When Kickstarter and IndieGogo Projects Go Dark

If you’ve ever funded a product on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, you’ve probably had this experience: after a flurry of publicity, the project gets its funding, and suddenly you hear nothing more about it other than an occasional update asking for a shipping address or a color preference.

This happened to me with the first and second Pebble watches, with Lockitron, Elemoon, and Ringly, so I’m an expert at enduring the silence. Mostly I forgot I had ordered the products, and when they arrived I was pleasantly surprised. But it still would have been nice to know more about what was happening after I pre-funded the product.

So I asked Vera and Igor what was happening after the end of the campaign at Atmotube, the world’s first personal wearable air pollution monitor. I believe the Atmotube experience is typical of products that are crowd-funded, in that the founders feel a huge sense of responsibility to all the people who pre-ordered. These are individuals who have given their own money, not institutions.

Atmotube raised a bit more than 3x its funding goals at the end of last year, and Igor and Vera have gone off to China to supervise its manufacturing process. And I don’t mean they are visiting China, I mean they’ve, for all intents and purposes, set up shop there until the first Atmotubes are delivered, and here is why.

Manufacturing isn’t easy.

1)Since the Atmotube sensors are very sensitive even to small concentrations of pollutants, it is very important to keep an eye on the manufacturing process. Even a small piece of a sticker, usually used during production to label PCB boards, can contain adhesives that will affect the sensors’s readings if left inside the device.

2)There are many other chemicals that are always used inside manufacturing facilities that have to be strictly managed.

3)The Atmotube team spent a lot of time choosing the bill of materials used in Atmotube for the same reason. Since many plastics and resins emit VOCs, they have to make sure none of the components contain VOCs themselves.

4)Another challenge is the calibration process. Atmotube calibrates each device individually two times: first, using clean air (actually it’s a special gas that contains certain concentrations of oxygen, nitrogen , etc) and then using gases with VOCs. The second gas is quite harmful to people, so our calibration lab has a complicated system of filters and ventilation hoods to make sure the process is secure.

So when there’s a lag time between the time a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo project is funded and when it is delivered, don’t think the founders are partying with the money. Most likely they are, like Igor and Vera and their team, hard at work making sure the product you ordered is the best it can possibly be.