Over the last year or so I have only backed a few crowd funded projects, several on Kickstarter and several on IndieGoGo. There has always been a lot of confusion around what these platforms offer, and many people who sign up for something wrongly assume they are buying something at a discount price. What you are doing when you sign up to back one of these projects is exactly that. You are essentially investing in an idea. Unlike more conventional investments where you typically get some form of equity, in the case of these two sites what you get is a reward, but only if the project is successful.
To help set people’s expectations, here’s an update on the few projects I have backed that actually reached their funding goals and started (note to IndieGoGo users: beware of projects using the model where they get whatever funds they raise even if the goal is not reached – that might mean they lack the funds to actually deliver anything).
Pebble Smartwatch – DELIVERED
Probably one of the best known crowd funding projects, and I believe the first breakout success raising far more than their initial goal, the Pebble Smartwatch project was successful and delivered their product. They were late however: estimated in September 2012, I actually received the reward in March 2013 (six months late).
Since then they have gone on to launch a second range of products (which I bought from their website), as well as selling their initial watch through both online and brick and mortar stores. Overall, a very successful outcome for them and a mostly successful product (it still has some bugs, but mostly related to iOS limitations I suspect).
Next on the list is a project to deliver a small device that connects a USB hard drive to your home network, and from there to the internet. The project was due to ship in April 2014, and still has not done so. At this point they claim to be shipping early beta units to those who volunteered to test it. I have not seen an updated delivery date in a while.
You can read more about their product at meetlima.com, but essentially their idea is that all your content should be available on all your devices. Cloud storage, but hosted on a drive you own.
Lono is a smart, connected sprinkler controller. Designed to give sprinkler controllers both remote control over the internet but also improve what has to be one of the worst user interface ever designed. Lono was meant to ship in March 2014, but still has not done so. The latest estimate is September 2014 (which, if they keep to it, would be six months late).
I have high hopes for this one as I would love to replace the crazy controller that our builder installed with something a little more high tech. It also connects one more aspect of the house to the internet.
Giroptic 360° HD Camera
My most recent, and largest crowd funding investment to date, is a 360 degree camera called Giroptic from a team in France. The Kickstarter page explains more about what the project is, but in essence it is a camera that can take full 360 degree photos in a single shot, as well as capture full 360° video.
Perhaps the best way to see what this means is to install one of their apps which are already in the stores (iOS, Android) and look at the sample videos and photos. Their estimated delivery date is November 2014; we’ll see how close to that they get – ramping up for production seems to be where many of these projects run into trouble.
Another camera project, this one had a rough start, raising a lot of money on Kickstarter only to be suspended at the last minute with little explanation from Kickstarter as to why they did so. The project then moved to IndieGoGo where it was successful in getting funded.
Originally due to be delivered in December 2013, the project is still on-going. The most recent update (within the last week) included a link to a pre-release unit review from one of the backers who opted to get a pre-release unit early. Those were originally expected in November 2013, so the project is 8-9 months late at this point.
Gecko – DELIVERED
My other IndieGoGo hardware project, the Gecko project provides Bluetooth low energy tags that can be used in a number of different ways. The tags act as virtual leashes, letting you know when they are too far from your smartphone, gesture controllers (shake them to trigger things), a remote motion sensor and, if you have a compatible camera, they can be used as a remote shutter release for you camera (with an additional adapter).
The project was due to deliver in January 2014, and my two Gecko tags arrived a few days ago (7-8 months late).