Kickstarter is a stock market not a super market

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Kickstarter having backed many, many, many projects but, as you can see from the above screen grab, not everyone is of the same opinion and I believe that stems from a fundamental misunderstand about just what exactly a crowd funding site is.

The reason for the ire shown by the commenters above is that the project delivery end date is slipping and so people are becoming unhappy. In this particular project’s case the delivery date has slipped by approximately one month – in Kickstarter terms that is nothing, as you will see below. These sorts of comments are becoming more and more typical as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other sites of a similar ilk are becoming more popular.

The stats

I decided to take a look at the projects that I had backed to work out how close the project delivery came to the date that the project originally quoted. To date I have backed 35 projects across a variety of categories but, unsurprisingly, skewed towards those with a technology bent.

The raw data is below but here are some headlines:

TWO projects out of 35 delivered “on time”.

101 days that on average a project is late.

971 days that one particular project is late (that’s about 2.5 years but it will deliver).

ONE project that looks unlikely to deliver and could be fraudulent (422 days late).

It takes, on average, 2.71 times longer to deliver than a project estimates.

In other words people who start projects on Kickstarter hugely underestimate the time that it will take to deliver. Having spent part of my life as a project manager in IT I am not overly surprised by this. This late delivery wouldn’t be a great problem where it not for two things:

  • lack of communication on the part of the project
  • unrealistic expectations on the part of the backer

The Communications Issue

Backers get excited about a project and are hungry for information as much as they are for delivery of the product itself. In my experience project owners never update backers as often as they would like and increasingly I am seeing this being done as part of the project comments rather than an update. This means that not everyone gets to see the update compounding the issue.

I was also taught to give bad news early and some projects do this well others not at all. PIECE has communicated a delay and looks to be delivering soon which is ironic given the comments at the top of the page are from this project.

The Unrealistic Expectations Issue

Which leads nicely onto unrealistic expectations. If you walk into a shop you can pick up an item now, take it home and have it up and running the same day. Kickstarter isn’t like that. It’s a slow burn. You have to wait, perhaps, for the design to be finished, manufacturers selected, any issues from the initial production runs sorted and finally fulfillment. No project ever runs smoothly and this inevitably pushes out the end date. However, many, many backers see the delivery date as fixed in stone but it very rarely is as the data shows.

Crowdfunding is a Stockmarket

Backing a project on a crowdfunding site is akin to to investing on the stock market. In other words there is a risk involved and you might not get back what you have invested. Even with the changes to Kickstarter that risk is not properly communicated to backers and Indiegogo is even worse.

As the popularity of the crowdfunding sites increases and they get more publicity for big projects such as Pebble they attract more people who back without fully appreciating what they are getting into.

The sites themselves need to do more to educate potential backers and not simply hide behind the terms and conditions saying that they aren’t responsible. Perhaps as a backer you should have to “sign” a disclaimer before backing saying that you accept that the project will almost certainly be late and you might lose your money.

Something needs to be done and if done properly can benefit not just the backers but also the project owners and crowdfunding sites too.

ProjectClosedEstimatedActualDays OverPredicted F2DActual F2DOut byOutcome
iPen: the first active stylus for iPad!27/12/201130/01/201216/03/201246.0034802.35Sold
The tiltpod - world's smallest articulating iPhone stand01/04/201230/04/201230/05/201230.0029592.03Still use
Pebble: E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android19/05/201230/09/201230/03/2013181.001343152.35Upgraded
Une Bobine - For People Who Love iPhone... and Android16/06/201230/07/201230/09/201262.00441062.41Sold
HAND Stylus17/06/201230/07/201230/09/201262.00431052.44Sold
Scanbox - Turn your iPhone into a portable scanner08/07/201230/07/201230/10/201292.00221145.18Use rarely
Smarter Stand for iPad13/08/201230/10/201230/11/201231.00781091.40Discarded
Blacktop Royalty's Debut Album29/07/201230/11/201230/12/201230.001241541.24Listen Occasionally
Try iOS: iPhone App Development Course29/08/201230/11/201204/12/20124.0093971.04Discarded
pIO - microSD Adapter for Raspberry Pi06/09/201230/09/201207/11/201238.0024622.58Still use
Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa09/09/201230/05/2013971.0026312344.69Not received
myLED - Bringing External Notifications to iPhone and iPad28/12/201230/04/201306/07/201367.001231901.54Discarded
1 Second Everyday App27/12/201230/12/201210/01/201311.003144.67Discarded
Smarter Stand for iPhone and iPod touch12/04/201330/05/201315/06/201316.0048641.33Discarded
The Earbud Shield04/05/201330/06/201315/07/201315.0057721.26Still use
The Practical Meter: Know your power!25/07/201330/09/201315/11/201346.00671131.69Still use
Une Bobine for iPhone 5|C|S09/11/201330/11/201316/01/201447.0021683.24Use rarely
the COBURNS – iPad stands06/12/201330/12/201330/12/20130.0024241.00Still use
JUMP Cable13/02/201430/05/201415/08/201477.001061831.73Sold
Swisskey™ A key / tool organizer that syncs to your phone28/02/201430/05/201431/07/201462.00911531.68Still use
SIDEKICK - Pebble Dock09/02/201430/05/201430/05/20140.001101101.00Discarded
#BuildBearHQ: Our shipping container DINER16/05/201430/05/201430/11/2014184.001419814.14Not yet redemed
Not Knot: Cable organiser & headphones protector26/05/201430/06/201430/06/20140.0035351.00Gifts
iStick™: USB Flash Drive with Lightning for iPhone and iPad17/06/201430/08/201403/12/201495.00741692.28Still use
StormTag - A Bluetooth Weather Station. On Your Keyring.25/07/201430/11/2014422.001285504.30Not received
BelayCords - Reversible USB Charging Cords iPhone & Android02/11/201430/11/201406/04/2015127.00281555.54Still use
memobottle - A4, A5 & Letter Reusable Water Bottles12/10/201430/12/201415/07/2015197.00792763.49Still use
The Roost Smart Battery - Smarten your Smoke Alarms19/12/201430/05/201515/11/2015169.001623312.04Not received
Gmail for Mac: Finally, Gmail is a true desktop email client09/12/201430/01/201515/06/2015136.00521883.62Discarded
Pebble Time - Awesome Smartwatch, No Compromises28/03/201530/07/201517/09/201549.001241731.40Still use
Lignite Collection for Pebble - Quality Watchfaces and Apps28/04/201530/06/201515/08/201546.00631091.73Still use
dio Naked Reversible USB cables for Lightning and Micro22/05/201530/06/201525/08/201556.0039952.44Still use
Halo Back: World's First Smart Screen Protector12/06/201530/08/201521/10/201552.00791311.66Still use
ZNAPS -The $9 Magnetic Adapter for your mobile devices14/08/201530/11/201557.001081651.53Not received
PIECE - Change The Way You Use Smart Phones10/09/201530/10/201588.00501382.76Not received

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