Is Kickstarter Limiting Hardware Projects Because of the Pebble’s Unprecedented Success?

We love Kickstarter; Dan and I (along with others on the Gear Diary team) have backed many projects, and we are always on the look out for new ones. That is, of course, why we started Kickstart This! We love the way that Kickstarter helps inventors and artists get funding so that their products and projects will be available to the public.

As anyone who has backed a project on Kickstarter likely knows, “every project is independently crafted, put to all-or-nothing funding,and supported by friends, fans, and the public in return for rewards.” While Kickstarter gives these projects a place to gain exposure, Kickstarter ultimately has no control over the actual project itself once funding is reached, and they are not responsible for whether you’ll like the product you backed or if you’ll even receive it. That makes sense, right? And it is all laid out clearly in their Terms of Use.

So what would you think if I told you we’d heard that because of the recent explosion of funding for a single project and its possible backlash, the Pebble ePaper Watch for iPhone and Android, Kickstarter had — at least for now — stopped approving pure hardware products for funding?

As a refresher, the Pebble Watch (which Dan and I both backed) project started with a goal of $100,000 in backing but, by the time their funding period was over, $10,266,845 had been pledged — which translates to just under 69 thousand pre-orders. We’ve been told to expect a September 2012 fulfillment date, but I have no doubt there will be at least one delay; hopefully we’ll have it by Christmas.

And as a side note: Kickstarter charges 5% of the take on successfully funded projects, and assuming that everyone who committed to buy a Pebble did just that, Kickstarter made $513,342 on that one project alone. Think about that for a moment.

Yesterday I received an email from Jack Campbell, hoping to drum up backing for a hardware project he is beginning.

Hi All,

Here is the moment I emailed about earlier. The crowdfunding project for the weeSteady product is now live.

It is not on Kickstarter. Apparently, because of enormous backlash (fears) created by the huge $10 million Pebble watch campaign, Kickstarter has at least for now stopped approving pure hardware products for funding projects.

So, we’ve launched the project on IndieGoGo, the #2 crowdfunding site.

See it here: http://www.indiegogo.com/weesteady

I am sincerely asking you to go there now, as soon as you read this, and pledge to get one weeSteady product for $25. If for some reason that’s a stretch, at least do the $1 level support.

More than this, please now hit your Facebook and Twitter and Google+ accounts and post about the cool camera gadget your friend has on IndieGoGo. The more eyes on this project, the more success it will have.

Finally, I have project pages set up on Facebook and Twitter. Please go there and like the project on Facebook and follow the project on Twitter.

http://www.facebook.com/WeeGadgets
https://twitter.com/WeeGadgets

And, if you have friends or family who use a little camera or phone for videos… well, hit the 3-pack special and get some cool Christmas gifts for them!

Those familiar with this product and project all believe this could become the highest funded project ever on IndieGoGo.

You helping jump it off to a fast start is a big, big part of making that happen!

Thank you so much!

Jack Campbell, Founder
weeGadgets
www.weegadgets.com
[email protected]

As highlighted in red, it was noted that Jack isn’t using Kickstarter to fund his new product, the weeSteady: Tiny Stabilizer For iPhones & Compact Cameras’s GoGoWidget. His reason was that because of backlash fears from the Pebble, “Kickstarter has at least for now stopped approving hardware products for funding projects.”

Curious about his reference to backlash, I e-mailed back and asked Jack to clarify. This was his reply:

There has been a wave of fast-growing online chatter raising [a] question of safety with these huge hardware projects that promise a product, collect a big amount of cash, and then have a tiny band of inexperienced dreamers left to actually bring the promised product to quality mass production. While a few earlier projects had flirted with the million dollar mark or close thereto, this $10 million project seems to have broken through some psychological hurdle that’s resulted in all of the grumbly, Chicken Little types across the web to start making it a heavy talking point in blogs, boards, articles.

A staffer I know within KS told me that [it has] really caused a concern about the PR image within KS management, and has chilled their willingness to flood KS with more and more hardware products — at least for the moment. I understand it’s in heavy discussion, seeking a decision.

I did a bit of research, and I’ve learned that the next largest funded Kickstarter project was Double Fine Adventures video game project, which raised $3.3 million and closed on March 13. The comments left for the project are overwhelmingly positive, and there is a promised date of 6 – 8 months for final fulfilment. Surely this isn’t a cause for concern for anyone at Kickstarter.

So then I checked for hardware specific projects, and I found the next highest was the Elevation Dock at $1,464,706 (which Dan backed); it closed on February 11 with 12,551 backers, and it had an estimated delivery date of April 12. That date has come and gone, and judging by the grumbling in the comments, backers are becoming restless. Five days ago, a revised shipping date of June 5th was posted. Considering the amount of time both Dan and I have waited for previous projects, this still seems to fall under a reasonable turn-around; however the creator did miss the date, and some of the backers are disappointed.

But is that a good enough reason to halt all hardware projects? Or is that even what’s happening?

I sent the following inquiry to Kickstarter through their contact form:

I’ve been told that Kickstarter has at least temporarily halted approval on pure hardware products for funding projects, due [to] fears regarding fulfillment of the Pebble Watch?

I’ve been told that there is concern about the PR image within Kickstarter management, and that it has chilled their willingness to flood Kickstarter with more hardware products — at least for the moment. I’ve also been told that it’s in heavy discussion, seeking a decision.

Is this true? And if so, do you have a comment? I am running an article on this later today, and would like a statement from Kickstarter.

Thank you and best regards,
Judie

Their response was:

We’re going to decline to comment or participate in an interview. Regarding that rumor: you should note we have projects launch every day that are hardware: http://www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/open%20hardware?ref=sidebar

It’s true that going to the Hardware page link will return quite a few products that are currently open, but clicking the Recently Launched sidebar link returns a list of the “newest and freshest” items that is surprisingly short on hardware.

I reached out one more time and asked if they had a comment about that; I’m still waiting for a response, and I’m not very hopeful that I will get one.

So what does this all mean, exactly?

Perhaps nothing much in the grand scheme of things, but we do find it interesting. The tech community watched with wonder as the Pebble juggernaut continued to gather supporters and orders. The idea that future Kickstarter hardware projects might be impacted by the Pebble’s performance never really occurred to us, but we had already noticed that there seemed to be fewer and fewer hardware projects popping up lately.

I don’t think that either of us would have thought to connect the two, but Jack’s email definitely puts a different spin on things. Couple that with Kickstarter’s unwillingness to issue a solid denial leaves us wondering if it’s true: Has Kickstarter, at least for now, stopped approving hardware products for funding projects?

If you have tried to list a hardware product on Kickstarter recently, only to be turned down, we would like to hear about it.

For the rest of us, does this mean that we can expect to see less hardware being offered until at least the last two huge hardware items’ orders have been fulfilled?

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
I've had a fascination with all types of gadgets and gizmos since I was a child, beginning with the toy robot that my grandmother gave my brother - which I promptly "relieved him of" in 1973. I'm a self-professed gadget magpie. I can't tell you how everything works, but I'm known world-wide for using a product until I have a full understanding of what it does, what its limitations are, and if it excels in any given area — or not.