Crowd Sourcing Helps Brad “Kickstarter King” Martin take CNC from Hobby to Viable Business

Working in the state of Iowa on a wind turbine contract, Brad Martin is no stranger to automation and electrical engineering. A self-taught CNC machinist, many people know Martin through the online crowd-fund­ing plat­form Kickstarter. We’re giving him the nickname, “Kickstarter King.” “I got into CNC because I wanted to make my own "parts" for little projects I wanted to do. First, I bought a little lathe and then a little mill, both through the Little Machine Shop. After a while, I decided manual machining wasn't the way to go. I bought a Taig Mill, sourced all my own parts, and built the whole CNC system.”

Martin’s first bottle opener project was born out of necessity.  “At the beginning of the year, I was about to lose my job if we didn’t get a contract for a work site. I already had the Taig and I thought, ‘I have to do something. I’ll make a bottle opener and put it out on Kickstarter.’ I had nothing to lose really. I didn’t have any money into the Kickstarter project because it didn’t cost anything to get started. I called it the Bottle Grenade and set my goal for $2,500 and on day one I just got an email every minute it seemed. The project got to $7000 after three days, so we went out to eat to celebrate.” Martin’s success was only the beginning, however.  As Kickstarter pre-orders for the Bottle Grenade continued to climb, Martin soon realized he’d need to upgrade from his small Taig to something more substantial if he would have any hope of fulfilling all the orders pouring in. Using funds from his personal retirement account, Martin purchased a PCNC 1100 from Tormach. “Success is more stressful than failure sometimes and this was a perfect example,” Martin recalled.  He was featured in USA Today and popular product review websites like With an accelerated lesson in project management, production, and small-scale manufacturing, Martin spent his nights and weekends fulfilling 1,182 orders. Ultimately, the Bottle Grenade project received $42,560, 1,702% above his initial $2,500 goal. Applying the lessons learned from the Bottle Grenade, Martin quickly launched a second Kickstarter campaign for a mini titanium/aluminum keychain multi-tool with an inner diameter cut to ten wrench sizes (Standard 1/4", 5/16", 3/8", 7/16", 1/2", and Metric: 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, 11mm, 13mm). Cleverly named the WTF (Wrench that Fits), the campaign was successfully funded on April 9, with 1,703 backers contributing a grand total of $85,564. “Kickstarter is amazing. It’s changed my life. I don’t know if I’d be in five years what I did in three months,” Martin said. “On the WTF, I’m using a water jet to rough out the outer profile. I’ll end up building a fixture for the Tormach PCNC 1100 and milling the ramp and the inside.” “I feel at home on Kickstarter now. My project pages seem to be the place where people go and hangout. Almost every day I have a project creator asking me for advice. I’ve even helped people with design. By now, I’ve helped on 30 different projects. I could write a book on my experience so far I think. I love it.” Now Martin is ramping up long term prosperity beyond the Kickstarter platform.  He’s meeting with a small business development in his hometown of Webster City, Iowa. “They’re helping me get together a business plan so I can get a loan and go out into business on my own.”