48 backers in 12 countries got kick-robbed by the Origin Paddleboards Kickstarter campaign—I was one of them.

Neil Parmenter and Neil Carter-James’ Origin Paddleboards Kickstarter campaign started on March 15, 2016 and was fully-funded within 48 hours — read on to find out what it’s like to back a couple thousand dollars’ worth of empty promises.

We paddle every day, until we don’t

They promised “The World’s Best Inflatable SUP” — “ Lighter, faster, stronger and even more beautiful. Made in Switzerland.” They promised “Punctuality”, that “deadlines will be kept”, and boards delivered in May 2016; but as of 20 January, 2017, the Creators of the Kickstarter campaign Origin Paddleboards informed 48 backers that “they tried their best” and would “stop trading”. I was backer 13 and was scammed for a couple thousand dollars; others were scammed for even more. We thought we were funding production…

“As of immediate effect, Origin Paddleboards and it’s parent company SUP Switzerland GmbH has ceased trading. When you lead from the front and push the boundaries you are always walking a fine line. Sadly today we have teetered onto the wrong side of that line and have closed our doors.”

I decided to back Origin knowing that my husband and I were getting ready to leave California with the intent to start a SUP business in Croatia and the Origins Paddleboard campaign caught my eye — inflatable SUP boards manufactured in Switzerland (closer to Croatia!), delivered in time to enjoy summer paddling, and used in one of adventurer David Cornthwaite’s many excursions were enough to get me to sign on. My husband was less-enthused in contrast to my desire to participate in a European-produced crowdfunding campaign—he was skeptical. He operates from a place of fiscal restraint opposite to my belief that the universe will always provide — he hated the idea of investing over $2,000 USD on Kickstarter. But I had faith (albeit blind faith) we’d be starting our rental fleet the right way.

As mentioned above, the Origin Paddleboard campaign was fully-funded within 48 hours and by April 14, 2016 the project raised well-over their initial goal of $75,000 (CHF 94,843) which was enough to upgrade to a better FCS fin. Our packages also included a hand-stitched board-backpack, a pump, a 3-year-warranty, and a promise to donate clean water to kids for life. (Sorry kids!) For an extra $100+ USD we were able to purchase paddles outside of the campaign. I bought two.

By June a couple of boards were shipped out of queue with a few more boards shipped at the end of June and received in the second week of July. (Origin was also offering additional boards to backers outside of the campaign that I wasn’t aware of until much later.) The promised mid-May shipment date for all was a memory and production issues were presenting themselves on an ongoing basis. There were a couple of pro-active status updates but there were even more solicitations for specs, and delivery dates from backers; if it weren’t for one curious backer being invited to see the factory and sharing feedback I believe many of us would have felt this was campaign was a complete fabrication.

Production “continued” through July and August with seemingly insurmountable problems pushing out delivery of more boards (10–12 per week) even further. Although I was told via email my board would be dispatched as of August 28, and to look out for a dispatch notice, it became clear my summer would not be one of loving my Origin SUPs on the Adriatic and building that rental fleet — August 28 came and went with and the dispatch notice never arrived.

A campaign update was sent in early September explaining they would be “going dark” and delivery now slipped into Spring 2017. At this point why didn’t I alert Kickstarter support to all of the production issues and missed four months of missed deadlines? Why didn’t I contact my bank and report credit card fraud? Why didn’t I suggest the campaign cut their losses and refund their backers? Well, as a participant in the SUP community for 6 years I wanted to believe Origin Paddleboards would deliver on their promises to their backers — I believed their hype.

The time between September 23 and December 12 was “dark” as promised and would have likely remained dark until January had three backers not taken a surprise visit to a locked factory with no personal present (but a few boards to be seen) in early December. Again, in a reactive response to the visit we were told of the same perpetual issues with materials and the same promise of a Spring 2017 delivery. Only any delivery is now out of the question. Apparently during this “dark” period Origin Paddleboards was trying to hand off their company elsewhere and co-founder Neil Carter-James left the company in October — neither of which sounds like “material issues” and neither were discovered until the next campaign update.

On January 20 I was added to a closed Facebook group by a fellow-backer I had kept in touch with during the campaign — I had wondered whether such an FB group already existed and thought it a practical idea — but at the time of the invite I wasn’t aware the FB group was formed as a result of Origin’s latest Kickstarter Update titled “Final Update”. When I checked my email and went onto the Kickstarter campaign page I was in for an outrageous shock.

My TLDR; read-between-the-lines interpretation of Update #22 (since I don’t wish to violate Kickstarter privacy policies) is

· Origin Paddleboards had a challenging 2016 and we have bad news

· We are blaming the campaign’s failure on the material issues by the manufacturer

· We worked really really really hard but blew through all of the money and since we aren’t Amazon you’re shit-out-of-luck

· We’ve attached a (pathetic) Power Point presentation outlining how we wasted our time and your money; and if you pay attentions to details you’ll see that we tried to hand off our business elsewhere (only we didn’t tell you until now)

· Sorry and buh-bye

Oh?! Having participated in close to 20 crowdfunding campaigns, including the failed-but-loved BIA Sport watch (sadly, the well-loved women-owned company failed and then the watch failed a few months later), the KAISR Original Lounge (which lost a patent suit last year but refunded backers), the soon-to-be-released documentary “Sarajevo Roses” (an almost done version debuted at the Sarajevo Film Festival — yay!), and the terrific debut album “Electric Guitars” from Emma Ruth Rundle. I am well-aware risks are involved, production glitches present themselves, and deadlines will be missed when I back projects. I am also aware manufacturing defects present themselves in SUP manufacturing and push out deliveries; but nothing prepared me for the 9-month gestation period of the Origin Paddleboards disaster.

And what does Kickstarter have to say about this? At least three backers reached out to them and it took me writing twice to receive an auto-script response sent by “Gary” that basically reiterates their FAQ page. Nowhere did Gary mention that Kickstarter took the initiative to review our actual campaign or read through the communication threads and Power Point attachment in Update #22. How can Kickstarter (or any other crowdfunding platform) honestly think what happened to the backers of the Origin Paddleboards campaign is acceptable if backers spend a minimum of $1,100 per each reward?

Why am I sharing? First and foremost, I want my money back and will use as many means as possible to disseminate the story of this campaign. Second, I want the campaign creator’s take responsibility for broken promises and dishonest business practices. Third, let this be a cautionary tale for anyone who’s part of a campaign with opaque communications or lack of a Plan B — such as offering refunds — when production problems take months to resolve. Lastly, Kickstarter’s Integrity team (and other platforms) need to know that it’s unacceptable for a campaign to misuse their platform and leave their backers dry.

And yes, my husband got to say “I told you so”. And no, I will not back another Kickstarter campaign.

Please share and don’t let this happen to you.

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