and build an understanding on some technical stuff. I don't have a technical partner yet (I'm not a dev myself).

One of the main key success factors were the code itself, and HP's commitment. So, my questions are:

* Does webOS (3.0.5 or 2.2.4) have the API's to have all popular apps ported/created? can devs now access camera, mic, cameras, sensors, etc.?
* Dose anyone know how HP will distribute their apps? (i.e. app catalog, overall system updates, maps solution, etc.)
* Dose anyone know if there a limitation on hardware specs? (i.e. processor type, screen resolution, sensors, etc.)
* Dose anyone know if the the new Open webOS 1.0 will be a blend of 3.0 and 2.2? Will it mix the features from phone and tablet? Will we be able to develop a slate phone?

Thank you for your help! I hope we could bring webOS back to life.
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Old 02/27/2012, 07:28 PM   #2 (permalink)
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You have the cash or you going to be trying borrow the money?
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Old 02/27/2012, 07:34 PM   #3 (permalink)
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You have the cash or you going to be trying borrow the money?
Ideally pitching the opportunity to angle or seed investors. Borrowing the money is not out of question as well
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Old 02/27/2012, 07:56 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I was wondering what your projections would look like and how you would arrive at the figures. Would it be safe to assume that every current webOS user would buy at least one device?
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Old 02/27/2012, 07:58 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Currently the answer to all of your questions is "We don't know yet."
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Old 02/27/2012, 08:09 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I was wondering what your projections would look like and how you would arrive at the figures. Would it be safe to assume that every current webOS user would buy at least one device?
not really, the initial projection is 50% of the peak number of users of webOS. Of course assuming that my key success factors are met.

My current research, and reports that i read confirmed that there's a room for a third big OS (besides iOS, and android), and even more room in the premium market regardless of OS
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Old 02/27/2012, 08:11 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Currently the answer to all of your questions is "We don't know yet."
Thanks.

I have a contact inside HP now, i think i will finish the work that i have started and shoot the Q's in HP's way.
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Old 02/27/2012, 08:18 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by mbasrawi View Post
not really, the initial projection is 50% of the peak number of users of webOS. Of course assuming that my key success factors are met.

My current research, and reports that i read confirmed that there's a room for a third big OS (besides iOS, and android), and even more room in the premium market regardless of OS
Thanks for the effort, hope it can happen.

PS: and lets not forget the palm name, we need that back somehow
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Old 02/27/2012, 09:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks.

I have a contact inside HP now, i think i will finish the work that i have started and shoot the Q's in HP's way.
I hope you succeed.
If you build on the quality of the current pre3, I would buy.
(that is actually two, my wife and myself)
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Old 02/27/2012, 09:59 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Thanks.

I have a contact inside HP now, i think i will finish the work that i have started and shoot the Q's in HP's way.
You might find the thread below to be interesting. We knocked around quite a few ideas in discussing how a community like ours could approach the task of keeping webOS alive should HP leave us high and dry. This was before HP made it clear that they were going to be very involved in the development of open source webOS, so quite a few things are no longer relevant. You might find the bits where we discuss what could be done re hardware to be thought provoking though. Feel free to PM me as well if you would like to discuss further.

http://forums.webosnation.com/webos-...ebos-plan.html
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Old 02/27/2012, 10:29 PM   #11 (permalink)
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You might find the thread below to be interesting. We knocked around quite a few ideas in discussing how a community like ours could approach the task of keeping webOS alive should HP leave us high and dry. This was before HP made it clear that they were going to be very involved in the development of open source webOS, so quite a few things are no longer relevant. You might find the bits where we discuss what could be done re hardware to be thought provoking though. Feel free to PM me as well if you would like to discuss further.

http://forums.webosnation.com/webos-...ebos-plan.html
Thanks! I'm here to get responses like yours

I will dedicate some time to work on this business plan, and see where it takes me. What was encouraging so far though is the market capacity.

I have read "The Plan" thread before. What's in there is really inspiring.

What i'm looking at is a brand new product line that targets the premium segment of the market, and a major relaunch to the platform from every aspect. That's why HP's help and commitment are crucial.

The plan that i have includes things like: paid development (for 3rd party to release 1.0 versions of their apps), carrier deals, retail and sales strategy, etc.

The critical success factors that i identified are (and needs to be present on launch day) :

1- Premium Hardware
2- Industry standard software features (bug fixes, new features, etc.)
3- Ecosystem (Apps/carriers - retailers)
4- Marketing!!!

I have additional details on each section, of course.

To be honest, what i think i should do now is to start working with HP on creating an early prototype regardless of the study. I need something to excite investors!

But before that i need to build a team to help me with all of this
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Old 02/28/2012, 08:16 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I don't know. Don't get me wrong, I love WebOS too, but the hard truth is it's a dying ecosystem that holds only a tiny sliver of the mobile device market. I'm afraid HP's latest efforts to make it open source will only slow that inevitable death and make it more painful for the WebOS faithful.

Not sure I'd be trying to sock a lot of cash and effort into something that has a weak and uncertain future at best right now. Think I'd stick it out for the the next year and see if HP will actually put their own money and resources on the line and make this open source project work.

God knows, after what they've done to us, they owe us that much, at least.
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Old 02/28/2012, 10:30 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I'd like to add a few additional costs here you overlooked and explain and give more in-depth context to a couple of others you mentioned as to what all this entails:

1. FCC approval

Absolutely necessary to be available on carriers, and unless you want to be fined out of existence and sued by the U.S. Government for selling an unlicensed device you'll do it. Without this, your devices are effectively dead before they have the chance to be released, and requires some serious industrial engineering to ensure your device meets all pertinent U.S. laws against radio/RF interference, radiation, and general safety.

2. Retail distribution agreements

You can't go anywhere without devices available to be touched and experienced prior to purchase. A mail-order webOS phone will die on the vine, and after the Touchpad you'll be kissing feet left and right to even get yourself in the door when you utter 'webOS' to an executive. And, what's more, your best vector to immediate U.S. brick-and-mortar retail penetration apart from the carriers is the same outlet that felt screwed by HP the hardest: Best Buy.

3. Carrier agreements

You did touch on this, but I'd like to expound in more detail what this involves... This not only includes retail presence in cellphone retail outlets, but also support agreements (including updates), carrier-specific branding (including but not limited to specialized applications per carrier), promotional agreements (including commercials which, as you know, don't come cheap), and subsidizing. And a LOT of specialized legal involved at every step. This is an extremely expensive step for a new device manufacturer to undertake, and don't count on Sprint offering you any favors--they've despised webOS since the failure of the original Pre to truly become "their iPhone." Outside of the original Pre and (crippled) Pixi, they haven't looked back.

4. Marketing

I work for a revered digital marketing agency, and you're looking at a couple million dollars here for a proper product launch and continued hard support. And that's just on the digital side. Not joking. I haven't even touched on the print/television side of things, all of which you'd need to get the mind share to sell a couple of million units. Look at how badly Samsung's doing in the tablet space, and they've sunk hundreds of millions into their Android tablet marketing and manufacture already, if not billions...for a sliver of the tablet market.

5. Sourcing components

Rule #1: You do not have the supply chain prowess of Tim Cook; nobody currently does, which means you're at an immediate disadvantage in pricing strategy. Accept this. Be prepared to buy components in huge bulk at a somewhat elevated price compared to your competitors, and ensure each one of those parts all work in conjunction to make the device as easy to work with webOS in its Open-Source state as possible in order to lower the costs associated with device driver development as that's where your savings will be made in the short-term. And be prepared for more contracts and to station a few employees in China to do the buying and ensure quality control is being met. And that means more money spent on lawyers, like most everything else mentioned here.

6. Manufacturing agreements

You'd better be prepared to set a number on your initial allotment of devices, because factories don't pump out small quantities at low prices; the value comes in larger quantities that involve mid-term contracts to provide the initial amount with the obligation that you'll stick with them for subsequent rounds of manufacture. Unless you're looking for cheap Shenzen products, this is how it goes. You're buying bodies to build everything, and the machinery and space to make it all happen. Extremely expensive, and again, expect a few employees to be stationed nearby the factories at all times. Can't forget the lawyers, either.

Again, accept the fact you aren't Apple, Samsung, or even smaller China-based manufacturers like Huawei that can get lower-cost bodies due to high-volume or proximity. You will pay considerably more for this as a n00b to the industry, and that's just how it works.

7. Ecosystem

You'd better be more than prepared to provide a digital ecosystem the likes of which Google, Apple, and Amazon already provide. This means first-party music services, eBooks, movies, cloud storage, productivity, compelling applications and more all tied together to work in conjunction--or at the very least as seamlessly as they can be. No contracting out all your stuff to a disjointed set of third parties like HP did. Be prepared to negotiate contracts in all areas of consumable media to make this happen, and by god, it ain't easy nor cheap in the slightest.

You also need to get the big players on board prior to a relaunch in order to attract people to the rejuvenated platform, and that usually involves paying them to build an app or paying them to allow you to do it yourself. And Netflix doesn't take requests, as you've seen. And people see Netflix and the first-party services mentioned above as cornerstones to a successful platform whether you like it or not.

Regardless, this takes time and a hell of a lot of developers and money. When you look at the mobile landscape today, what you see in the lead are those platforms that have a cohesive ecosystem already developed and out there. And you need best-of-breed to survive and flourish.

8. Patent licensing

Man, you are so screwed if you don't do this. You will pay patent license fees, simply because HP doesn't own every patent required to manufacture a webOS device license-free; if someone claims you won't, they're fracking naive. And this doesn't even include the patent trolls out there that'll try to eat you (or the application developers) alive unless you have legal specializing in IP and Patents on this like a hawk for each region you retail your device. If webOS ever becomes big enough to pose even the slightest threat, add a pretty large force multiplier to the likelihood of being sued over patents.

If ever you should doubt the importance of solid patent licensure, remember the patent lawsuits against Samsung's phones and tablets by Apple [I]even though Samsung is also the single-largest component producer for Apple's own products. Yeah, it's just that cut-throat.

I haven't even touched on the number of employees, legal teams, costs of endless prototype iterations, or other aspects of a corporation that would be involved here. If I did, this post would more than triple its size, and I've gotta sleep sometime tonight. This is all just off the top of my head here.

That said, best of luck with your effort, but I really hope you've thought all of this through. I'm not being trying to be a **** by pointing all of this out, because this is a very realistic idea of what all needs to be done just to ensure you can even get the product to market, much less ensure a continued success trajectory. Where companies like Huawei, Samsung, and HTC (among others) can ride everything out by riding the coattails of Google's massive ecosystem and patent protection in many areas, HP doesn't have any such ecosystem right now other than the patents Palm gave them along with any licensure of older Palm patents from ACCESS. It's a good first line of patent defense, but by no means bulletproof--and you aren't even HP.

tl;dr: webOS needs existing device manufacturer support to get back on its feet far more than it needs new blood trying to do so, because it's a minefield that'll cost hundreds of millions just to start.
thanks thats an in insightful post. And yes I am trying to find answers to these. Also, my business model at the end might suggest that this project should be pitched to current OEM`s.

All of this will clear up when I advance more in the research and business plan, and see the feasibility of the project.
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Old 02/28/2012, 01:43 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by dignitary View Post
I'd like to add a few additional costs here you overlooked and explain and give more in-depth context to a couple of others you mentioned as to what all this entails:

1. FCC approval

Absolutely necessary to be available on carriers, and unless you want to be fined out of existence and sued by the U.S. Government for selling an unlicensed device you'll do it. Without this, your devices are effectively dead before they have the chance to be released, and requires some serious industrial engineering to ensure your device meets all pertinent U.S. laws against radio/RF interference, radiation, and general safety.

2. Retail distribution agreements

You can't go anywhere without devices available to be touched and experienced prior to purchase. A mail-order webOS phone will die on the vine, and after the Touchpad you'll be kissing feet left and right to even get yourself in the door when you utter 'webOS' to an executive. And, what's more, your best vector to immediate U.S. brick-and-mortar retail penetration apart from the carriers is the same outlet that felt screwed by HP the hardest: Best Buy.

3. Carrier agreements

You did touch on this, but I'd like to expound in more detail what this involves... This not only includes retail presence in cellphone retail outlets, but also support agreements (including updates), carrier-specific branding (including but not limited to specialized applications per carrier), promotional agreements (including commercials which, as you know, don't come cheap), and subsidizing. And a LOT of specialized legal involved at every step. This is an extremely expensive step for a new device manufacturer to undertake, and don't count on Sprint offering you any favors--they've despised webOS since the failure of the original Pre to truly become "their iPhone." Outside of the original Pre and (crippled) Pixi, they haven't looked back.

4. Marketing

I work for a revered digital marketing agency, and you're looking at a couple million dollars here for a proper product launch and continued hard support. And that's just on the digital side. Not joking. I haven't even touched on the print/television side of things, all of which you'd need to get the mind share to sell a couple of million units. Look at how badly Samsung's doing in the tablet space, and they've sunk hundreds of millions into their Android tablet marketing and manufacture already, if not billions...for a sliver of the tablet market.

5. Sourcing components

Rule #1: You do not have the supply chain prowess of Tim Cook; nobody currently does, which means you're at an immediate disadvantage in pricing strategy. Accept this. Be prepared to buy components in huge bulk at a somewhat elevated price compared to your competitors, and ensure each one of those parts all work in conjunction to make the device as easy to work with webOS in its Open-Source state as possible in order to lower the costs associated with device driver development as that's where your savings will be made in the short-term. And be prepared for more contracts and to station a few employees in China to do the buying and ensure quality control is being met. And that means more money spent on lawyers, like most everything else mentioned here.

6. Manufacturing agreements

You'd better be prepared to set a number on your initial allotment of devices, because factories don't pump out small quantities at low prices; the value comes in larger quantities that involve mid-term contracts to provide the initial amount with the obligation that you'll stick with them for subsequent rounds of manufacture. Unless you're looking for cheap Shenzen products, this is how it goes. You're buying bodies to build everything, and the machinery and space to make it all happen. Extremely expensive, and again, expect a few employees to be stationed nearby the factories at all times. Can't forget the lawyers, either.

Again, accept the fact you aren't Apple, Samsung, or even smaller China-based manufacturers like Huawei that can get lower-cost bodies due to high-volume or proximity. You will pay considerably more for this as a n00b to the industry, and that's just how it works.

7. Ecosystem

You'd better be more than prepared to provide a digital ecosystem the likes of which Google, Apple, and Amazon already provide. This means first-party music services, eBooks, movies, cloud storage, productivity, compelling applications and more all tied together to work in conjunction--or at the very least as seamlessly as they can be. No contracting out all your stuff to a disjointed set of third parties like HP did. Be prepared to negotiate contracts in all areas of consumable media to make this happen, and by god, it ain't easy nor cheap in the slightest.

You also need to get the big players on board prior to a relaunch in order to attract people to the rejuvenated platform, and that usually involves paying them to build an app or paying them to allow you to do it yourself. And Netflix doesn't take requests, as you've seen. And people see Netflix and the first-party services mentioned above as cornerstones to a successful platform whether you like it or not.

Regardless, this takes time and a hell of a lot of developers and money. When you look at the mobile landscape today, what you see in the lead are those platforms that have a cohesive ecosystem already developed and out there. And you need best-of-breed to survive and flourish.

8. Patent licensing

Man, you are so screwed if you don't do this. You will pay patent license fees, simply because HP doesn't own every patent required to manufacture a webOS device license-free; if someone claims you won't, they're fracking naive. And this doesn't even include the patent trolls out there that'll try to eat you (or the application developers) alive unless you have legal specializing in IP and Patents on this like a hawk for each region you retail your device. If webOS ever becomes big enough to pose even the slightest threat, add a pretty large force multiplier to the likelihood of being sued over patents.

If ever you should doubt the importance of solid patent licensure, remember the patent lawsuits against Samsung's phones and tablets by Apple even though Samsung is also the single-largest component producer for Apple's own products. Yeah, it's just that cut-throat.

I haven't even touched on the number of employees, legal teams, costs of endless prototype iterations, or other aspects of a corporation that would be involved here. If I did, this post would more than triple its size, and I've gotta sleep sometime tonight. This is all just off the top of my head here.

That said, best of luck with your effort, but I really hope you've thought all of this through. I'm not being trying to be a **** by pointing all of this out, because this is a very realistic idea of what all needs to be done just to ensure you can even get the product to market, much less ensure a continued success trajectory. Where companies like Huawei, Samsung, and HTC (among others) can ride everything out by riding the coattails of Google's massive ecosystem and patent protection in many areas, HP doesn't have any such ecosystem right now other than the patents Palm gave them along with any licensure of older Palm patents from ACCESS. It's a good first line of patent defense, but by no means bulletproof--and you aren't even HP.

tl;dr: webOS needs existing device manufacturer support to get back on its feet far more than it needs new blood trying to do so, because it's a minefield that'll cost hundreds of millions just to start.
Great post Dignitary...you've really spelled out a lot of the challenges involved in taking on something like this.
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Old 02/28/2012, 01:51 PM   #15 (permalink)
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DIdn't read all the comments but I garuntee if somoene were to try and make a WebOS phone they could get backing for it..

Put it on Kickstarter.com and see how much you can raise! I would donate.
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Old 02/28/2012, 02:12 PM   #16 (permalink)
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thanks thats an in insightful post. And yes I am trying to find answers to these. Also, my business model at the end might suggest that this project should be pitched to current OEM`s.

All of this will clear up when I advance more in the research and business plan, and see the feasibility of the project.
One of the ways you could try to make items 2, 3 and 4 more manageable, is by launching in a small market initially, so that you're risking millions rather than billions. For example, take a look at a place like Hong Kong, where customers are very device savvy, are accustomed to paying full price for their hardware as opposed to having it subsidized by signing lengthy carrier contracts, are generally free to switch carriers on a whim, and the compact geography and heterogeneous population simplifies your retail distribution and marketing arrangements (although media advertizing costs are crazily expensive there).Of course this is all assuming that the App Catalog support is extended to include your test territory.

A good result in a place like that could make it an easier sell for your investors to put up the kind of cash needed to take on the bigger markets. Of course the flip side is a bad result would make it pretty much impossible to raise money if you decided later that it wasn't an appropriately representative test market, or otherwise mess up with bad decisions!
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Old 02/28/2012, 04:32 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Another thing you could do to bypass a lot of these problems is to launch a subversive web campaign whereby only "cool" people would take their working Sprint Android phone and dual boot, or reflash with WebOS. I would do it in a minute if I thought I could save off my stock firmware such that I could restore for hardware service, and with the press of a button, jump to a cool OS. I'm already sitting out there with my FrankenPre2, but it's not quite cool enough to convince my friends. A killer app or two, would help. If you think about it, essentially the same thing happened with Linux, and ultimately it found plenty of room to co-exist with Wintel.

I'm prepared to do just the opposite with my wife's Touchpad if ever we find ourselves driven over to the dark (Android) side with CM9.
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Old 02/28/2012, 09:21 PM   #18 (permalink)
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This sounds like a great idea and I think it is entirely feasible. I think you could built a device around completely free community labor(drivers...etc) as long as everything stayed open source and your company can handle the legal, building hardware, carrier relations...etc. I know I would contribute and even help fund it.
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Old 02/28/2012, 11:20 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Here's an interesting question that you should be thinking of constantly even at this early stage. Why did the TouchPad fail, and what is going to be so different about the tablet that you're going to build that it will be a success?

It's really important to remember that the great majority of people bought the TP because it was going for a song in the firesale, and although many have been converted into webOS 3.0 fans, you're going to have to offer something significant to get them to spend the at least 4 times the firesale price you're probably going to need to charge just to be able to keep the lights on. And once people are being asked to part with $400 or so, most of them are going to look at their options really carefully. This device is going to have to stand up to comparison to some new Android tablets and the reduced price iPad 2 and still look like a good buy. There are a lot of manufacturers with tons of experience putting out tablets that just aren't catching on, so you need to think hard regarding what they're doing wrong, and how you will do it right.
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Old 02/29/2012, 07:42 AM   #20 (permalink)
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ProTip: Creating a new device isn't as simple as slapping hardware together with a magic wand funded by a Kickstarter project. You should probably read all the comments before commenting.
Wait, since when did I say you can slap hardware together w/ a magic wand and poof it will be ready? .... A few people here, In this thread mentioned how to get the money: Via loans, investors, etc... I merely just suggested that if someone were to create a kickstarter project..it could be another alternative in raising money. Also, kickstarter could probably help you gauge the interest out there in a new webOS device....

For instance, right now there is some dude out there (creator of maniac mansion) wants to create an adventure game.> Was looking for 400K.. Raised 2 Million on Kickstarter.. Which has allowed people go give influence on the new game, donators will be able to watch the process, gained money for marketing, spread of mouth marketing really helped, ..

Don't get me wrong.. I realize there is PLENTY to do before someone gets to this stage, but that doesn't mean raising money isn't important.

I am currently working on 2 projects:
a Leaner Greener Roof system where we have raised 85K for the project.. If we didn't raise 85K we wouldn't be anywhere w/ that project... .

and another small project in my own website.. mymorningstory.com (not currently raising money yet)
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