Kickstarter, the world’s largest crowdfunding site, gives entrepreneurs a platform to raise money for pet projects like a new business, a film, or even a music video.
To date, the site has collectively raised more than $679 million for more than 100,000 campaigns, launching the likes of the new gaming console Ouya and funding a feature film for “Veronica Mars” fans.
But not all Kickstarters have a happy ending and success can be difficult to bear. Some fundraisers simply aren’t prepared to handle the demand that comes with thousands of new backers and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Here are three tales of Kickstarter campaigns gone bad.
1. Ed Carter hoped to raise $21,000 to fund his board game. Instead, he lost his house and job.
Carter’s plan was to raise money to produce a deluxe version of his board game “Glory to Rome.”
It was a smashing success. At the end of his 21-day funding period in the summer of 2011, Carter had raised $73,102 from 1,600 board game enthusiasts — more than three times his goal. In return for the donation, Carter promised his backers free shipping of his game.
Fast forward a year and Carter was in deep trouble. His backers-turned-customers still hadn’t seen their board games. Turns out, the games were ready to ship but were crushed in transit after Carter forgot to indicate that the packages were fragile. And free shipping was easy enough to finance for domestic orders and even to Brazil, but a large order to Australia cost Carter more to ship than the game itself.
The blows kept coming. Carter was laid off from his full-time job with Staples. As he ran out of money, he had to dip into his personal savings account to pay for the game production and subsequently stopped making payments on his mortgage.
The writing was on the wall at that point. Eventually, Carter lost his Boston home. Despite bankrupting himself, Carter has managed to deliver all of the games he promised and says he’d do it again.
“I’m doing this because the corporate world is one of the best games ever invented,” he told Quartz.com.
2. Childhood friends raised thousands to produce eco-friendly sandals. Then they completely fell off the radar.
John Eades and Michael Ferreri created the Vere flip-flop, a sandal they marketed as having “its eye on the environment.“
The childhood friends hoped to raise $12,000 to build a sandal-making factory in Geneva, N.Y., telling would-be supporters they had the experience and equipment, but needed help with production costs.
The two raised $52,618 — almost four and a half times their goal — in the spring of 2011.
10 months later, Eades and Ferreri found themselves in the hot seat with their 1,091 backers. The sandals that were promised to customers were still nowhere to be seen as of December 2011, way past flip-flop season.
“It’s been a long, frustrating process to say the least, and we’ve hit more roadblocks than even we expected,” they wrote in a letter to BetaBeat.com. “Kickstarter orders were overwhelming, and if we were to do it again we would definitely have put a limit on the number of backer awards available.”
The two sporadically updated backers, citing mechanical issues, short-staffing, and the late arrival of materials.
They were still fielding complaints from customers in January, but it seems like they’ve finally managed to get on track. The sandals are finally being sold at retailers across the country.
3. Kickstarter backers thought they were funding a cutting edge pair of video-recording glasses. Turns out it was a total scam.
What seemed like a great investment quickly went south for the 2,106 backers of Eyez, HD VideoRecording Glasses for Facebook. The glasses were supposed to be able to record video in your line of sight and upload it to Facebook.
ZionEyez raised $343, 415 towards their project — more than six times their original goal.
Anyone who pledged $150 or more to ZionEyez was promised a pair of the glasses by Winter 2011. Nearly two years later, the glasses are nowhere in sight.
To top it all off, the creators have been silent since the spring of 2012. On April 10, 2012 they updated their Kickstarter page saying they needed approximately seven months to finish testing and manufacturing. Over a year later, still nothing.
Some backers were angry enough to suggest filing a class action lawsuit against the creators. One commenter did post a copy of an email from the creators of Eyez, saying an update will be coming in the “near future.”
So far, it doesn’t look too promising for the supporters of Eyez. To their disadvantage, Kickstarter doesn’t give out refunds.
What can you do if you’ve backed a Kickstarer campaign gone wrong?
Before you decide to fund a campaign, choose your projects to fund wisely, or as Kickstarter says: “Use your internet street smarts.”
Unfortunately, Kickstarter does not claim responsibility for failed projects. The company only ensures that projects meet their community guidelines, which loosely states projects must be just that, a project, and fit into one of their categories.
Do you have a Kickstarter campaign gone bad? Or have you donated to a Kickstarter campaign that’s gone bottom up? Email us and tell us your story: [email protected]
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