When a Kickstarter goes bad

 Kickstarter project photos

We’ve highlighted a few Kickstarter projects here at EYB, including the Paula Wolfert memoir/cookbook, the vegan butcher shop, and the recent Field cast-iron skillet. Several Members have likely backed these or another cooking-related project on Kickstarter or similar crowdfunding websites. But before you agree to support a  project, you may want to read what happens when a Kickstarter campaign takes a wrong turn.

The Mashable article linked above describes the saga of the Coolest Cooler. When first launched in 2013, the campaign for the “portable party disguised as a cooler” was a dismal failure. Undaunted, creator Ryan Grepper made changes to the product and created a new campaign in 2014 with a lower funding goal. The design tweaks and sub-$200 USD price tag had backers flocking to the campaign, which set a Kickstarter record by raising over $13 million. A success story, right? 

Wrong. Almost two years after the second campaign launch, “only one third of backers have received their coolers, leaving about 36,000 people without the product they were promised.” Delay after delay was announced, with new delivery deadlines promised but not met. After the first couple of delays, the announcements were no longer made publicly, but instead were addressed in emails to backers only. 

The latest “backers-only” update appeared on April 12. According to Motherboard, it explained that if backers wanted to get their Coolest Cooler in the next three months, they’d have to pony up almost $100 more than their original pledge. Backers who don’t want to pay up were told they would have to wait until profits from the cooler’s sales on Amazon covered the shipping costs. No deadline was announced.

This example, although extreme (only 9% of fully-funded Kickstarter projects fail to deliver), points out the hazards of the crowd-source funding model. “Kickstarter is not a store,” Kickstarter spokesperson Justin Kazmark told Mashable. “There is a learning curve where people are trying to figure out what this new [crowdfunding] experience is. … If you’re new to it and you’ve never done it before, you may think ‘this is like Amazon.'” But when you back a project on Kickstarter, you aren’t making a purchase, you are making an investment (read the fine print).

There is no indication that any of the Kickstarter projects mentioned on EYB face any problems like those of the Coolest Cooler. However, that campaign illustrates the inherent risk involved in backing any crowdfunding project, even when the funding goal is met.

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