How GE is using crowdfunding site to test demand for new products

Online crowdfunding is typically associated with fledgling startups and independent inventors turning to consumers to supply the capital they need for product development.

But a project that collected $2.7 million on the funding site Indiegogo recently has a different pedigree: the Opal nugget ice maker, designed to let consumers make a particular kind of chewable, flavor-absorbing ice, is a project of FirstBuild, a GE initiative created in 2014 to quickly turn ideas into prototypes.

taylordawsonThe idea for an inexpensive countertop appliance that can crank out nugget ice — something previously only possible with restaurant-style equipment costing thousands of dollars — was one of the most popular of hundreds of ideas submitted through FirstBuild’s website, created by GE’s appliance division and Local Motors, a collaborative innovation platform.

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