In a perfect world, all crowdfunding projects would live up to their promises and deliver on time — but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world.
Crowdfunding sites can’t promise that the projects funded on their platforms will definitely come to fruition — it’s up to backers to look out for warning signs that a project isn’t exactly what it seems. On more than one occasion, budding endeavors on Kickstarter and Indiegogo haven’t been able to live up to their promises, often leaving backers with a feeling of disappointment (and an empty wallet).
These are some of the most notorious.
Central Standard Timing raised more than $1 million in pledges from 7,658 backers on Kickstarter, for what it deemed “the world’s thinnest watch.” The CST-01 was funded in 2013, and boy, has it been a journey since then. Delay after delay plagued the e-ink watch as the company struggled to find the sort of technology it needed to actually create the watch.
There’s been a lot of silence from Central Standard Timing, but in 2015, the company posted an apology — and an update — for where the watch stood. It wasn’t good. Central Standard Timing had parted ways with the manufacturer it had been working with for the majority of the process. After another year of silence, Business Insider reported that the company had filed for bankruptcy, making it even more unlikely that CST-01 backers would ever see the money they’d given the company.
It’s likely that Central Standard Timing didn’t intend to scam its backers out of money; it sounds like the company was in over its head in regards to the manufacturing of the watch. However, that certainly doesn’t excuse the money lost by Kickstarter backers.
Skarp Laser Razor
The Skarp Laser Razor was supposedly going to revolutionize shaving by using a laser to remove hair. Apparently, human hair contains a chromophore (a particle that can absorb certain wavelengths of light) that allows follicles to be cut when hit with a particular wavelength of light.
The company behind the razor, Skarp Technologies, claimed to have a working prototype. However, the video on the project’s page didn’t exactly garner confidence from skeptics. Sure — Skarp’s technology might able to snip off a few hairs, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as effective as a regular ol’ razor.
Kickstarter eventually stepped in after more than 20,000 backers raised more than $4 million in funding. An email sent to backers soon reported that the company did not actually have a working prototype, and the company was in violation of a rule that requires working prototypes of physical products that are offered as rewards.
Shortly thereafter, the project quickly moved itself over to IndieGoGo, where it raised close to $500,000. The last campaign update was posted around May, but despite shaky evidence of the device’s legitimacy, Skarp Technologies is adamant that it’ll deliver the product by the end of 2016.
ZANO Autonomous Drone
Torquing Group Ltd. raised more than $3 million in pledges from 12,075 backers on Kickstarter for this palm-sized and much-hyped drone. The ZANO, as it was called, was supposed to connect to iOS and Android smartphones to capture and instantly share photos and videos. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, but then the delays started piling up. Eventually, Torquing Group filed for bankruptcy — at which point Kickstarter hired investigative journalist Mark Harris to find out why the project had failed.
Apparently, Torquing tried really hard to make the drone, but just didn’t have the resources to see it through to completion. The drones were “barely operational,” according to Harris, which was bad news for everyone, but mostly for backers who coughed up hard-earned cash that they’ll never get back.
Triton — the creators of a device that supposedly would allow users to breathe underwater — have admitted to misleading its backers, and have re-funded nearly $900,000 to Indiegogo backers. The company initially suggested its device was able to “extract breathable air” from water, but that wasn’t entirely true. When the internet (and Digital Trends in particular) started questioning the science behind the product, Triton had to come clean.
Triton Gills actually used what Triton calls “liquid oxygen” cylinders to allow swimmers to breathe underwater. These aren’t currently reusable, and don’t last forever. Those who purchased the Triton Gills will have to buy cylinders to keep using the device. The company remains confident that it can deliver on its new promises, but many backers aren’t convinced.
A Kickstarter campaign for beef jerky, made from organic, beer-fed Japanese cows could have taken lots of money from eager jerky fans. Luckily, however, Kickstarter shut down the campaign on the day it was set to end — even though the project made far more than its original goal of $2,374. Kobe Red garnered a cool $120,309 in pledge money from more than 3,000 backers.
The company behind the project, Magnus Fun, intended to offer three flavors, including brown sugar with lemongrass, sweet spicy ginger teriyaki, and smoked honey with spiced curry. Everything seemed to be going well until backers grew suspect of the company; after all, the Kickstarter page had almost no information regarding the organization. Documentary filmmakers soon began investigating the company and its product, only to find a bunch of sketchy information when they took a peek behind the scenes. Luckily, Kickstarter stepped in before any backer payments had been processed.