I write a lot about Kickstarter projects, but I never actually back any projects myself anymore. Aside from some pesky project creators finding it appropriate to use the site’s contact email to ask me to personally back their projects, I simply can’t do the whole crowdfunding thing. I’m not a millionaire, or by any means rich, so if I pay for a product, I want the product, when the project is said to ship.
No project on Kickstarter actually comes with a guarantee of success. You’re backing a project, and the reward is being promised to you if the project succeed. Delays are to be expected, and if it all hits the fan, you’re not really entitled to anything. Kickstarter is trying to get this information out to people who think it’s essentially a store, but with limited luck.
The problem I have with Kickstarter is that project creators are eager to point to release dates and plans when they list a project, but quickly turn to the “stuff happens” excuse once they’re funded. Take the Pebble smartwatch. It set records on Kickstarter when it brought in over $10 million, and people were very excited to get their smartwatch in September, as was listed. It’s now late November, and the Pebble isn’t anywhere close to shipping yet. With the production capabilities listed, it will also take a couple of months just to fulfill Kickstarter “orders,” putting the shipment date for other orders way into next year. The comments on the project page seem to be split between people who can take the wait, and people who are pissed off. Legally speaking, the second group has no say, but morally speaking? I don’t know.
I considered the Pebble when it was first announced, but figured I’d get one when it came out in September. I’m glad I didn’t pledge, because I would now have been $115 out of pocket with nothing that resembles a watch on my wrist. While people have been waiting for the Pebble, a competitor has launched (through Kickstarter), funded, and shipped the Metawatch Strata, which now ironically has features the Pebble doesn’t. All the valid reasons for Pebble’s delay doesn’t change the fact that those that didn’t pledge for the Pebble can now simply go buy something else.
Crowdfunding does a lot of good, but it’s not for everyone. I might even go as far as stating it’s not for most people, as I think the majority of backers are expecting a product at the end of the process. I think that there’s still a long way to go before the rules of crowdfunding are understood by everyone, and I think that once they are, there will be a lot more people like me, who like the idea, but aren’t interested in making that sort of commitment themselves. I think that right now, there are a lot of projects that only got funded because people don’t know what they’re actually paying for, and that’s not right.