UPDATE: Kickstarter just posted a new article on its blog addressing the following issues: “Is Lateness a Feature?”In May, Pebble became the most funded Kickstarter project of all time when it raised $10.26 million from 69,000 people in just over one month.
Pebble is a watch that uses Bluetooth to connect to smart phones; it displays emails, texts, the time, and more on the wearer’s wrist. It was proposed as a hypothetical idea; while the Pebble founders had made watches before, they had never made the smart watch they pitched the Kickstarter community.
The creators of Pebble initially told its supporters their watches would be available in September. But two months after the campaign ended, Pebble found it impossible to ship the 85,000 pre-ordered watches on time. The creators delayed the delivery date indefinitely.
“We don’t want to say anything this time until we’re 100% sure,” CEO Eric Migicovsky tells CNN Money’s Julianne Pepitone. “Some people were very supportive. And, of course, there are people who wanted their watch yesterday. We’re keeping that in mind.”
In all other aspects, its founders have tried to be as transparent with their backers as possible. It gives them regular status updates on Pebble’s blog and the founders have participated in “ask me anything” events on Reddit.
Kickstarter makes no apologies for the delayed shipment of Pebble. It also doesn’t seem phased that 84% of the top projects funded on its site are shipped late.
Co-founder Yancey Strickler says people are supposed to buy into the “journey” of creating a product on Kickstarter, not into the product itself.
“If you want a watch, you can go buy a watch,” Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler tells Pepitone. “People turn to the analogs of consumer behaviour, as if this is a Wal-Mart online store. Kickstarter isn’t a perfect analogue to anything like that. It’s something new.”
“When we go see a movie, we don’t think about how long the post-production took,” he says. “We don’t look at the Sistine Chapel and think, ‘This took four years,’ or however long it took.”
He agrees Kickstarter needs to address the possibility of a creator not sufficiently fulfilling his or her initial promise, though.
Kickstarter successes like Pebble highlight a few other problems the platform still needs to address.
For example, another successfully funded Kickstarter company, Flint and Tinder, told us how raising $291,000 worth of pre-orders almost put it out of business. It ended up $30,000 in the hole after fulfilling 20,000 more orders than it was prepared to produce.
But, if founders and backers can survive their viral Kickstarter campaigns, the experience is worth it.
“It adds a proper legacy to the brand,” Flint and Tinder’s CEO Jake Bronstein tells us. “By day one, I had created a consumer base of 5,000-plus people who were enthusiastic about the product. I don’t think it would have been the same if our first customers had bought our product in a box on a shelf.”
We’ve reached out to Pebble for comment.