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View Full Version : So. Kickstarter. WTF?



teddillard
23 September 2013, 1503
I've been noticing something that seems a little odd on Kickstarter, and I don't know quite what to make of it. I always understood Kickstarter to be for creative projects, and one of the categories is "Design". Fair enough. I also was under the impression it wasn't for funding start-up companies. Specifically not.

So there's this Kickstarter that is for an EV of sorts. I'd rather not specify which one. Like all Kickstarter projects, there are rewards for donations, tiered for the level of the donation, and for this one (and several others I've seen lately) if you chip in the price of the product, you get one. That is, in this case, if you contribute $4K you get one of these EVs. That's the advertised cost of the thing on their site. So this guy I know did just that, figuring it was supporting a cool project and then he'd have this cool EV thing.

Now the motor and/or controller ****s the bed (POS Chinese off-the-shelf crap), and it's in my driveway waiting for parts. I've offered to do the work, and he's pointedly asked them about my fees for what amounts to a warranty repair. No answer, and little or no help and advise in troubleshooting it or making the repairs. (Luckily it's not much more than just bicycle mechanic stuff, which I'm pretty good at...)

I've basically decided this guy bought this thing from a company that didn't exist, didn't have a business plan, a service network or much of anything else besides kind of a crackpot idea, and thus, it's pretty much his problem. I'm going to send him a bill for $65/hr, standard bike mechanic rates around here, and let him fight with the company about getting reimbursed. I'll give him a heads up, and I think he'll figure that's fair...

But seriously. Does this kind of a start-up seem legit? And why the hell would some guy pay $4K for an unproven product with no demonstrated track record of performance and support?

I only ask because I have a product I want to go into production with myself. If I can do it without actually making a company legitimately and having to provide service and support, well, hell. Why would I want to do it any other way? :cool:

Skeezmour
23 September 2013, 1541
Sad :(

jonescg
23 September 2013, 1841
Is Elmoto going to be renamed Ted's Fight Club? I mean, every thread could reasonably wind up here :D

Seriously though, crowd-sourcing funds for research programs and other exercises of public good is one thing, but crowd-sourcing funds for a commercial project is quite another. I am really not sure what to make of it. This article here: http://overland.org.au/2013/09/we-need-to-talk-about-crowdfunding/ makes a good case for seriously questioning the motivations before handing over your dough.

Someone suggested I use crowd-funding to pay for the completion of my race bike, but I am just not comfortable spending other people's hard-earned on a project designed entirely to make me smile.

Sucks about your buddy with the Chinese POS. This stuff costs money, and it doesn't always work.

podolefsky
23 September 2013, 1903
Crappy that he got a dud. But it's the risk of participating in a "donation" system. Kickstarter helps tons of startups. Nothing in their rules prohibits it. Just do a search for "kickstarter startup funding".

There is no requirement to provide a warranty or refunds. Most donations are small, and you get like a t-shirt or something, so no big deal. If someone drops $4k for an ev that poops out, that sucks, but it's part of the deal. If the creator did promise a warranty, then the backer could take legal action on their own. Kickstarter specifically says they don't settle disputes between creators and backers.

teddillard
24 September 2013, 0258
Is Elmoto going to be renamed Ted's Fight Club? I mean, every thread could reasonably wind up here :D

Wanna fight about it? :O No, in fact, I'm asking the mods to move the Series/Parallel thread to the batteries category so it's easier to find. :cool: But this category is for potentially controversial topics that aren't limited to building an electric motorcycle.

I agree about taking other people's money. I'd rather do that and produce a real product. I'd also rather let the market decide if it's a good product. I guess I just don't understand what makes someone do something like buy a $4000 like this, and it makes me really cynical about the reality of how much money is out there and who has it... and what they're doing with it.

FWIW, I've tried twice now to fund a bike project and the first time it just flat-out failed, the second it was rejected. As far as my product goes, it just seems like I want to produce it and prove it in the market with proper support, my comments above notwithstanding.

Gene, yes, it is sad. Question for you - what's the plan for service and support for Brutus? Is it something you're planning to make available to any competent motorcycle mechanic through a certification or something?

Noah, I did that search on the Google, didn't actually get much. I think the rules must have changed, though, since I also found a bunch of Kickstarter like stuff specifically for startups. I clearly remember the caveat that Kickstarter was not for funding startups, but that was maybe 3 years ago?

My personal experience is that a product review site is one of the most popular and busiest sites you can build. There's a whole lot of demand for product reviews, and then here there's this complete lack of buyer experience... it's just weird.

teddillard
24 September 2013, 0318
By the way, this happened before he "got a dud". He needed some basic maintenance which I also did for him - with very little help from the builders. I also offered to do the work because I wanted to see the thing's guts, so I'm as much at fault for getting myself into this.

I think a big part of this phenomenon is that I understood Kickstarter to fund stuff that you'd have a slim chance of funding or doing any other way. Reading through the guidelines and examples they really try to push that angle. Art, photography, film, performance, and yes, design - stuff that's visionary and is being done for love, not money. (I had an older gentleman ask me, as I was setting up my big camera for an architecture shot, "Is this for Art, or Commerce?")

Several of the things I've seen lately seem like they're pretty removed from that description...

Hugues
24 September 2013, 0417
i know this is probably not what you are arguing about but...

I think Kickstarter and the likes is a great idea, really. How many people in the past had bright ideas and the will to start a little business of their own but no cash to get started and the banks would not let them even enter their lobby. Now these people have HOPE and some of them will succeed (and have succeeded already)

We live in a great time, with lots of new possibilities being created for the people and by the people, it's not only about big corporations or government agencies anymore running the show. Innovation can be everybody's business.

Compare this to government throwing public money and grants at some projects. You might actually not like at all your money to be used for some of these projects. On kickstarter: you choose where to put your money or not, and you can get your own project kickstarted. Just plain cool ! I already pledged small amounts to 3 projects, not asking anything in return, not even a t-shirt. I just want them to succeed and make the process work.

This whole open source movement and open-(insert whatever you want here) is just plain great and i think we are just at the beginning of it. We live in very interesting times.

And yes for sure some will try to abuse these new systems..

jonescg
24 September 2013, 0532
Don't worry Ted - this is the right place for it :D

I read about a researcher who crowd-sourced funds to pay for a research trial concerning drug abuse. The study was done with ethics approval and was all legit, and resulted in some great knowledge being generated. It was set up because research grants are ultra-competitive (I know all about that). The NIH wouldn't support it, but the public would. In the end it was a win. The contributors could see the tangible benefit, even if they personally got nothing from it.

Now, this contrasts to say, me setting up a Pozzible project asking for money to complete my race bike. I am totally realistic about constructing race bikes in Australia as a business proposition (it sounds a bit like a flushing toilet, only instead of paper and **** it's money and ****). So it probably wouldn't fly in the eyes of the public. Not only that, I suspect I would have done myself a disservice by putting my hand out asking for money, only to spend it on a toy which is destined to make me smile.

I do know the banks don't like these schemes... competition they were hoping wouldn't prevail.

Brutus
24 September 2013, 0831
Ted, what is more sad is your misplaced anger at crowd sourcing. It does suck that your friend has spent hard earned money on a sub-standard product and company, but that has little to do with crowd sourcing and more to do with the company your friend spent money with and your friend himself, maybe he should have done more research into the product he was buying (there is an old saying about fools and money). If he had bought a Brutus and something under warranty broke Gene or I would be on his front door ASAP to fix the problem, period.

As far as having a proven track record goes, you can't get a proven record until your product actually hits the streets and gets in customer hands. Product confidence can only come after a product endures the public flog and passes that flogging with a product that has customer support from the company with reliability and satisfaction for the customer.


That said, I do believe these crowd sourcing sites should vet their projects a little more carefully. My biggest beef with crowd source funding for American products is the money isn't required to keep the manufacturing in America and help create jobs in America. I get that all that funding doesn't just come from America but If you are building a company here the funding should at least initially stay here, or where ever the company is based so it helps on the local level too.

To answer your question to Gene, we won't be using "China knock off" equipment in our bikes, they will all be built here in the states, and most of the parts are "off the shelf". That helps to minimize failures right out of the box. Since we are such a small company we will be using a service and warranty company based in the continental US in addition to Gene or I visiting customers and addressing any issues they might have. The warranty company has a nationwide network of facilities that will be fluent in every Brutus made so getting one of our bikes fixed shouldn't be too big of a problem.

teddillard
24 September 2013, 0841
Anger? Where do you see that? I'm simply confused because what I understood Kickstarter to be about is apparently not meshing with what I've seen lately. If you feel they're misplaced or no, these are legitimate concerns that obviously some people don't consider when buying a product through these channels. Sorry you find that "sad".

We actually agree on just about everything you said.

I get that you're not using Chinese parts, and meant no slight. Simply a valid question I've always wondered about for people building and selling bikes all over the country (and world) from a small custom shop. How do you service them? And thanks for answering.

To follow up on the episode I have in hand right now, the owner totally agreed with me and escalated the issue up the food chain. I've been promised some contact from the company. We shall see.

___
24 September 2013, 1024
I also was under the impression it wasn't for funding start-up companies.

You're right. It's for funding startup company projects. Kickstarter has always been for projects that have difficulty getting funded the traditional way. Small startup companies were some of the first kickstarters because they and kickstarter all come from the same ecosystem in Silicon Valley.

I've basically decided this guy bought this thing

You have to keep in mind that kickstarter is not for buying things. You invest in a creative endeavor and you get a reward based on how much you invest, provided the endeavor succeeds in meeting its goals. That's the extent of the transaction kickstarter supports. Some creators create a company to support that and future products. Some completely abandon it once it's released and move on to the next thing. Some completely fail and produce nothing. Just take a look at the video games on kickstarter. Most of them completely and utterly fail. It's a gamble, just like startup investment is a gamble. Only here, you're investing a small amount of money instead of billions of dollars.

Kickstarter sees themselves as patrons of ideas, not pre-order facilitators.

teddillard
24 September 2013, 1211
Huh. Interesting distinction. It certainly makes my first impressions of Kickstarter clearer, as well as their current descriptions. This one, in particular, showed the goal of the project as completing the first 100 products of their prototype. They had several instances of $4000 level funding, all giving you one of those first 100 products. On "paper", yes, the guy wasn't buying a product, he was funding a project, but in reality, and I'm pretty sure as he saw it, he was buying a product.

Did Brutus use Kickstarter? I can't remember... I don't think so. Gene? Chris?

That certainly helps me get my head around how to use it for my product - I've been torn about pitching it as a new design product, or using the product for a project that I'd be looking for funding for. It certainly seems like the latter would be the most successful, and appropriate. (It's an X-Y easel for reproducing paintings with a digital camera - using stitching, etc... the project would be to make reproductions of an entire collection in a small museum, of one particular historic artist's work.)

podolefsky
24 September 2013, 1241
Well, regardless of what they started as, they're now preorder facilitators for many projects, including ones they showcase. I don't know what else you call that except crowd sourced startup funding. Just have a look:

http://www.kickstarter.com/discover/recommended

skyclark
24 September 2013, 1242
I'm friends with a few of the Kickstarter employees and chatted about this with the guy who vets hardware projects.

He told me that Kickstarter is for projects that are cool and also outside of traditional funding sources -- projects that enough people would be into seeing happen but might not be enough to start a company with.

My opinion is that they are struggling with how to manage the design section. A lot of really great stuff comes out of it but the line between funding a project and buying a product is quite blurry.

About the bike Ted is talking about:
The issue of buying a complex object that was designed and built as a Project rather than a Product is that the builder did not plan for anything other than shipping the object.
In order to get traditional funding you need a plan that looks much farther into the future than a Kickstarter project.
As Kickstarter becomes more mainstream I imagine warranty and future support will become more common and be advertised as a selling point.

Brutus
24 September 2013, 1332
Did Brutus use Kickstarter? I can't remember... I don't think so. Gene? Chris?

We didn't use crowd sourcing for anything although we have thought about it more than once.

teddillard
24 September 2013, 1334
Ahhh, got it. I couldn't remember, but it didn't seem like you did.

teddillard
25 September 2013, 0601
huh. Just heard that they told him the first 100 were sold without warranty, which was news to him. (He had been asking me, "this should be covered under the warranty, right?") They said he's a "special case", so they'd take it up with the owner of the company... I also just looked through the website and found no mention of any warranty whatsoever.

I guess "caveat emptor" is the lesson here, even though your not really an "emptor" Or is it a caveat? Oh damn that latin class...

edit: Just got off the phone with what sounded like an engineer, who was a jackass. Now I'm getting pissed off. I think my next call will be to the owner to get it out of my driveway. :mad:

podolefsky
25 September 2013, 0929
Seems like washing your hands of it is a good idea. You could spend your whole life pissed off over people getting a raw deal on the internet.

teddillard
25 September 2013, 0952
Yeah, that's not really what pissed me off about talking to the company, but thanks for your concern. :p (hint: I said "engineer" and "jackass" in the same sentence.)

Update - I now know all the details about the thing, and the owner has said he's fed up with them and will be glad to pay me to fix the thing without their help.

teddillard
28 September 2013, 0459
Thanks for the help sorting this out. I've been stewing about it and kind of put it all together in my little brain: http://evmc2.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/kickstarter-evs-and-caveat-emptor-stories/