Students attract $60,000 on Kickstarter in two weeks


Dark Energy attracted $60,000 on Kickstarter in two weeks to fund its mobile device charger, and the amount is projected to top $240,000 by the funding deadline on March 23.

A Kickstarter campaign starts with someone describing a project idea on the website and setting a fundraising goal and a deadline. Project creators do not have to donate or match with any money of their own. Anyone interested in the project then pledges to donate money to make the project happen, even though they do not profit financially from projects they help fund.

If pledges total at least the fundraising goal by the deadline then the donors, called backers, pay up. Otherwise they don’t pay a dime. A project is either funded entirely or not at all.

Dark Energy was founded by BYU students Garrett Aida and William Lam. Their product is called the Reservoir, a mobile device about the size of a smartphone that recharges consumer electronics on the go.

According to the company website, the Reservoir can charge two USB-charged devices simultaneously and as quickly as if they were plugged into the wall.

The Reservoir itself charges in 4-6 hours via an AC adapter then uses stored power to charge other devices. For example, it can charge Apple’s iPhone 5 five times, or an Amazon Kindle eight times, according to company figures.

Dark Energy’s funding goal is $100,000, but they have already raised $72,000 of that. A third-party website called Kicktraq that analyzes funding trends on Kickstarter predicted as of Feb. 25 that the project will raise over $200,000.

Such rapid increase is appropriate considering the name of the company: Dark Energy, which its co-founders describe as “the force that accelerates the expansion of the universe.”

“(That’s the) benefit of having two nerdy guys come up with the name,” said Aida, a senior in mechanical engineering.

His partner, Lam, is a technology and outer space enthusiast in the information technology program at BYU.

Co-founders Garrett Aida (left) and William Lam with a prototype of the Reservoir. (Photo by Whitnie Soelberg)

From the start, the Dark Energy team aimed to excel. Aida developed the mechanical components of the Reservoir and tried to squeeze as much out of the device as he could.

“There was never a point where Will and I thought it only has to have a certain amount of power,” Aida said. “Inside this device it had to have wall-to-wall power capacity.”

The lead designer, industrial design student Mark Sullivan, wanted to design the product to have “a certain professionalism and high standard of quality” to it.

Even the small bumps on the outside of the reservoir had a specific purpose.

“Having the gentle stippling (bumps) adds a soft aesthetic,” Sullivan said, “as well as something for the user to discover as he handles the device. It gives the user some comfort when he has to do something as uncomfortable as charge a dead phone in the middle of the day.”

This focus on excellence may be why the Reservoir gained popularity quickly.

“If your vision is right, people will be happy to share it,” Lam said. He also mentioned that some magazines and design blogs have expressed interest in the Reservoir.

Aida and Lam intend the Reservoir to be Dark Energy’s flagship product, and they have spent a lot of time thinking about how they want to develop a larger company.

The plan is to focus on creativity, hard work and charity.

“(Those pillars) make for a wholesome work environment where you can be vulnerable to criticize and be criticized,” Aida said. Built on that model, co-founder Lam is optimistic about the future.

“I think people overlook how big things can be, how good things can be, and how much they can change the world,” Lam said, and he eventually revealed just how far Dark Energy’s vision extends.

“Ultimately, we want to start a space company,” Lam said, referencing the growing private space industry. “(But) that’s kind of a jump for now.”


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