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.
I first ran across BOCCO at Maker Faire Tokyo last year, and I have to say that I was a little skeptical about its potential as a product and as a business. Although BOCCO incorporates quite a few communication functions, like delivering a message to your loved ones while you are absent, many other devices that are capable of doing the same things, like smartphones and tablets, already exist.
Yet, BOCCO drew big crowds at Maker Faire, and continued to gain fans and supporters over the months that followed. And, when the BOCCO Kickstarter project launched, a significant percentage of those fans demonstrated their love of the robot by opening their wallets and supplying funding. As of this evening, 20 hours before the project closes, they have already exceeded the original goal of raising $20,000 by a considerable margin.
What makes BOCCO so unusual? Why were people willing to fund the project when logically there are already many ways to satisfy the core communication functions with existing technology like smartphones?
BOCCO is emotionally attractive and welcoming. The robot’s ‘cute’ and non-threatening personality makes it perfect for situations involving people that are either too young, or too old, to be comfortable using a smartphone. For example, BOCCO could be your personal remote avatar interacting in an engaging manner with an elderly grandparent living in a full care facility, even if they happened to be a 1,000 miles or more away. BOCCO is fun. BOCCO is friendly. And, BOCCO is caring. When it comes to robots and people, that’s enough - it’s more than enough.
Via: BOCCO: The family robot that brings your loved ones closer by Yukai Engineering — Kickstarter #robotsdreams
More information at Robots Dreams
This Kickstarter project uses an innovative approach to produce 3D printed circuit boards on a wide range of different substrate materials.
It won’t meet everyone’s needs, and the long term reliability of the circuits it produces is still to be established, but if you do a lot of circuit board prototyping or want to explore more exotic applications like wearable electronics, this project might be just the ticket.
No etching, no harsh chemicals, and almost zero lead-time. Just print out your circuit board design using the two-pass system and you’re ready to install the components and test.
Want to get involved with 3D printing but don't have a big enough budget to buy even one of the current low-cost machines? If you aren't particular about the print quality or size, and don't mind waiting quite a while for delivery, then you might find the Peachy Printer Kickstarter project just what you've been looking for.
The design approach is minimalist, to say the least, and was originally hacked together using parts that Rylan Grayston happened to have laying around on his workbench. It looks very much like a school science project - which I'm not negative or being critical about. Actually I admire his ingenuity and creativity quite a bit.
Rylan, with some help and assistance from his local hackerspace, managed to put together a resin based 3D printer that actually produces parts of surprising quality - surprising given the total lack of precision mechanical drives or other commonly used techniques. Instead of using a z-axis drive mechanism, Rylan decided to keep the build platform stationary while slowly increasing the resin level, drop by drop. By counting the number of drops that fall in the build container, and knowing the container dimensions, his application calculates the current resin level and drives the resin curing laser accordingly.
He eliminated the need for a dedicated micro controller and other electronics by using the audio headphone and microphone jacks on his PC. Of course, this approach is marginally robust and requires that you don't use your PC for anything else while printing - but it does work, which is brilliant.
At first I was a bit concerned that The Peachy Printer Kickstarter project might be a scam, but after watching the introductory video and looking at the associated photos, I decided that it's probably real. In any case the cost is extremely low - basically CAN$100 for one of the Peachy Printer kits.
As I mentioned above, if you do decide to back the project be prepared to wait a while. Most of the reward options have dates in the Fall of 2014 - about a year out at this point in time.
How's Rylan doing so far? Pretty good actually. The initial project funding goal was CAN$50,000, which he needed to improve some of the design and to order parts for the printers. As of October 12th, with 8 more days left to go, he has totally blown away the goal and clocked up CAN$591,450 all ready.
I'm a huge fan of Crowdfunding and see it as one of the most exciting and interesting innovations that is taken place over the past five years or so. It has tremendous potential, and can bring products and services to reality in a way that was never possible before.
It's definitely a boon to small entrepreneurial creators without a proven track record that wouldn't stand a chance of attracting investment in other ways, and certainly wouldn't be able to get banks or traditional financial institutions to loan them money.
And, more important, Crowdfunding directly connects creators with customers that share their interests and passions. The people that are willing to back crowd funding projects on popular sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, are already pre sold on the product or service to the point that they are willing to back it knowing that the product doesn't exist yet and won't for some period of time.
The problem is that too many "customers" tend to confuse backing a crowd funding project with purchasing an item at a retail store. They are two totally different animals.
Here's a breakdown of the Crowdfunding projects that I backed over the past couple of years:
In total, I have backed 21 projects – 17 on Kickstarter and 4 on Indiegogo. Out of that total, 12 successfully reached their funding goal, eight failed to fund, and one is still in the planning process.
Looking at the 12 funded projects, four of them have promised delivery dates in the future, but eight of them have already passed the delivery dates that were originally promised.
How many actually delivered anything? Sadly, the answer is only three. Two of them delivered within two months of the promised delivery date, but in only one case did the product match what was originally promised. In the other case the product was delivered but had significant problems.
One project delivered 15 months after the original promise date, and I have to admit that the products performance was exactly as outlined in the original project. Unfortunately it is Apple iPhone based and the interface was made obsolete when Apple changed to the Lightning connector. The only reason that I'm able to use the product at all at this point is that I hung on to my old iPhone.
There were also three projects that funded but it never delivered. The project sponsors got their money, did their projects, but failed to deliver anything on their promises and were non responsive to follow-up requests.
All that being said, I'm still very positive about Crowdfunding and will continue to back projects that interest me. I understand the odds quite well and I'm not naïve. The operative word is "caveat emptor"....