Kickstarter Rant

30 days ago, I launched a Kickstarter trying to generate some cash flow for a fledgling children’s science company*. Ultimately the KS was not a success. Perhaps we didn’t promote it well enough, get it out to the right people, or simply have a product that isn’t all that interesting.

This rant is not about my failures, but the successes of others. Sour grapes? Maybe… Definitely. But my ire is well earned.

What’s pissing me off is the complete fucking garbage that somehow manages to get folks on Kickstarter interested in throwing their money at people. King among this is Mr. Phillips Screwdriver Bit. Wow, you’ve invented a ‘better’ screwdriver bit. The crappy video where the ‘big box’ bit just spins and spins while your bit works great has totally convinced me. Clearly you are really trying to drive that screw, you’re not faking those problems at all. And the price, only $14 per bit? I know I can buy them for under $1 a piece at any hardware store, so yours must be GREAT, and the $4 shipping is definitely worth every penny.

The fucking Kickstarter crowd is eating this shit up. This asshole is pulling in over $150,000 selling screwdriver bits that are 14x as expensive as regular ones, with literally no proof that they work other than some shitty home movies.

The guy who is selling the revolutionary knife that looks exactly like the Henkels knife in my drawer has a cool $1,000,000 of pre-orders because they say they’re definitely going to be making a knife of better quality than anyone out there. You can totally trust them.

My wife… (it is mostly her business, I help when I’m not working) she’s been busting her ass for months developing the product, putting together honest marketing materials and videos of the products in action, and is almost pathologically focused on making sure people wind up happy with the product, and can’t get more than a whiff of interest.

The fraud who promoted the “lazer razer” had $4,000,000 until Kickstarter kicked him off for selling a product that literally could not physically work. Fuck it, I’m going to invent a 10 function titanium mini-tool. Everybody loves those.

*I’m aware of the prohibition of advertising outside of Marketplace, but the KS is now over, and I am currently not taking orders for any of my products, so I hope this rant does not run afoul of those rules. For those of you who supported us through the Marketplace ad, I thank you all, it is much appreciated and you may hear from us again in the future.

So you know how there’s the steak and then there’s the sizzle? You’re under the mistaken belief that the quality of steak being offered is what matters on Kickstarter, but its always the sizzle.

This is my problem with Kickstarter: nobody sees a vetted business plan or a working model of the product in most cases, and there is seldom any sort of return on your investment (ROI), yet people are willing to give others their money based on. . .what, exactly? Essentially, there are no consequences to the person asking for money. If the product fails, he still has at least part of your cash. I’d rather invest in stocks, where there is at least a chance of returns.

especially when the Philips screw concept is obsolete anyway, since it was designed back in the days before we had the ability to limit the torque applied by the driver. Philips bits are designed to
“cam out” of the screw head to prevent over-tightening.

now that even $20 cordless drills have adjustable torque limits, we should have left Philips behind and moved onto something better like Robertson or Torx.

It’s a shame. I thought the idea was brilliant, and I was sad to get the notice that the campaign had failed.

Probably because most Kickstarter contributors don’t see themselves as investors, nor the projects they give money to an investment.

Based on your recommendation, I had to check out Knife Edge™ screwdriver bits. They are less than $12 each if you buy a dozen! Stock up now.

It seems like the guy is using the same technique that endless late-night commercials have used: show a common problem, show how your gizmo solves the problem, sell it for a limited time for less than $20.

I don’t know what bits the guy was selling, but Pozidrivhave been around for awhile.

But who the heck uses Robertson? Besides Canadians, I mean. If they’re not Phillips, flat, or Torx these days, I see hex. Or Pentalobe is used by Apple or some of the three-point designs by other manufacturers just to make consumers say “screw it” and pay for the “professional” repair.

I didn’t realize there was a difference, but I now know that there’s a difference between JIS screws and Phillips. And I know that once you’ve bought a set of JIS screwdrivers, man, Phillips is revealed to be crap.

I think people paying objectively over the odds for some tat* has always been the case, and is a big part of the economy.
What crowdfunding brings to the table now though, or at least makes much easier, is a business model based only on promises, and simply finding the sweet spot between feasible (to the average guy) and exciting.
I am aghast every time I hear about dubious ideas, backed by nothing tangible, getting millions of dollars, but I figure it’s not my dollars getting wasted, and at least it’s another avenue for generating funding for those few serious ideas. Shame it didn’t work out for the OP.

  • Yeah, I know the value of everything is subjective, but I’m talking about situations where a transaction only happens because the buyer is ignorant of some key fact or possible alternative.

As someone who’s backed a bunch of Kickstarter stuff (but didn’t notice the Marketplace announcement because I rarely visit that forum; sorry.) I have some thoughts about your presentations.

  1. You have to approach your KS page from an advertising standpoint. You page didn’t have a lot pizazz. It wasn’t terribly engaging, visually, especially for something your positioning as a party product. Also it was too long to find the sections that described the experiments included. We need to hear a precis of what’s included before we hear about Martha Stewart and how it’s great for parties.

  2. The videos are super important. Unfortunately, yours were kind of a let down - especially the top two. The narration, while clearly professional, was not exciting. It sounded a little more like a film strip. The music choice was kind of random, too. Although I liked the jazzier selections, I didn’t get the music in the first two videos.

I wanted to see, if not videos, then animated gifs of each of the experiments - that’s the cool stuff!

It really needed videos of the kids at a party, enjoying the fun. I wanted to hear something from the actual kids. I wanted to hear the sounds of the experiments and the kids playing with them.

Note: I probably didn’t watch more than thirty seconds of any of your videos. That’s reality, too. You only have a minute to hook your audience.

  1. I get why the actual materials are so low-tech. I really do. And I like that approach! But it makes the product look a little cheap. I’m not saying it is cheap - just that it looks so simple that you need to overcome the parents’ impulse to say, “I got all that stuff sitting around.”

Similarly, the experiments like paper airplanes. The grown ups watching this will all think, “I don’t need a kit to make a paper airplane”. (Yes -* I* know, and you know…) It’s the kid’s reactions to making different airplanes and seeing how they work that will sell this to parents.

Also, you probably need to spend some money on packaging beyond plain cardboard boxes and ziplocs.

I think you have a neat product here. There’s no harm in coming back next year with a revamped campaign, looking to expand your product into stores and schools. You could also try Indiegogo. Good luck!

They often use Spanner screws in prison cells. It’s a lot more difficult to improvise a tool to unscrew those.

Merneith, thank you for the advice. We may revamp and go back to KS. We struggled a great deal with trying to find the right balance, it’s clear that we missed the mark.

It turns out that in between the start and end date of our KS, I found, interviewed for, and landed a new higher paying job for myself. That will give us more opportunity to put our own funds into the company, which we didn’t have before.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to get some inventory and equipment that way, and get a little online store up and running. Then it’s a whole different problem trying to get THAT publicized.

All of the kickstarters I have given money to have come to fruition and I received the product I backed.

Rule #1: People are idiots.

Also I have never backed a kickstarter that I did not think would succeed. If one looks neat and I like it but it only has two backers 20 days in then I will not give them any money no matter how much I might want the thing.

This is why you can not look at kickstarter as an investment. It is a charitable donation site that you can not claim for taxes. You have to realize you are giving your money away.

This. You are giving your money away and you will never see it again. Now hopefully you’ll get some product for your money but the money is gone.

I read an article about one guy, a known game maker, that was making a new game and lots of people backed him because he had made games previously so people trusted him. Dude literally skipped town with tens of thousands of monies. People got the local DA involved and it went to court and the judge ordered him to return the money. Well, maybe some day when they find the guy he might have some money to give back.
Only back people you trust and maybe not even then.

So it’s charity, then. I’d rather give the money to Kiva.

So far, this.

This is actually not a serious risk – Kickstarter won’t collect your money unless the goal is fulfilled. The risk is that lots of people will sign up and then the developer will take the money and run. Or take the money, and try to make the things but fail.

This. I wouldn’t back a Kickstarter project with enough money that I was really upset if it just evaporated, and I never got the “reward”. But in general, my hope is either to help someone develop something I want to exist, or to buy something cool.

That guy selling a knife that looks just like a Henkels? What he’s advertising is a lower price. Not a fabulously better knife, just a top-end knife at a mid-range price. I signed up for his mailing list – if he makes it successfully as an on-going company, I might buy a knife from him. (Not a chef’s knife, I have enough of those. But I can always use another paring knife.)

Yeah, and that’s the real risk. That the dude will skip town.

One aspect of Kickstarter is that it represents a marketing experiment. It’s better to do Kickstarter as a dry run than to end up with 5000 units in your basement.


I came close to buying the product as a gift for my nieces. But it looked like they came in packs of 3 (“For parties or a lazy Sunday”). I wanted a pack of 1. So I… procrastinated. I might have formed the wrong impression. :(:o:(

Personally, I hope Cheesesteak retools and gives it another shot. I really liked the concept. But that’s easy for me to say: I’m not doing the hard work. Making things is hard.
Brainstorming: Sponsor an event. Get a mention in Boing Boing. University study??? …

Or you are a patron of the arts, paying a premium like the old kings did. But Kiva is a reasonable analogy I think. And backing one model or the other but not both seems prudent.

Sometimes. I backed a high-end chocolate maker because a friend (who knows his chocolate) asked me to. My goal was to increase the world’s supply of high-end chocolate just a little. I eventually got a few over-priced chocolate bars out of it. They were fabulous quality. I was thinking I should look them up and see if they are still in business.

I also backed “The Order of the Stick” reprint thing. That wasn’t charity, I just wanted to buy the books. And since the author had already written the content, and had previously published books, the risk seemed small.

I’ve backed some other odds and ends. So far, so good.

I wouldn’t get too down on who succeeds. Kickstarter has some specific demographics. Items that are appealing to affluent, tech savvy younger men are going to have a much better chance of hitting it big.

The primary purchasers of STEM themed children’s party toys for your targeted age group is women with kids in their 30s and 40s who are likely working. Those women are BUSY. They aren’t going to be trolling Kickstarter looking at random stuff. And if they are, finances might be too tight for them to take a risk. You need to reach them where they are.

My kid is too young for your products, but I like the idea. I’m not thrilled with the party aspect, however. It’s just not what I picture at a kids party and frankly I don’t want to play teacher to a pile of kids with different interests and attention spans. Not that it really matters, since I don’t throw a ton of parties.

I’d rather try a packet or two, and be able to pick up multiple copies on my own if I want to for whatever reason.

Very true, but I have a newfound respect for how hard it is to get people interested in the things you make. It’s difficult, and you start feeling powerless, because you’re just putting your information out there and hoping people come back to buy. I feel a hell of a lot more in control when I’m testing and designing than when I’m advertising.
We’re actually sponsoring an event with my son’s Cub Scout den, getting them all Circuitry kits in advance of a trip to the Edison Museum. Hopefully we can get some good pictures, videos, and quotes from the kids/parents.