If so, can you give advice on any of these points? 1. The kinds of offers that work best. 2. Delivering remarkable value for these early adopters. 3. Building in virality so that interested users have a strong incentive to share across all their networks?
I've seen this work in crowdfunding models (i.e. indiegogo, kickstarter, etc) and some companies who built it themselves (Lockitron).
It can work but I believe it really depends on the innovation and the size/type of the market.
For it to work at scale (raise enough money) you need to demonstrate a future product that's remarkable (people will talk about it after they see it) or it won't have the viral aspect. Seth Godin calls this a Purple Cow.
I did build a service company by closing deals and getting 50% up front, so that I could afford to higher more people, and then sell more deals. I called it "customer financing" and it's a beautiful thing if you can make it work. The only risk is you NEED to deliver on the promise sold, or it's a ponzi scheme waiting to implode.
Hope that helps.