Steve Underwood, founder of Deep Blue Design and creator of the Pakpod. (Photo/Deep Blue Design)

Steve Underwood, founder of Deep Blue Design in Scarborough, holds the versatile camera tripod he designed called the Pakpod. Photo/Deep Blue Design

Two Portland-area companies have blown past their crowdfunding goals with hours to spare.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Deep Blue Design and Zootility Tools each raised more than triple the amount of the original crowdfunding goals they set on Kickstarter.

Steve Underwood, founder of Scarborough-based Deep Blue Design LLC, raised $88,646 from 759 backers (as of 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 3) for a new style of camera tripod he designed called the Pakpod. Underwood launched the campaign on Oct. 6 with an original goal of $27,000, which it reached in five days. The campaign still has two days to go. (Update: Pakpod’s campaign ended Thursday having raised $123,937 from 1,058 backers.)

Underwood, an avid free diver and underwater film maker, came up with the initial design for the Pakpod after searching for a versatile camera tripod he could use in challenging spots, like on the uneven bottom of a Maine lake or attached to the keel of a kayak. A mechanical engineer by training (UMaine class of ’79), Underwood sketched some ideas and brought them to a product engineer in Kennebunk who worked up some prototypes. The Pakpod is able to mount a smartphone, GoPro or a DSLR digital camera. It also features what Underwood calls “ninja feet” that allow it to be set up in myriad ways.

Some crowdfunding campaigns have made headlines for raising large sums from backers before developing a functional prototype (a recent example: the “Skarp” lazer razor, which raised $4 million before Kickstarter kicked it off the site). But Underwood put significant skin in the game before he launched his first-ever Kickstarter campaign. Taking the entrepreneurial leap, he raided his retirement account to fund five generations of prototypes of the Pakpod before putting the finished product on Kickstarter in October.

“If there was anything I thought about doing that would be a success, this is it,” said Underwood, who’s also co-founder of Good Theater in Portland. “So I scraped together enough money to get through the prototyping and tooling. Fortunately, it’s blown up pretty big. We have a strong proof of concept.”


The funds he raises on Kickstarter are what he needs to fund the first big manufacturing run. He thinks the fact he is able to provide “a strong proof of concept” with a finished product beyond the prototyping stage is a reason for his success.

“I think that inspired confidence in people to back it,” he said.

After the Kickstarter campaign is over, Underwood’s next focus will be on finding a major distributor for the product. He said he’s already had interest from a few. He’s also sent a few Pakpods to GoPro’s film crew, which asked him for the chance to try out the tripod during some of their more challenging shoots.

The other Maine company getting ready to close a successful Kickstarter campaign is Portland-based Zootility Tools, which as of Tuesday evening had raised $88,405 from 2,314 backers for a super-thin pocket knife that fits in a man’s wallet. The original goal was $20,000 and the crowdfunding campaign still has 13 hours to go. (Update: Zootility’s campaign ended Wednesday morning with $89,528 raised, nearly 448 percent of its original goal, from 2,337 backers.)

Zootility founder Nate Barr’s fresh take on a pocket knife, dubbed the WildCard, fits in well with Zootility Tools’ line of other wallet-size multi-tools, including the PocketMonkey and HeadgeHog. I couldn’t reach Barr on Tuesday, but he has a successful track record when it comes to Kickstarter. This will be his fourth successful campaign on the crowdfunding platform. His first was for the PocketMonkey, which raised $27,550 in December 2012.

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