My Problem with Kickstarter

To be clear I think it’s awesome and rarely a day goes by I don’t think one of two things.

1. What could I put up on Kickstarter?

2. Why didn’t I think of Kickstarter!?

Anyhow, yeah I love it, if nothing else it shows just how much disposable income the US is sitting on :) But I also worry and get annoyed by the projects that I back.

I’ve now backed 5 projects.

1. Lunatik iPod nano frame (don’t wear it any more, but loved it. I think it delivered mostly on time)

2. Lunatik touch stylus (just received it 2 weeks ago. love it. It too was pretty close to when I was expecting it. The only delay I remember was when a selected material didn’t look good after the production run.)

3. The Present (has blown past it’s delivery date. This news is delivered by high production value videos set to very nice musical scores, but still, delayed. It’s also changed design from the version shown to get funding which I find irritating. Part of the delays is written off by “we’re building it in the USA” which wasn’t part of the equation when backing it, but suddenly after he had my money became a mission statement. WEAK.)

4. The Pebble. I was one of the first thousand or so I’d guess, I don’t recall. The Pebble is what I hoped the iPod Nano/Lunatik would be. They just announced the other day that the planned delivery of September wasn’t gonna happen. They made that date up based on 1000 units. Understandable, they have orders for nearly 90,000 units now. However they didn’t provide a delivery date. “When we’re sure it’s ready, it’ll ship.” Uh that’s great and all, but i’d like it on my wrist, sooner rather than later.

5. The Nifty Mini drive. I just backed it and they’re thinking delivery November-ish. This thing has no electronics so shouldn’t be too delayed by large kickstarter support. That’s my hope at least. We’ll see. The project closes in another few days. Since it’s mostly plastic and metal I suspect once it’s tooled up and in production they’ll churn out quickly. I hope.

So of the kickstarter projects I’ve back that are completed, 50% have missed their shipping deadlines. Now I understand it’s hard to forecast a deadline when you don’t know if you’ll be shipping 1,000 units or 100,000 units. however from the updates I see, a lot of these delays are in prototyping, which is what really irritates me. It seems these projects take their funds and then re-jigger their design. The Present spent another month or three being re-designed, then a few months working out materials. Two things that should have been really locked in by the time the projects was on kickstarter, or at least by the time it ended.

The Pebble seems to be doing the same thing, tweaking designs and circuit boards. I guess the video they made with what looked like a functioning prototype was clever filming? I dunno, but I’m starting to evaluate the projects I back with an eye toward “is this vaporware right now, and won’t be real until it funds?” I totally get that the reason things are on kickstarter is that they need money to be real, but it seems the work of designing it and having a functional prototype should be done. Once the project funds (Unless otherwise stated) it should be just a matter of production. As a backer I don’t think I’m out of line expecting these folks to live up to their stated delivery deadlines, or at least be close. I don’t’ mind an extra month, but an extra year?

2 thoughts on “My Problem with Kickstarter

  1. rlux

    Don’t think of it as pre-ordering an established product. Think of it as funding a startup. That will re-set your expectations more in line with the reality of Kickstarter.

    Quite a few of the people doing Kickstarters are brand new to the world of manufacturing & wildly underestimate the amount of time / effort it takes to actually get their products into production, even if they have a prototype. I have a friend who did a successful Kickstarter earlier this year – he is working his butt off to make everything happen, but even he’s behind schedule a little. It’s a steep learning curve, and a lot of what goes on is not within your control.

    1. John Wilker Post author

      Yeah that’s actually how I keep from being even more annoyed. Part of me wishes kickstarter offered a primer for those posting projects, LOL.

      What irks me the most is it’s a weird gray area. I want these projects to succeed (since i backed them) but really I’m just a customer placing an order, and that part often sucks. You’re right though, most projects are from folks with no past manufacturing experience and many are so hugely popular it blows away their early assumptions.

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