Crowdfunding can be a little like Russian Roulette for inventor and investor alike: there's always the worry that the product won't live up to expectations or that it won't attract enough investment.
Even raising the necessary funds or surging past that pledge goal is no guarantee that everything is going to go to plan when you it's time to get the kit out to your backers.
Some crowdfunding disasters are down to sheer bad luck, but others were doomed from the start. Here are some wearable tech projects that were more "ow!" than "wow".
Goal $250K, raised $2.4m
This latest crowdfunding casualty really takes the biscuit. The latest reports from within the company suggest that not only is Skully Systems tanking but the nearly 2,000 original Indiegogo backers (plus people who have pre-ordered since) are unlikely to get either a refund or the AR motorcycle helmet they've been waiting for. Yeesh.
It's all well and good for tech journalists exercising their punning muscles but the story that's emerging of founder Marcus Weller walking out and the possibility of a Chinese takeover is not what people who pledged $1399 or $1499 in 2014 want to hear. It's also not great news for Indiegogo - Skully was the crowdfunding platform's most successful wearable tech project. The saga continues.
Goal $100K, raised $1.9m
Another huge wearable tech campaign, this time on Kickstarter, our patience is wearing thin with Kokoon, the sleep sensing EEG headphones developed with Onkyo.
In its defence, the team posts regular updates so that backers are less inclined to call 'scam'. Still, last November we reported a seven month delay to September 2016. Now, the latest Kickstarter posts suggest that has been bumped to a total of a full year's delay on the original target shipping date i.e. February 2017 with beta units going off in January.
This one still has a chance to swing things around if the device delivers... when it's finally delivered.
Goal $250K, raised $880K
Depending on who you talk to, the gesture-control Ring was either "like magic" (its creator) or "the worst product ever made" (most of the tech press including Gizmodo, who said it was a reason "to never trust Kickstarter videos").
The wireless charger wasn't really wireless, the software didn't work very well, and the design was hilariously, horribly different from anything that Kickstarter backers had been promised. Snazzy Labs' disgusted video review is a lot of fun, but then we hadn't put any of our money into the project. If we had, it'd make us cry.
Kreyos Meteor Watch
Goal $100K, raised $1.5m
All too often, impressive crowdfunding projects go wrong in a mess of unrealistic ambitions, missed deadlines and angry backers. That was certainly the case with the Kreyos Meteor, whose catalogue of cock-ups makes for sad reading.
The devices shipped 10 months late without many of the promised features, Kreyos changed its T&Cs to deny refunds, and angry backers' comments were being deleted from its Facebook page. CEO Steve Tan posted a long explanation on Medium, but here's the tl;dr version: Kreyos didn't have a clue what it was doing, and should never have taken anybody's money.
Goal $40K, raised $296K
The Smarty Ring looked amazing: a sleek, good-looking ring with an integrated display to alert you of incoming messages, calls, emails and social networks. But to the seasoned crowdfunder, there were a few red flags - like the fact that all the product shots were renders, the poor mockup of the iPhone app screenshot and the fact that team Smarty Ring had just one member.
The funding round closed in December 2013, and in late September 2015 the Indiegogo page broke nine months of silence to promise a "working prototype" by the end of November. Here we are in summer of 2016 and the latest news is that v2.0 of the device will ship to backers of v1.0 by this October. We're not holding our breath.
Goal $110K, raised $6.7K
Sometimes the problem with crowdfunding isn't the device, but getting enough people to notice. That was definitely the case with Klip, an impressive display that you could attach to a variety of eyewear and even hats. There was a prototype after years of work, there were obvious uses for it, but it attracted just 36 backers and missed its funding target by 94%. It's easy to point the finger at the dreadful promo video, but a more likely explanation is that Google Glass got there first.
Goal $50K, raised $16.2K
Here's one for the cosplayers: Tailly, an "adorable" robotic cat's tail that waggles when you're excited. From the mind of Shota Ishiwatari, whose previous project was brainwave-controlled cat ears, the Kickstarter project's main risks were "1) measuring heart rate" and "2) the strength of the product… we cannot guarantee that Tailly will not break if handled roughly."
It turns out there was another risk: not persuading more than 113 people to back the project. The Tailly's Indiegogo campaign closed having raised less than a third of its target after similarly unsuccessful attempts to raise money on Kickstarter and Campfire.
Dating Skills smartwatch (aka Pick Up Girls)
Goal $10K, raised $0
As we said back in August, "the Pick Up Girls smartwatch must be a joke": the watch promised all kinds of lady-wooing features and a free coin with "I AM COOL" printed on it to boost the owner's pulling power.
The promo video is reasonably well done and the product specs (ignoring the actual USP) seems sensible enough, but the product shots are Apple Watch images with badly Photoshopped flowers and kittens. What we don't get is who the joke is on. Was it an art stunt, or was the intention to troll MRA types to make them look silly? We'll never know: the funder was shut down with zero updates, zero comments and zero backers pledging zero dollars.
Ritot Projection Watch
Goal $50K, raised $1.62m
The Ritot Projection Watch sounded amazing – a watch that projects notifications onto your hand! But critics weren't so sure. They didn't think the necessary components would fit into something so small, or that a projector would be bright enough to be usable in daylight. They pointed out that the steep angle might not produce clear images, and noted that many product photos were badly edited stock photography.
Two years later, it looks like they were right: the Ritot still isn't shipping, the project is being accused of being a scam, and thousands of Indiegogo backers aren't happy campers.
Goal $175K, raised $0
This time last year we suggested that the Com1 might be "too good to be true": the promised specs seemed at odds with the promised $125 price tag. We'll never know, because with the campaign just beginning and around $20,000 of the target already raised, Google stomped on the project. The reason? Com1's promotional copy implied that it owned Android Wear, a mistake that proved to be an expensive one: Google got the Indiegogo page pulled, never to return. Founder Aaron Dolan currently wears a Pebble.
Goal $100K, raised $181K
The Olive smart band was designed to analyse your body and your lifestyle to help you manage stress, using discreet haptic feedback to warn you if you're starting to get stressed. It wasn't vapourware: a lot of work had gone into the prototype and its accompanying smartphone software.
Unfortunately, even though Olive nearly doubled its funding target it ran out of money: in summer 2015, the founders posted a message admitting that a tough investment climate meant they couldn't get the additional funding they hoped for and that backers would get their money back. Perhaps it's an irony that Olive was the first project to be covered by Indiegogo's insurance policy, which hoped to address people's concerns over the risks of crowdfunding.
Additional words by Sophie Charara.
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