This week on crowdfunding — Ep. 1

[This is the first of a series of articles detailing how my amazing co-author and I usually find most (successfully or not) crowdfunded products full of red flags or just plain bad ideas. We don’t judge — we’re probably wrong!]

Sometimes you just can see it through the cracks: that Kickstarter (or other crowdfunded effort) you’re browsing is a total bullshit product. Be it a laser razor that eventually gets removed because it’s absolutely a non existing product, or an iPad case that delivers three years late because the team is totally not up to the task, you just know that hitting that “pledge $xxx” button will sign you up for an… interesting journey.

Fortunately, over the years crowdfunding projects got better and expectations about them grew, and so did consumer awareness, so it’s not all lost: great products are crowdfunded every day and it feels really great when socially useful projects get 3x funding.

But sometimes bullshit products will get funded despite having huge red flags all over the place that they’ll never deliver on time (if ever) or that they’re about stupid crap that will never work as advertised, let alone being useful at all. So it’s time for somebody (namely, us) to analyze crowdfunding (usually bullshit) projects and point out every possible flaw about them, even if we may end up being ridiculously wrong!

Let’s jump right at it with…

The SNGL

Oh yeah baby. Put that finger in your ear. That way. Mmmmh….

The SNGL, aka “You already have a smartwatch, so let’s go dork all the way”.

Boy, where to begin. Let’s start with a $50k funding, which would have paid the tooling for basically nothing. If they actually made $50k, the project would probably have never delivered. But here we are, at almost $1 million! SKUs (product colors, in this case) have already tripled and this probably will be a problem, and there is still no indication whatsoever that production is ready to run at whatever scale.

This is what troubles me in most kickstarters I see: you get no actual idea where the project stands in terms of production line preparation, you only get a vague shitty “timeline” with terms like “final prototyping” and “small (beta) production run”. Nobody in his right mind would ever fund a project without a clear business plan, but on Kickstarter everything goes.

But the functionality, oh my, the functionality. Body conductivity has always been more a miss than a hit, but having to put an actual finger almost in your ear to make a call can only be fun as a one time “whoa” thing: keep in mind that no contact, no sound. You have to write down something and your watch is on the hand you write with? Fuck you. Call ended. And this is just one scenario.

This thing does not improve your life, it’s another thing that you have to charge. This thing will get significant delays in production. This thing has functionalities that will not be as good as advertised. This thing will cost you quite a bit more because it will ship from Korea. And it will not be a useful thing that you will use every day.

And most people will be embarassed to use it, because you do look like a dork while using it. And no matter what they say, it is ugly.

A.’s comment: “My bet is: immediate delay because they want to implement Bluetooth 5.0”

A beer on me if they do. One thing for sure: the stated Feb 2017 delivery is so unrealistic it makes me laugh. Let’s move on.

FLAG

Forever! Or better, until bankrupcy.

Flag, aka “Free, for $200!”

You know how it goes: if it’s free, you’re the product. Because yes, the actual product here is not prints for you, it’s ad space. But that’s being a bit too technical, am I right?

Let’s start with the reddest of the flags you can imagine: this is the second kickstarter for the same thing. I can’t imagine how creepier one can get than saying right in your presentation video “we have made this service, but we underestimated the production capacity needed to serve them so clients can’t use it”. The comments on both projects tell everything there’s to say: these guys don’t deliver, don’t communicate nearly enough, their apps are a joke and there’s still no Android support (and to use their service, you have to use their app).

But hey, let’s throw them more money, and hope this will work! Now they only have to more than double the production capacity. Oh, I’m sure they will do fine… Not.

This just… no.

The hilarious part is the “We print and ship for free! We ship worldwide!” and then you see that worldwide shipping is not free at all, it’s $100 for Europe and Canada and a whooping $200 for everywhere else in the world, because their fantastic business model won’t work if they can’t sell ads targeted for every country in the world. And they never will, because my personal bet is they’ll go bankrupt before they will be able to do so.

Oh, they said forever?

They say, “nothing is forever”, but what makes Kickstarters the exception?

(Oh come on, OutKast? This is a low blow.)

Seriously, don’t back these guys.

The Altered: Nozzle

Atomizing! That’s a cool word, I guess.

The Altered: Nozzle is actually a more than decent product idea: you actually do need only a tiny fraction of the water that comes out of your faucet for your daily tasks, so this thing has a point in the making.

Of course most of this video is just proper positioning of the product: the world needs great ideas to reduce waste, and they appeal on your will about saving the planet, even if breakage and delivery accounts for way more water waste than we could save by applying these things to our faucets.

So the actual appeal of this product is mostly greenwashing, but one could believe every step in the right direction counts, so, who are we to judge.

A.’s comment: “This may be me getting old, but I’m starting to feel like I don’t just want products that are functional and well built, but I also want to know *how* they will break and *when* they will break. I want to see that the way things will break are documented just as the rest. Like my car’s manual that has twenty pages dedicated to diagnosing and repairing problems.”

Amen to that. With normal products, you take brand credibility into account when buying the product. But backing a project in the making means that you should get more information about all phases of production, and that means post sale forecasts, too.

This is all pie-in-the-sky, but it clearly shows that a project like this is more a “let’s do this cool thing” than “let’s do a serious thing that would hold in the real market”.

Why? Because add-ons for faucets to break the water stream and use less water have been on the market for a couple of decades, and they all suffer the same flaws: they suck when you need serious pressure, but most importantly, they CLOG. And this would get even worse when you “atomize” the water, because the holes are going to be ridiculously smaller.

This problem should be the #1 thing about this product communication, because, as per link before, piping in most residential buildings sucks. It should not be a one line reply in the FAQ section.

Also, you can’t state that you still save 75% water when filling your glass — I know you mean that the secondary mode still allows for savings, but it doesn’t make sense if you put it this way.

Again: product with a good idea, but red flags about durability and usability, all covered in greenwashing instead of serious details about the product (not even projected lifespan?). There’s even a risk for legionella in this product that is “still in the lab” for verification.

The final straw: 5–6 weeks? Hm.

Let me check, this reminds me of something… Oh right, it’s this shower head that does the same thing, overshot the funding goal 30x and is more than one year late on delivering.

So, more like Feb 2017, if lucky.


That’s it for this time! Feel free to hate us in the response section because we talk bad about things that we didn’t have the balls or the intuition to do. Or maybe help us finding other bullshit projects!