Nick O'Neill

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Why Kickstarter Sucks For Large Hardware Projects

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A few months back I ended up making my first significant purchase on Kickstarter. It was $200 for a well designed time-lapse motion control device. It was expensive but I was a big fan of the product design. As such, I backed it. On August 25th, the project ended, raising over $400,000 for their device design.

At the time, they estimated that the product would be delivered by December. However I’d bet that they weren’t expecting the overwhelming demand that they experienced. They now need to produce approximately 2,000 devices. The result is that the delivery date keeps getting pushed back further and further. A few minutes ago I received an email notifying me that the date had now been pushed back to March or April.

As a consumer, I expected to get it in December when I first made the purchase. As an entrepreneur though, I expected the team’s estimates to be way off (in software development, most people I know wind up doubling all estimates). Unfortunately for the team building the product, a large number of customers weren’t expecting such a significant push back. Here are the types of comments showing up on the company’s latest update:

Not liking the new expected date… I was okay with that last set back, now this is too much.

Manufacture in the USA and avoid the shipping and delays. I am not impressed at all. The Chinese will have the copied product out before you do. I have seen this multiple times on Kickstarter.

I am very excited to get this product and understand there are some certain issues that are beyond your control. Although I am disappointed as the deadline keeps getting pushed back further and further. I think you should be giving set in stone delivery dates by now.

Well, I guess that answers the question about whether I’ll have my Astros for my trip in March, with a big fat NO. Ugh.

I’m sure this isn’t the only hardware project that has experienced significant delays. That’s because Kickstarter is a platform for selling ideas! It’s similar to how you’d pitch venture investors, except the general public is funding the projects. The problem? The general public doesn’t think like venture investors.

An investor can be understanding if you have delays (or at a minimum voice their frustrations in private). The general public gets annoyed. When was the last time you heard about Apple missing a release date? Aside from delays on iPhone mail-order shipments, their new devices are available in-store the day they say it will be. That’s because they’ve put in months (or years) of planning into each new product release.

They also hash out as many supplier delays as possible (which occur even for Apple) before they announce a release date to the public. Kickstarter projects don’t have that luxury. They make promises on delivery dates and consistently break them. If I were Kickstarter, I’d start placing some form of disclaimer about how often estimated delivery dates are missed.

Otherwise you wind up with less people funding hardware projects over the long-term as a result of customer dissatisfaction.

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