Kickstarter has earned a reputation as the best crowdfunding platform of them all and has some pretty impressive stats to back up that title.
Over the years, more than 221,597 Kickstarter projects have been successfully funded, with a total of over $6,670,055,191 in funding from backers.
However, according to Kickstarter, about 9% of all Kickstarter projects fail to deliver rewards. This means they might get successfully funded, but the backers don’t receive what they paid for, or the products delivered don’t live up to what was promised.
From poor execution to outright scams, there are many reasons why Kickstarter projects have failed over the years. Here are 12 of the biggest Kickstarter fails to be glad you didn’t back (hopefully)...
12 of the Biggest Kickstarter Fails
12) Pebble Time
What Pebble Time was: Pebble Time was a water-resistant smartwatch that featured up to 7 days of battery life and a built-in microphone for voice replies to messages. The watch also had an e-paper display that mimicked the appearance of ink on paper, similar to a Kindle’s display.
The Kickstarter campaign also offered a fancier version of the watch called Pebble Time Steel, which had an even longer battery life of up to 10 days, a stainless steel display, and both a steel and a leather wristband.
Why it failed: Even though Pebble Time had a good product and shipped it out to backers as promised, the company truly let down all its backers by selling its technology and staff to FitBit.
Because of the buyout, Pebble Time owners would no longer receive software updates, replacement parts, or warranty support. In other words, anyone who backed the Kickstarter project received a watch that would only last for a year or two.
11) Coolest Cooler
What Coolest Cooler was: The Coolest Cooler Kickstarter campaign was launched to fund an all-in-one party cooler that not only kept your beverages cold, but could also open beers, crush ice, and blend drinks. As if those weren’t enough features, the Coolest Cooler also had a built-in Bluetooth speaker, a USB charger, a cutting board, and storage for plates and cutlery.
Why it failed: The Coolest Cooler’s Kickstarter campaign failed because of poor financial planning on the part of its founders. For all the features the cooler contained, the price tag of just $185 for the regular package was too low.
In the end, none of this project’s backers got their coolers, but the company did go on to achieve success by selling the Coolest Cooler on Amazon for a higher price.
10) OUYA Console
What OUYA Console was: The OUYA Console was promoted as “a new kind of video game console.” It was going to be an affordable console built on Android that would allow anyone to develop games for it through open-source coding. While the product did launch and get shipped, it was another one of the biggest Kickstarter failures…
Why it failed: OUYA failed because it was just bad. When backers received the console, all of the components were very low quality. The buttons were sticky and controller connectivity was poor, to name a couple of the problems with the console itself.
Then there were the games. Since the console allowed open-source game development, there were no platform games launched with it, and it was full of extremely bad, and even unfinished, games that people made for it. In other words, while the concept was interesting, the team behind OUYA just didn’t execute well or build a good gaming product.
What Skarp was: Skarp was a laser shaving razor that would allegedly melt both light and dark hairs using a certain laser frequency carried by a piece of string. In other words, the razor was to use a laser instead of a normal cutting blade. There was a lot of hype surrounding the project, and some were even calling it “the future of shaving.”
Why it failed: As cool as “laser razor” sounds, there wasn’t any real technology behind Skarp that did what its founders claimed it could do. While Skarp did eventually release a prototype, it didn’t work anywhere near as well as it was supposed to. Even physics experts were questioning the product at the time.
After the initial hype died down, people started noticing other sketchy details about Skarp — the technology purported to power the razor wasn’t well documented and the funding requested seemed very low. Ultimately, Kickstarter shut down the project for violating the site’s rules pertaining to working prototypes.
What Amabrush was: Amabrush was an automatic toothbrush shaped like a mouth guard that claimed to brush your teeth in just 10 seconds. All you had to do was insert the device into your mouth, bite down on it, and press a button, and it would brush all your teeth at once in a fraction of the time of regular brushing.
Why it failed: Amabrush failed because its creators were unable to find a European manufacturer who could produce the product at the right price. They tried to work with Asian manufacturers, but the quality of the product was too low to continue with the project. The owners of Amabrush eventually had to file for bankruptcy.
What Zano was: Zano was an autonomous, intelligent nano drone with the ability to capture HD photos and videos from the air. It was small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and allegedly able to fly all by itself while connected to your iOS or Android smart device.
You could allegedly maneuver the drone by tilting your device forward and backward or from side to side, and the drone’s sensors would prevent it from colliding with any obstacles. If the drone got too far or was running low on battery, it would automatically return to you.
Why it failed: Zano never actually had a fully functional drone. It turns out that the company’s founder had previously tried and failed to develop drones, and Zano was just another entry into their list of failed products.
Though Zano did end up shipping a small percentage of drones out to backers, many of them weren’t even able to fly, despite the company’s claims that they were fully functional. It would appear that this Kickstarter failure was due to a combination of delusion and lack of execution.
What Tiko was: Tiko was a crowdfunded 3D printer that housed all its components in a single body. It was purported to be simpler and more reliable than other 3D printers of the time, all at a much lower price tag of only $179. Once Tiko reached its funding goal, it actually shipped about 4,000 printers out to backers, but that’s when the problems began…
Why it failed: Customers who received the first units of the Tiko printer reported that the print quality was low. It seems that Tiko’s focus on its unibody design forced them to use unreliable custom components to build the printer, and they didn’t work as well as other tried-and-true 3D printer components of the time.
The Tiko printer also cost too much to make compared to what the company was selling it for, and Tike quickly ran out of money after the first units were shipped.
What ZNAPS was: ZNAPS was a magnetic cable adapter designed to fit a wide variety of mobile devices and cable types, including lightning cable (iPhone) and micro-USB cable (Android).
The magnetic connection was intended to help prevent cable fraying and accidents like tripping over cables, since the charging connectors would pull out of your devices more easily than traditional plug-in versions.
Why it failed: Despite the affordable $9 price tag, which attracted more than 70,000 backers, ZNAPS failed because of unethical campaign promoters. They kept pushing back the shipment dates, eventually disappearing altogether without shipping out one unit.
The angry Kickstarter backers started a petition for Kickstarter to refund their money, but to this day it is still unknown what happened to it all.
What CST-01 was: The CST-01 Kickstarter campaign was launched for an incredibly thin — 0.8 mm, to be exact — flexible wrist watch. It had an electronic display housed in a single piece of stainless steel, which wrapped around the wearer’s wrist like a flexible bracelet.
The watch was designed to be as minimalistic as possible, with no buttons or knobs on the watch itself. Instead, users could set the time from an included base station.
Why it failed: Updates on the Kickstarter page after the CST-01 watch failed to ship pointed to various manufacturing problems with the watch. However, very little information was ever provided to the backers, who are still without their watches.
While it’s possible that the whole campaign was a scam, it’s more likely that the creators of the CST-01 blew through the money trying to develop the product and couldn’t deliver what they promised, so they chose to disappear instead. The fact that there was never a functional prototype to start with points to this.
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What Yogventures was: Yogventures was to be an open-world sandbox adventure game along the lines of Minecraft. In fact, the Kickstarter project was launched by two YouTubers who had a popular Minecraft-based show, called Shadow of Israphel.
The title of the game, Yogventures, was derived from the name of the creators’ YouTube channel, which is Yogscast. Despite the backing of 13,647 people on Kickstarter, Yogventures never made it through development.
Why it failed: Neither of Yogventures’ creators were developers themselves, so they partnered with a game development company called WinterKewl — a company that had never actually developed a game before.
Though the game’s creators were genuine in their intention, neither they nor the developers had the knowledge and experience required to build such an ambitious game from scratch. They managed to release Alpha and Beta versions of the game, but burned through all the funding and never made it beyond that.
2) iBackPack 2.0
What iBackPack 2.0 was: iBackPack 2.0 was a “next-generation smart backpack” backpack loaded with features, such as 3G/4G Wi-Fi, Bluetooth audio, built-in batteries, multiple USB chargers, and much more. The smart backpack also boasted 30+ pockets, including secret compartments, and was even going to be available in bullet-proof kevlar.
Why it failed: iBackPack 2.0 was the name of the founder Doug Monahan’s second failed crowdfunding campaign — he had already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from backers on Indiegogo. In reality, the creator of iBackBack never used any of the money from backers to produce the backpack. Instead, he was spending it on personal expenses and Bitcoin.
In 2019, Monahan was sued by the FTC for running a “deceptive crowdfunding scheme.” This resulted in him being banned from ever using crowdfunding platforms again. Unfortunately, the FTC wasn’t able to retrieve any of the money to return to backers.
1) Montrex Watch Project
What Montrex Watch Project was: The Montrex Watch Project was allegedly a high quality watch brand that was to include sapphire crystal glass on the front and back of the watch. In fact, this seems to be the only real special characteristic of the watch which the Kickstarter’s founder used to market it.
The name “Montrex” was intended to sound like other established watch brands, including Rolex and Timex.
Why it failed: If you read the Montrex Watch Project Kickstarter, everything just sounds wrong right from the start. It is unprofessionally written, and ends by saying:
“There are risks that shipment of watch cases from the vendor could be lost or stolen, but that risk is very small. It is possible, but not probable that we could become ill, but we're in good health. The thing about which we are most afraid is that there might not be a market for these watches.”
When the project shut down, its owner wrote a message blaming backers for destroying their brand and reputation. It looks like this project was just a scam from the start.
Why Do Kickstarter Projects Fail?
As with any type of entrepreneurial project, there are many different reasons why a Kickstarter project can fail.
Of course, if people don’t want the product, they won’t back it in the first place, and the project is dead on arrival. But, as you saw from the examples above, many Kickstarter projects get fully funded and even surpass their funding goals, only to fail later on.
Here are some of the top reasons why Kickstarter projects fail:
Bad pricing plan (e.g., product is being sold too cheap and is expensive to produce).
Components of the final product are bad quality.
Creators of the project don’t have the required experience or understanding.
Bad timing or rushed execution.
Fraud (the product is a scam never actually intended for production).
One of the easiest ways to spot a possible Kickstarter fail is by checking to see if it has a working prototype already.
Just as investors in the world of startups often look for companies that already have MVPs to invest in, Kickstarter backers should make sure the campaigns they back have already manufactured a working product that is actually viable.