You know, to address crowds and make promises does not require very much brains.
– Eduard Shevardnadze –
Truthfully I’m a big fan of crowdfunding new products. I love a deal like anyone else and to date I’ve only been disappointed once. That product (StickNfind) shipped and actually worked for a time, even making it to retail. The problem was the battery life was too short for my liking. Ultimately not a failed campaign though.
Crowdfunding websites are not online shopping. They are donation sites and you don’t get refunds from Indiegogo or Kickstarter after the campaign end date. If you pray really hard your credit-card company might go to bat for you. Here’s how to avoid being swindled…
and avoid this particularly problematic campaign…
In my latest news piece on Panbo I highlighted the Triton –“Worlds First Artificial Gills Rebreather.” I’m hoping for a lively discussion from some very knowledgeable people in the marine industry. As of this moment the product has passed $850,000 of a $50,000 flexible goal. Incredibly it still has 25 days left. So why I am I so pessimistic?
Dr Alistair Dove of Deepseanews.com breaks down the physics on why this product is unlikely:
“OK, I hate gearing up for a dive as much as anyone, but unfortunately there’s a bit of physics and physiology that means the Triton concept just ain’t gonna happen. On Earth at least.”
He’s Director of Research at an aquarium. I’m going to listen to him despite how badly I want this thing. Lesson learned: do some research, save some cash. Worse case scenario is that Alistair is dead wrong and I have to fork out an extra $100 to buy it in a store next year.
If you don’t believe Dove, how about marine ecologist Andrew David Thaler:
It’d be like cracking cold fusion.” (well that sounds promising)
Other warning signs
- Flexible goals mean the funds collector can take any amount of money they receive, regardless of whether or not it is enough to produce the final product. Great for them, bad for you. Fixed funding is better for you, it means they might have actually sat down and figured out how much they need to launch – or maybe not. FYI, Kickstarter does not have a flexible funding option.
- Vague or no risks associated with the project. All projects have risks, particularly startups. Does it sound like they are being up front with you?
Hold on a minute, but I saw this product in two James bond movies and a Star Wars movie, it must be possible? Sure within the next couple of decades. To read the above risks you’d think this was already packaged and ready to Indie a go go go. No, what you can’t see in the beach photo are the three founders from Sweden laughing about all the kroner that you get for $850 grand!
Part of the problem is that the crowdfunding sites have no incentive to weed out the swindlers. They get a cut from every “donation.” Josh makes some valid points here about Indiegogo playing fast and loose with your hard earned cash, although they now seem to have slightly modified their refund policy.
Want some more entertainment? How about 7 Scam-tastic Crowdfunding campaigns.
Finally, just read the comments posted to the project. If it doesn’t pass the sniff test it stinks!
“I swear if they release the new [Triton] video on April Fools day I’m going to be highly suspicious.” (no shit Sherlock)
I still believe in the crowdfunding concept. I just want to help nip the nonsense in the bud because if word gets around, it will ruin it for everyone. There’s clearly an opportunity for another crowdfunding site who escrows the cash until manufacturing is complete while guaranteeing the manufacturer payment upon delivery.
Back to my happy stories. Despite growing pains I’m really happy with my iSmart alarm and camera. Just when it was getting traction at CES in Vegas, I rolled the dice, waited, and was rewarded.
My latest Kickstarter contribution has been well documented at Signalkool and ships next month. I’m 100% sure I will receive it because I held the product in my hands at the Miami boat show. Not only that but the company makes numerous other marine related electronics products so they are a proven team. Kickstarting was just their way of proving a market before committing – all good!
– Safe Boating –