As more small and medium-sized businesses continue to find success – both financially and in terms of testing a market – using crowdfunding methods, it would only seem natural that larger companies would also want to take advantage of ‘expanded focus groups’ in order to test the viability of a product concept before dumping thousands (or millions) of dollars into production.

Although it could be argued that larger companies that use crowdfunding methods – such as Pebble – are exploiting a grassroots idea of helping small companies gain some traction, the fact of the matter is that it’s an open playing field for anybody that wants to play ball. For Pebble, who had previously found success with an earlier Kickstarter campaign and has remained profitable ever since, this included breaking every Kickstarter record in the book when they released the second generation of their popular smart watch earlier this year – a product that the company could have just as easily released through traditional resellers.

Now, Sony, the company that continually disrupted the way we listen to music with portable music players before the iPod came along, has turned to the crowdfunding business model to test their own product concepts before pulling the trigger on production.

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The platform, called First Flight, is part of an overall strategy that the company hopes will help drive the company back to profitability. Although the company was at one time a market leader with many products including televisions, gaming products, and devices like the Walkman, Discman and MiniDisc music players, all of these products have been disrupted by new companies and competitors. The new platform is aiming to “take back” these “lost” 20 years by inspiring employee innovation.

“Sony’s innovation is ingrained in the company’s founding spirit of `doing what has never been done before.’ Nothing embodies this spirit more than passionate entrepreneurs who give shape to their ground-breaking ideas and introduce them to the world, without fear of failure,” says Sony President and CEO Kazuo Hirai.

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“The First Flight platform and other Seed Acceleration Program initiatives accelerate and optimize this process. Sony itself originated as a start-up, and through the Seed Acceleration Program we are challenging ourselves to return to our entrepreneurial roots. At Sony we will continue to explore ways of delivering new, emotionally compelling experiences and enhanced customer value.”

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Among other products that are currently available on the First Flight platform include the MESH Smart DIY kit for users to digitally ‘tag’ their environment, the HUIS REMOTE CONTROLLER which features a customizable e-ink display and the FES Watch, which features e-ink customization across every surface including the watch band.

Currently, the First Flight crowdfunding platform is only available in Japan.

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