Crowdfunding: Won’t Get Fooled Again

My love affair with crowdfunding is officially over.

For a long time, I’ve been a huge fan of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, having backed a number of successful campaigns. I was even such a proponent of crowdfunding that Ross Rubin invited me to be his co-host on his Backerjack podcast. But now, you can count me out on spending a dime on any future campaigns.

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Many of the Indiegogo campaigns I backed over the years worked out quite well, at least initially. In 2014 I backed a movie that still hasn’t been released, but it’s completed and now well on its way to limited distribution. In early 2015 I happily supported Typed, a blogging platform from Dan Counsell and the crew at Realmac Software. Sadly, Typed appears to have gone the way of the Dodo and Edsel, but it was a great idea and worth the cost of the experiment -- plus, the folks at Realmac Software have been long-time supporters of Apple World Today.

My next Indiegogo experiment also worked out well, funding the folks at DODOcase for the SMARTvr “Google Cardboard” VR viewer (see image below), which I use a lot to view my 360° VR photos and video. 

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Kickstarter must do a lot better job of vetting developers and projects, because I’ve never had an issue with any of the campaigns that I’ve backed over the years, even receiving some of the goods on time. But Kickstarter now seems to be drowning in artsy social justice warrior projects that aren’t what I want to spend my hard-earned dollars on. 

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So, if everything has worked out pretty well, why am I so down on the concept of crowdfunding right now? It’s because of two specific campaigns on Indiegogo which are now beginning to look like they’ll never ship. I’ll be out a total of $497 if they don’t ship, which is an expensive way to learn a lesson.

The first campaign is for something that I still really want to succeed: the MI Guitar by Magic Instruments. I ordered the $348 Early Bird II Bundle back in April of 2016, and expected to get my guitar by my birthday in September of 2016. That date came and went, with a promise that it would ship in November of 2016. Nope. 

The Magic Instruments MI Guitar, which I'm still hoping I'll see some day...

The Magic Instruments MI Guitar, which I'm still hoping I'll see some day...

The last I heard from the Magic Instruments folks was three months ago, when the team said they were “finalizing the product design…finalizing business arrangements with our manufacturing partners and suppliers.” Things actually looked pretty good at that time, with demos of a drastically improved app that now lets you learn a song with the help of an instructor. 

I love the idea of the MI Guitar, but it worries me when the campaign team “goes dark” and isn’t responding to questions. The team said in February that they hoped to ship in October 2017, and if I only have to wait a month more for a product that goes beyond what I originally wanted, I guess that my worries about MI Guitar are unfounded. 

The next campaign I supported was for another 360° spherical camera, this one with a tiny footprint and a 32MP sensor resolution. I put in my backing bucks ($149) in August of 2016, and at that time it was promised that the Nico360 would ship by November of 2016.

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Once again, here’s a campaign that’s almost a year late, with a project team that isn’t responding to any questions from backers. To add insult to injury, since the Nico360 campaign started, several new 360° spherical cameras have hit the market that match or exceed its specs — like the new Ricoh Theta V

So that’s it. I don’t care how wonderful the product video looks or how far along the prototype is; I’m not going to back another crowdfunding campaign. If the product or service someone is creating is really as good as they say it’s going to be, let them convince venture capitalists to fund their projects. Those of us who are getting tired of waiting forever for crowdfunded products to ship aren’t going to get fooled again.

It’s not just me, by the way. Read the comments by backers on a lot of these overdue campaigns and you’ll hear a familiar tune — “this is the last time I let someone else take my money and not ship me a product or be a year late”. 

Do you have any similar crowdfunding stories? Have you ever spent a few hundred bucks on something that never shipped? Leave your horror stories in the comments below so we can commiserate.