When a product design asks for $7,000 on Kickstarter but nets $228,000, it's worthy of study, particularly when the design is not an obvious home run. Any product designer should be asking themselves: What is it that these guys tapped into, in the backers' consciousness, that made it such a hit?
First let's look at the product in question. The mininch Tool Pen is a hollow, magic-marker sized hexagonal rod that holds six driver bits, with the frontmost ready to use. It's essentially a bit-storing screwdriver in a more compact form, and with a pen-like cap to prevent the front bit from spearing the inside of your pocket or bag.
- Suffers from same capacity problem as all bit-holding driver handles: Requires user to predict, in advance, which bits will be needed on the road
- Loading/unloading bits is linear and time-consuming, i.e. if you want the bit located in the middle, you must cycle out each bit before it, reloading them in the rear as you go
- Lack of proper handle precludes user ability to produce serious torque
For me, that last one is the most damning, probably because I'm projecting my own needs onto the thing; in my sideline work (fixing vintage sewing machines) I often need the leverage to remove fasteners welded on with fifty-year-old petrified grease. But in the minds of the backers—whose collective opinion is frankly more important than your correspondent's, as they actually have the power to bring this design to fruition—the mininch's benefits outweigh the minuses. These benefits are:
- Compact form more convenient to carry than a proper driver, meaning it can be with you at all times
- Handsome sand-blasted aluminum housing
- Windows milled into the side allow you to see which bits are within
- Bits "are constructed from high-quality, milled SAE 8660"
- Bit shape and number appear to be laser-etched onto the sides, which is more legible than the faint stamping you find on cheapie bits
Perhaps it's ultimately the video that sells it. It focuses not so much on close-ups of the product, but more on the lifestyle scenarios the mininch developers are promoting: A world where lots of little mechanical things go wrong, and the mininch's omnipresence means you're always able to fix them:
Feedback time—what do you use drivers for, and would you buy this? If not, what do you feel the product owes its runaway funding success to?