We're huge fans of crowdsourcing and have backed numerous projects on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo in the past. That being said, our results have been mixed at best. In general, our results have been better with Kickstarter projects, though both platforms have served up duds from time to time. As we pointed out in a previous post, the buyer should definitely beware. Choose the projects you back carefully, and make sure that you can afford to lose the money should the product fail to materialize.
What we didn't expect, probably no one expected, was that a crowdfunding project team would accuse funders of defamation and refuse to ship their product – even though the product was over half a year late and the funder's claims seem to be somewhat justified. This appears to have happened after Cobblebot LLC failed to deliver 3D printers to their backers long after the due dates.
One can certainly debate whether or not the original project description was credible or not. After all, Cobblebot (the company name might have been a red flag) offered a state of the art 3D printer with performance claims that rival commercial printers at 10 times the price for less than USD$300. Be that as it may, the company had the balls to take aggressive action against one of the project backers, including quoting sections from Texas law regarding defamation of character.
To make things even more interesting, the company stated that the backer's actions were being “…reviewed by the legal department for inclusion in our fourth round of upcoming legal actions being filed to protect our company's reputation from the illegal act of defamation.” Did you pick up on that? Apparently this is the fourth round of legal actions for the company.
To put it in context, Cobblebot raised well over USD$300k for the initial project, and now has a second active Kickstarter project that has already raised USD$108k. For obvious reasons, we're not going to link to that project in this post.
We're certainly not trying to take a position on who is right, or wrong, in this dispute. That's a problem for the courts, assuming that things devolve to that state eventually. All we're trying to do is to raise awareness of the potential risks and pitfalls involved in crowdfunding. There are no guarantees. Backing a crowdfunding project is very different from buying a commercial product from a well known manufacturer or retail shop.
Be careful. It's a jungle out there. Exploring jungles can be fun, but only as long as you understand the risks involved and plan accordingly.