Updated: Nov 13, 2019
Tips & Tricks for those looking to make dreams reality
So Fontus finally went bankrupt and never shipped a product...Waterseer is looking like it's going down the same road. It's hard to believe it's been over a decade since crowdfunding websites like Indiegogo & Kickstarter took the net by storm. Their respective successes set the table for alternative fundraising sites like Gofundme, Patreon, etc. I myself found myself patronizing these sites around 2015. Since then out of the dozens of projects I've backed only 5 haven't come to fruition for various reasons.
Here are the projects and why they ultimately failed:
Korey Coleman is a movie reviewer known for his cable access show "The Reel Deal" & Spill.com a website where he reviewed movies, hosted podcasts, etc. with his friends (Leon, Carlyle, Cyrus, & the hugely missed Co-Host 3000.) I came across Spill back in 2008 while searching for "The Angry Videogame Nerd" videos & instantly fell for their "just a bunch of guys/longtime friends talking crap about movies." December 2013 Spill ceased operations (it's assumed Hollywood.com, Spill's owners, decided to part ways.) Korey while still trying to figure out what to do decided to start up his own venture with Martin (Leon) in tow. In the beginning he had no name and simply launched a Kickstarter.
It was an ambitious Kickstarter that ran into all the issues those new to the platform usually do. Korey for one promised A LOT of things to backers from small items like stickers, a book of backer's favorite quotes/memories from Spill, to doing requested segments on the show to even producer credits! While Korey did indeed start up his new company and it flourished gaining 20k Youtube subscribers at launch... none of the backer promises were ever fulfilled. This left those wondering what was going on with the $134k that was raised of his initial $30k goal.
What Korey ran into is all too common on these platforms. He promised way too many things that he himself couldn't possibly deliver on. He also didn't figure out the logistics of it all including shipping expenses before promising these things. Even once he got the company started & brought on volunteers nothing got done. After the project was up & running things took a turn as well since Korey changed how he ran the show. The show format went from having 2-4 professional movie reviewers talk their craft to having 2 reviewers +2-6 random people, usually fans of the show and something which Korey previously was adamantly against when he ran Spill (his words being that extra people are unpredictable and throw off the show as they do things like jump into the conversation at the wrong time or try to be funny.) Case in point one of the earlier frequent guests of Double Toasted who eventually was brought on as staff occasionally would say offensive things, causing Korey to either abruptly stop the conversation or apologize.
At the height of the Playstation 2 there was a flagship series called SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals. The series launched with the PS2's network adapter and put competitive gaming on everyone's radar. Much of competitive gaming today was brought on by the success of the SOCOM series and its tight knit, team based combat in the form of a third person shooter. David Sears was the former creative lead for Zipper Interactive, the original developer's of SOCOM. He eventually left after SOCOM 2 and the series spiraled before being discontinued. Lo & behold after years of yearning David Sears seemed to answer the fan base's prayers by promising a spiritual successor in the form of H-Hour. To top it all off in his round of interviews he promised he would never ever leave a game he was working on ever again which made a lot of people hopeful.
From the beginning this project was destined to fail. With crowdfunding ending at $253k it fell far short of the $2 million needed to bring the PC game to next-gen consoles and the $1 million allegedly needed to actually finish the triple A title. After getting the forums up it took awhile before they shipped out the basic backer gear (clothing & stickers.) Things initially looked promising once the game got on Steam Greenlight and Sears was able to secure more investment dollars but shortly after that Sears once again abruptly left mid-development, forever leaving the game to be stuck in limbo. Five years later backers are stuck with a beta that is slowly being worked on by a small group of (most likely unpaid) developers.
To this day David Sears still teases SOCOM fans about reviving the series leading some to believe H-Hour was just a money grabbing scheme with another scheme on the way.
If there's ever a cautionary tale about Kickstarter scams look no further than the Keplero Luxury Wallet. A carbon fiber wallet that was supposed to be personally engraved with a metal plate of the backer's choice. The project was launched in 2015 by Erasnep LLC bringing in a whopping $2 million between both Kickstarter & IndieGoGo campaigns. A year in the project hit a snag when the company found out it was kind of hard as well as expensive to make wallets out of carbon fiber. With each wallet there was a a lot of waste... expensive waste. The wallet had to be completely redesigned as during QA they discovered that the magnets they used were actually demagnetizing the stripe on credit cards rendering them unusable.
4 years later no wallets have been shipped and the last update was March 2017 where they told backers they were shipping all the orders after multiple delays. As usual with dead projects the company stopped responding altogether to comments. Most egregious of all not only did Erasnep leave the Kickstarter/IndieGoGo campaigns open so people could continue to fall for the honey trap, but they allegedly also formed another company and started selling rebranded Keplero wallets on a new website at a much lower price point. The new wallets not only were allegedly being shipped to new customers, but Erasnep looked to have given up on carbon fiber and went with a different material entirely.
Carbon fiber is a fantastic material, but everybody knows it is ungodly expensive and only those who know what they're doing should make products with it as it's difficult to shape. How Erasnep did not know this we'll never know. To this date no refunds has ever been given and Erasnep LLC seems to have run away with over $2 million. Recently someone tried to launch an exact replica of the Keplero campaign on Kickstarter again and actually started getting backers (there's apparently a never ending supply of suckers which is why these type of campaigns continue to exist to this day.) Thankfully the team Kickstarter closed the campaign down just as quickly as it started.
A lot of projects come from a good place such as the documentary based on New York/Boston comedian Patrice O'Neal. After his untimely death in 2011 his longtime girlfriend, comedian Von De Carlo, decided to make a documentary on the larger than life figure. Patrice was known for his harsh comments, sharp wit, and "pimp" ideology that he followed vigorously as well as made for good laughs. His notable friends and comics he grew up with include Bill Burr, Louis C.K., Jim Norton, Kevin Hart, Rich Vos, etc. Patrice was truly a "comic's comic" beloved (& hated) by many comedians for his antics.
This however was Von's first documentary and while she enlisted a ton of help, most notably from an experienced documentary producer, things never came to fruition. The title was derived from Patrice's bit where he rants about how he, a man, was better than a woman in all aspects. The project raised $130k and after several years of what seemed like no real progress every single interview was leaked to Youtube. There was at least an hour worth of interviews that stayed up for a very long time before they were taken down. Von also didn't go through proper channels to update backers. Instead of posting updates to IndieGoGo, they were instead posted directly to Patrice's website or twitter.
After what seemed like 2 years of no real updates it was finally announced that Von and her producer team had parted ways. They eventually sold the documentary to Comedy Central on the basis that Comedy Central would either finish making it or refund all the backers...both of which seems unlikely as why would Comedy Central take responsibility of refunding money on a failed project that wasn't their's to begin with? Von's inexperience and low funds ultimately caused the project to go under.
The knife robot was exactly what it sounds like, an automatic knife sharpener. It was an ambitious product made by who seems to be a genuinely good guy that loves knives. Sadly, they couldn't figure out logistics. They also found out they were selling the machine for much too low as well. Initially when I spoke with them they were even willing to make a sword sharpening robot should there be enough interest. In the end, this was one of the few projects where the company actually refunded the $122k it raised to every single backer.
Overall what ultimately causes projects to fail is inexperience. This inexperience leads to people not crossing every t & dotting every i which causes major headaches for everyone involved. There are things like under funding. You'll also see the occasional money grabbing scam like Keplero. Another major thing you have to watch out for is the "amazing science projects" that offer a product straight out of a science fiction novel. These projects usually bend the laws of physics and are characterized by only having a "CGI video model" versus a physical prototype. Such projects include any "self-filling water bottle" like Fontus (now defunct without ever shipping) & the Waterseer (going the same route as Fontus.)
There's also projects like Solar Roadways which have been demonstrably proven to be unsustainable if not completely incapable of accomplishing most of the things the project creators says it can do. The test installation seems to predictably not have been going too well as for awhile solar panels were constantly breaking. At one point the installation's power panel caught fire so....yeah....
Some tips for those looking to back Indiegogo/Kickstarter projects:
1. Make sure the project doesn't have to break the laws of physics in-order to work (there's plenty of Youtube scientists/engineers like thunderf00t & eevblog that debunk these projects frequently)
2. Make sure it doesn't already exist (IE: Evapolar is just a mini-swamp cooler)
3. If it has "never been done before" there probably is a good reason why (see reason #1)
4. Indiegogo/Kickstarters aren't Ebay or Amazon. You're supposed to be using your extra money to fund companies' ventures. There's no guarantee you'll receive anything, that you'll get a refund, and you aren't an investor so browse carefully
5. If it sounds too good to be true it most likely is