Let me start this post off by noting that I'm a huge
fan of crowdfunding and think that it's an amazing force for all sorts of good things in art, culture and innovation. That's part of the reason why we do a weekly awesome stuff
post highlighting interesting (and sometimes awesome) crowdfunding projects. But, it should be noted that crowdfunding projects don't always turn out great. There are plenty of horror stories to go around -- some involving what appear to be outright fraud, certainly -- mostly just because project creators are way overly optimistic on their ability to achieve their goals. I've backed a few dozen projects, and I can only think of a handful that were delivered on time. To be honest, this doesn't bother me so much. What's much worse is that as projects go bad, the project creators tend to disappear, not updating people with the bad news, leading people to get angrier and angrier.
Kickstarter, for one, has long tried to make it clear that it is "not a store," but rather that you're backing a project, and there's risk associated with that -- including the risk that a project may fail. However, it's still disappointing to back a project and have it be totally disappointing. So, this week, I thought I'd ask people about the most disappointing
crowdfunded projects they've seen or backed. And I'll reveal mine. Back in the summer of 2013, on one of our awesome stuffs I wrote
about the HOT Watch
, a new smart watch that had some interesting features, including the ability to hold your hand up to your ear and use your hand like a phone. The video for the project was super cheesy/infomercially, which scared me off, but I'd become somewhat fascinated with the possibilities for smartwatches, and at the last minute bought into it. The backers of the project swore up and down, left, right and center, that the project would ship in time for Christmas in 2013. Right up until basically the end of the year the company insisted it would be shipping. It's now February of 2015 and I still don't have mine
. Because I just don't care any more, I've asked them for a refund and they haven't replied, which is pretty much what I expected. Some people appear to have received theirs -- but I haven't and it's now 15 months late, and the market for smartwatches has moved way past the HOT Watch.
Lesson learned: crowdfunder beware.
Another, similar project, which (thankfully) I did not
back is the Lima
, which was a little device that was supposed to enable you to very easily
set up your own personal cloud with USB devices at home. That presentation was super slick, and I was tempted to back it, but the pricing seemed a little steep, and I'm glad I didn't because while it also
promised delivery by December 2013, at last check, it also has not delivered at all, and there are tons of people demanding refunds. I had mentioned the Lima in another awesome stuff
post, and the company reached out to me saying the team wanted to send me a postcard (?!?!) as a thank you. I told the person not to bother, but the company still found our office address and sent it anyway. It seems like, rather than sending out post cards to people who don't want them, they could have put time into working on the product.
Anyway, this isn't to knock crowdfunding, or even these two projects in particular. It's just to note that there are risks associated with crowdfunding, and certain projects turn out to be flops, so you need to be aware. In the meantime, would love to hear about crowdfunding flops that you have backed (or luckily avoided...).