Crowd Funding Products
A long time ago in my years of college the popularity of funding projects was pretty large. Perhaps it was the websites and "scene" I hung out in, but I started my funding with the Pebble watch.
I watched the video and description of this product and was blown away - remember this is 2011/2012 at this point. The Apple Watch and Android Wear were still a few years out, maybe they even reacted to the release of this product.
Watching a video of a nerd explaining some technology and how they just needed a bit of crowd-funding to turn their proof of concept into a real product convinced me. I funded the project and followed along with each update. They kept us in the loop, provided explanations for changes or delays and about a year or more later - I got one in the mail.
I wired it up with my Android device and it was the nerd tool I wanted. At this point though more than a year had passed since I funded this and technology felt a bit dated with the fast moving "smart" device technology.
Sure I had a cool toy, but then I saw at CES that year that Pebble was launching a new designed Pebble called "Pebble Steel". It was probably all the changes they wanted to make during the Kickstarter campaign, but couldn't due to causing shipping delays.
At that moment I felt a bit odd. Roughly by the time I got the item I paid for - the 2nd iteration was already announced a month out. Sure this is true for all products ever, but buying something and getting it a year or more later felt odd. So I ignored the Pebble Steel and just kept using my original Pebble.
At one point my Pebble broke - forgot exactly how, but it wouldn't turn on despite getting power. Going from never wearing a watch to wearing one - when it broke I felt no need to obtain another.
I watched from afar as Pebble launched two more extremely successful campaigns this time netting 20 million dollars instead of ~13. It was insane how much success these guys had with crowd-funding, but I stayed away. What happened next I'm not truly positive how it all went down.
- Pebble filed for insolvency.
- Fitbit acquired Pebble assets and intellectual property.
- Fitbit somehow did not ingest debts.
- All Pebble 2 shipments were cancelled and Kickstarter refunded.
It was crazy and I didn't understand how a company with a few people somehow burned through millions of millions of dollars and collapsed. Turns out I didn't have the full story as between VC investors and fast booming of the company - a few decisions and desire to compete with the rising Apple/Google probably led to the demise.
So I felt a bit validated not supporting anything after the original Pebble Kickstarter, but then I stumbled upon the Canary Indiegogo.
As quick as I had promised to avoid crowd-funding, I folded and funded the Canary at $199 for a security system. My life was at the point of many computers and Xboxes and leaving home in the odd part of Arkansas I wanted some peace of mind. Probably was the place I lived and the unfortunate neighbors below, but when I came home to police at my complex a few times I realized I wanted to up the security in my apartment.
I was attracted to the idea that this worked with my smartphone and had no contracts or requirements to build onto the apartment. So in August of 2013 I pledged the product with an estimated delivery of May 2014, but I didn't get it until January of 2015. At that point I honestly forgot about it and I had moved addresses.
Either way though I loaded it up and enjoyed having a view back home no matter where I went. It tended to alert on the fan moving and sunlight entering the place so it got annoying getting alerts often, but other than that worked as expected.
What sadly happened is every few years a feature that was previously free was moved onto the premium plans and competitors were released. You could buy Google cameras now (which I did) or even brand-less cameras that just worked on your internal network. Others were far more angry than I was calling the crowd-funding a bait/switch, but I realized that all the logic they were doing with video feeds for free couldn't last forever. Ultimately unless you are Google and can lose money on a product to make money on others - they needed recurring revenue to pay for costs and didn't get it.
However, much like the Pebble waiting more than 18 months for a product you paid for is just not my cup of tea. By the time I got the product the Google Nest product line was booming and Ubiquiti looked excellent if I had a bit more money to spend. Not to mention learning month after month the product you funded get slightly changed and tweaked and delayed was a common pattern.
So I stopped supporting Canary and basically stopped supporting crowd-funding until March of 2023 when I stumbled upon The Flux Keyboard.
I'm not sure what enticed me to pledge this, but seeing how I put zero effort into my keyboards and others in my position are quite addicted to their design/type/feel I saw something that looked cool in my eyes.
However, much like has been the pattern for other projects we are currently in the phase of delays and delays. They were originally slated to ship in November of 2023, which became December 2023, then January 2024, then February, then March and now April 2024. Not only has time been extended, but the product continues to have changes that make it less and less what was promised.
Folks are upset that there are no videos and lack of progress. While monthly updates occur they are on the last day of the month and tend to carry sad news with no rich media. I'll admit I'm worried that it'll be another gimmick that serves no real purpose in daily usage by the time it shows up. If running by my luck with my previous two crowdfunding projects it'll probably arrive in late 2024.
A short video showing some pre-production units and discussing the challenges would go a long way for this company. Nothing like the start of a 6 month delay with nothing but text and a few rendered images as the reason for the delay.
I promised to not crowdfund things after the Pebble and Canary, but I folded for the Flux Keyboard. I'll learn quite soon whether to reinforce that thought to avoid crowd-funding or I'll own a cool keyboard and find something else to pledge.