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Software The Almighty Buck Hardware

How a Kickstarter Project Can Massively Exceed Its Funding Goals and Still Fail 217

An anonymous reader writes: In November, 2013, a Kickstarter project for a software-defined camera trigger scored £290,386 (~$450,000) in funding after asking for a mere £50,000. After almost a year of delays, they've now announced the project is dead. Their CEO has published a lengthy article about how such a successful funding round can still turn into a failed product. In short: budgeting. To get their software into a workable state, they ended up spending 940% of the amount they'd originally allocated to software development. Their protoyping went over budget, too, and they had to spend a fair bit in legal fees to fend off a major camera manufacturer complaining about their product's name.

Still, they had more funding than they expected, and would have been able to deal with these costs. Unfortunately, the bill of materials for their final product clocked in way higher than they expected. They would have had to sell the device at about $350 each, when they were originally targeting a $99 price point. (And that figure assumes good sales — with a smaller production run, price per unit goes even higher.) The company is now going to refund the remaining money left over from its Kickstarter campaign — about 20% of the total. They're also open sourcing the software and sharing the PCB designs and schematics.
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How a Kickstarter Project Can Massively Exceed Its Funding Goals and Still Fail

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @02:27AM (#49169663)

    Don't Kickstart something that seems like a good idea but has never been done before. If it's really a good idea then people have either tried and failed multiple times before, and/or people with more money that Kickstarter can provide will agree it's a good idea and invest.

    Crowd funding is good for known quantities from reliable sources. Printing out a book for that webcomic you like, where the pricing is a fixed and known quantity before hand, or funding a game from a known and reliable developer like Broken Age from Double Fine or Project Cars from Slightly Mad studios.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @02:55AM (#49169749)

      Yes, people should never ever try something never done before!!!

      Or, maybe⦠you know⦠crowfund it just because traditional investors are too scared to do new things; but add a disclaimer about it not being a traditional buy but comes with some risks. You know, just like it's being done on sites like Kickstarter!

      • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @09:49AM (#49171253) Journal

        Or, maybeæ you knowæ crowfund it just because traditional investors are too scared to do new things

        Stop right there. People don't "invest" on kickstarter. They have no ownership interest in the business. The people who fund in kickstarter take all the risk, while having no possible upside beyond the products that they buy.

        I could make a political point about how kickstarter and its kin are a response to laws that limit risky investments by all except the wealthy and the effect of "the closure" in Venice in the 14th centuary.

        • I didn't refer to the paying people as investors!

          It's a buy with a (bigger) risk of not getting the thing you paid for.

          If you pay 100 USD each to 10 projects, but 1/10 fail to deliver; then your actual cost per delivered product is about 111 USD. You need to guesstimate costs like that before you "gamble" and buy stuff from sites like Kickstarter.

        • by jythie ( 914043 )
          It should be noted though that this particular project was also set up with microinvesting (EU only), so while the Kickstarter platform did not allow for investment, the project itself did actually have a way to invest in it.
        • In the general sense, "Investment is time, energy, or matter spent in the hope of future benefits actualized within a specified date or time frame." (Wikipedia)

          In other words, it doesn't have to involve ownership. The key phrase is simply "in the hope of future benefits".

        • The people who fund in kickstarter take all the risk, while having no possible upside beyond the products that they buy.

          There are a few other things:

          • The satisfaction of creating jobs for people doing something you particularly approve of.
          • The impact a successful campaign has on the perceived feasability of similar future efforts (crowd funded or otherwise).
        • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

          Maybe that means that their is room for a new kickstart.
          You invest and get x amount of the company per dollar.
          So you put in say $100 into a "Kickstarter" and you get .01% of the company.
          The venture fails and you get write it off on your taxes.
          It becomes Facebook and you get to retire.

          It is probably not possible because of laws and regulations which is too bad since it would be more like real venture capital.

          • by geoskd ( 321194 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @12:26PM (#49172861)

            Maybe that means that their is room for a new kickstart. You invest and get x amount of the company per dollar. So you put in say $100 into a "Kickstarter" and you get .01% of the company. The venture fails and you get write it off on your taxes. It becomes Facebook and you get to retire.

            Except that scheme runs afoul of a whole host of rules, and will get you in hot water with the SEC (possibly including jail time)

            That very concept has a name: "Initial Public Offering", and the rules surrounding it are complex enough that most companies hire a brokerage house to handle the details.

        • I could make a political point about how kickstarter and its kin are a response to laws that limit risky investments by all except the wealthy and the effect of "the closure" in Venice in the 14th centuary.

          You could, but then you'd be ignoring history. The US "informed investor" legislation is to protect people from otherwise-legal fraud. Did you never hear about the movie scam? A production team would roll up in a small town, and offer to put the place on the map by shooting a move there. Everyone knows movies make millions. No brainer. Invest, invest, invest! And so the townsfolk would hand over many thousands of pounds to the production company, who would shoot a movie -- a crap one that no-one would ever

    • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @03:00AM (#49169765)

      Morale: gloomy

      But!

      That doesn't mean you should never contribute to hardware kick starters. It's a good idea to carefully examine what they have done before to see if they can handle making the new thing...

      But!

      Sometimes, it's just plain good to kickstart something even if it looks unlikely they will reach the goal. I would argue that is what happened in this case, because they found out a LOT about making this thing a lot of people want, and are sharing what they found. Eventually the thing people really wanted may well get made. If I had contributed to this Kickstarter (I did not) I wouldn't be mad, just a bit sad it didn't go through.

      • by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @03:29AM (#49169825) Homepage Journal

        I've signed up for a few hardware kickstarters and they've worked out fine. Maybe because I've had 30 years of product design and I can spot the naive ones a mile off. Generally, if it involves wireless interfaces or software that requires and operating system, avoid - the risks are significant.

        The reflowster toaster oven reflow soldering controller is a classic. Simple, useful and you know you could do it yourself if you weren't so lazy. You're paying them to be less lazy that you.

        • What's wrong with wireless interfaces? There's oodles of bluetooth, xbee and wifi modules out there, so unless the requirements are far out (e.g. very small, VERY long range), the problem is easily solved.

          Not that I'm defensive, but I say this as someone who is currently developing some hardware and it's close to production ready. I'm also mulling a kickstarter campaign to get over the last bump. It uses a BLE module and it works fine. In fact that was the easiest bit to get working.

          • I can't speak for TechyImmigrant; but it sounds like he is nervous about things that suggest software development(especially by people with no track record of it) substantially more involved than microcontroller firmware. Which is probably fair, given that even professional developers working for companies that make software have horror stories.

            If that's in fact his reasoning, there's probably a distinction between "Using a handy bluetooth module that acts like a serial port because most laptops and no c
            • Software (ie, apps) I think is somewhat easier than firmware, mostly because there are a lot fewer people with experience in firmware and low level development.

          • I say this as someone who is currently developing some hardware and it's close to production ready. I'm also mulling a kickstarter campaign to get over the last bump.

            As people have said elsewhere, Kickstarter makes sense if you have a working prototype and can properly spec up the build costs.

        • Simple, useful and you know you could do it yourself if you weren't so lazy. You're paying them to be less lazy that you.

          Also a reasonably handy way(not necessarily optimal; but good enough to get the job done) to organize the equivalent of a group buy. Unless you really love screwing around with toner transfer and ferric chloride, PCBs get markedly cheaper when you go from 1 unit to a few hundred or few thousand units, as do pretty much all the components you'd stuff the PCBs with. DIY isn't impossible or anything; but it'll be a good bit cheaper per unit if the quantity is higher.

      • Sometimes, it's just plain good to kickstart something even if it looks unlikely they will reach the goal. I would argue that is what happened in this case, because they found out a LOT about making this thing a lot of people want, and are sharing what they found. Eventually the thing people really wanted may well get made. If I had contributed to this Kickstarter (I did not) I wouldn't be mad, just a bit sad it didn't go through.

        What they "found", you say, as though it's all over. As microfunding is illegal as investment in the US, Kickstarter projects are contracts of sale under US law. Under the Ts & Cs of the site, it is made clear that the project owners have a duty to deliver the promised rewards. With T-shirts and stickers, that's trivially easy -- with a product that was largely theoretical at the time of project launch, not so much.

        Triggertrap have set themselves up for potential class action from the Kickstarter backer

    • by HBI ( 604924 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @06:12AM (#49170223) Journal

      I believe the morale of the story is positive. It looks to be in good spirits!

    • by gnupun ( 752725 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @07:53AM (#49170529)

      Don't Kickstart something that seems like a good idea but has never been done before.

      Terrible advice. The whole point of kickstarter is to invest in something new and risky. But right now the game is tilted towards fleecing backers. If the project succeeds, the creators become filthy rich but if it fails, the creators lose nothing whereas the backers get nothing for risking their micro-capital. It's a zero-loss game for creators and a zero-profit game for backers.

      This would change if the backers were paid with equity -- say greater of 1% of total sales or 5% of profit of product being backed. If some products fail, while others succeed, there is a good chance backers won't lose money.

      • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @08:11AM (#49170589)

        Paying with equity would be illegal, and thus not such a great idea. The Title III JOBS act provisions are not "live" yet, since the SEC hasn't managed to finalize the rules yet.

        But a cut of the profit is not equity anyway.

        Of course most successful kickstarters have more than 20 backers, so 5% of the profit is going to be rather tricky. If you mean 5% of the profit shared amongst all backers then I doubt that is going to have much impact on the "lose money" part. 100% of the funding for 5% of the profits? I'm sure there'd be no hollywood accounting there.

        • by gnupun ( 752725 )

          Paying with equity would be illegal, and thus not such a great idea.

          Perhaps, but profit sharing is common. For example, 30% of mobile app sales go to Apple or Google. In a similar fashion, 1% sales or 5% profit of all future sales of the kickstarted product should go to the backers. Without their collective risk-taking and investment in the creator's idea, there is going to be no product to be sold.

          If you don't charge anything to the creators, even rich companies like Microsoft and Apple are going put up k

          • Sure they could offer profit sharing, but that's complicated with lots of edge cases and as I said hollywood style accounting makes it pretty pointless. Note, it's a completely different situation than app stores - that isn't "profit sharing" that's revenue sharing. And there's no accounting trickery since the entity trying to get their share is the one processing the payments and thus skimming them off the top before the other guy actually gets anything (there's no way to say sell your stuff to your Uncle

      • It's a zero-loss game for creators and a zero-profit game for backers.

        I don't think it's entirely zero-profit for backers. If the project succeeds then I get a thing that I wanted that might not otherwise have been created. That's a benefit for me.

        • by gnupun ( 752725 )

          I don't think it's entirely zero-profit for backers. If the project succeeds then I get a thing that I wanted that might not otherwise have been created.

          Or you could have waited for the item to be available in stores and bought it, risk-free. Let other people take the risk.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 )

      If it's really a good idea then people have either tried and failed multiple times before

      You sir are an idiot, and as is anyone who modded you up.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      Don't Kickstart something that seems like a good idea but has never been done before. If it's really a good idea then people have either tried and failed multiple times before

      Why not? Sure it's a risk. But nothing good ever came out of not taking risks.

      However.... It would probably be a good idea to not offer or promise 'donation rewards' that can only be delivered if the project is successful.

      I do not see how some additional open source software and PCB designs being released is not a win for t

    • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @10:22AM (#49171555)
      In this case, they already had done it once before. This was their second kickstarter for the same basic project, with their previous one being successful and for general sale. They wanted to improve the design and take it from a 'hacker friendly' packaging to something 'consumer friendly'. So their track record was actually pretty good for a very similar device.
    • I believe the entire point of Kickstarter is to find funding for things that have never been done before. Banks are quite happy to loan money for tried and tested business ideas.
  • Color me surprised (Score:4, Informative)

    by houghi ( 78078 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @02:27AM (#49169665)

    If you make the wrong asumtions with your budget, you will fail financially? Who would have thought this?

  • by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @02:27AM (#49169667) Homepage Journal

    If you think it's going to be easy to put together a real techy product with software and circuits and PCBs and enclosures and EM certification and patent minefields and manufacturing and packaging and distributors and competition, you might want to examine why you think that.

    • You pretty much summed it up. This seems to be a case of the developers not really having a sense of the actual challenges of the project and the business. That stems from a lack of experience in both product development and building a business, a trait you can expect from many kickstarter project teams. Something to consider when contributing (its not investing).
    • Actually it is quite easy.... if you know what you're doing.

      I'm reading his story and it reads like someone who wanted the earth and didn't know that it costs money. The fundamental product design sounds quite easy, but then looking at the funky case design... yep that looks like it would be fun to injection mold. Look through some of the sob stories, change in design because the LCD panel they used became obsolete. So someone designed something based around a part that they didn't check was lifecycled? Upg

      • by jythie ( 914043 )
        I guess one lesson to take away is that it is dangerous to think you know what you are doing, or how a little experience can be worse then none. This was their second product, so they went through all of this before and were successful. This time it got away from them.
    • by drolli ( 522659 )

      And this is why should focus on getting a simple product out first and not design 5 modules at once (like they did).

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      If you think it's going to be easy to put together a real techy product with software and circuits and PCBs and enclosures and EM certification and patent minefields and manufacturing and packaging and distributors and competition, you might want to examine why you think that.

      it's not even that. it's scalability.

      It is SUPER easy to put together a one-off or even a 10 or 100-off product.

      Scale that up to the thousands and you're looking at a difficulty rating that grows exponentially - what used to work for s

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @02:39AM (#49169711)

    ...and are still delivering value. The Suez canal is a prime example, but if you do some research, you will come up with others.

    The most important thing is that the achievements not be thrown away, and in software, there's a very nice way of doing it (no: it's not "some Intellectual Property Vulture feeds on the remnants"). So kudos for releasing the software and the hardware blueprints.

    So yay for the visionaries of triggertrap (those who worked hard at it and those who risked their money). May you survive the crash and be richer after that. May the explosion disperse seeds far and wide for new things to grow.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Considering the amount of successful projects kickstarter has, I think they should offer an insurance for x% of the price of good (optional), where you get a full refund if the item is not delivered within 3 - 6 months. They'd probably even end up making money of the insurance, and for some things (like a $700 bike I was considering) it would help a lot.

    • Why? Kickstarter is an investment platform, not a preorder platform; this is the single most important thing to understand about Kickstarter. In return for investing in the product you get some kind of reward, often the product, but you are not purchasing the product. You are investing in the product, and that carries a much higher level of risk than in a simple purchase - one of those risks is that the product will fail to deliver to the original spec. If you don't want the risk don't use Kickstarter, you

      • Re:Insurance (Score:5, Insightful)

        by lindseyp ( 988332 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @03:22AM (#49169813)

        The rewards offered on kickstarter are pitiful given the risk to the capital, and complete lack of upside if the product is successful.

        Just look at Oculus Rift. Sure the backers got "goodies" such as, ooh... prototype oculus rifts, but did they get any of the $2b Facebook bought the company for? No! If Kickstarter were a real investment platform backers should benefit from the success of the company just as easily as they can lose their money when it fails.

        • by The Rizz ( 1319 )

          [...]but did they get any of the $2b Facebook bought the company for? No! If Kickstarter were a real investment platform backers should benefit from the success of the company just as easily as they can lose their money when it fails.

          The problem with this is that it would require issuing stock - which requires knowledge of securities law for wherever you are (and possibly wherever Kickstarter is). Issuing stock on Kickstarter would possibly count as an IPO, which gets even more complicated.

          If this were to happen, the only decent, streamlined method would be for Kickstarter to have a staff to do it for you. Which could be good if you want to become a publicly traded corporation, but that adds more overhead in reporting and investor meeti

          • Re:Insurance (Score:5, Informative)

            by St.Creed ( 853824 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @04:48AM (#49170009)

            Actually, kickstarter is not allowed to give out equity under US law *yet*, but that may change soon. ANd if they want to stay relevant, they should, because the kickstarter model is starting to show cracks.

            A company called Symbid (symbid.nl) has been doing this for quite some time now because they're not in the US and under Dutch law they can already do this. You can invest small sums of money (20 euro and upwards) and in exchange you get equity. That sounds simpler than it is, but it seems to be working for them. They take over all the hassle of the process of issuing shares, the lawyer part of it etc. and make things cheap and easy enough to work for small sums.

            If I ever invest money, it will be through something similar. But not through kickstarter. Kickstarter is where you give donations. Investors go elsewhere.

        • by N1AK ( 864906 )

          The rewards offered on kickstarter are pitiful given the risk to the capital, and complete lack of upside if the product is successful.

          If someone is Kickstarting something that you think want to be made, but isn't going to be made otherwise, then the reward can be perfectly sufficient. Kickstarting isn't about becoming an investor in businesses (there are other platforms for that), nor is it a pre-order marketplace. It does what is says it does, and 90%+ of the bitching I hear about it is people who think i

        • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

          The rewards offered on Kickstarter are pitiful given the risk to the capital

          Yes and no, the attraction is normally a product with features that you can't get elsewhere.

          I've backed one Kickstarter - they already had prototypes being tested by public to iron out any kinks, they probably could have made it without Kickstarter help, sometimes Kickstarter is a good way to get the ball rolling with regards to initial customers / advertising. The reason I went for it was the considerable discount offered. It w

        • Kickstarter is not an investment platform. It is an open funding platform. You have no stake in the final product and no recourse when it fails to deliver.

      • Re:Insurance (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Boronx ( 228853 ) <evonreis@mohr-en ... m ['ine' in gap]> on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @03:59AM (#49169901) Homepage Journal

        It's not an investment platform, it's a begging platform with door prizes. Investors get ownership for their money and can demand accountability *during* the life of the project.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          It's not an investment platform, it's a begging platform with door prizes. Investors get ownership for their money and can demand accountability *during* the life of the project.

          And startup investors invest a large sum of money for that ownership. You aren't going to get ownership for 5-100 bucks.

        • Or, on a more positive note, it's a platform for group patronage.
      • Kickstarter is an investment platform

        That is one thing that it absolutely is NOT. It's a donation platform, and some people asking for donations offer some incentives in exchange for your generosity. That's it. There is no investment. People who've given money are not vested in any way, except perhaps emotionally.

        • Enough commenters have said something along those lines that I think it deserves a response

          Kickstarter is an investment platform. Investment does not require you to receive equity or similar (indeed, in the broadest sense, any financial transaction that offers a (potential) return can be considered an investment). In the case of Kickstarter the return is twofold: the formal reward the project gives you for the backing and the creation of a product you wanted to see, but that wouldn't have made it to market

          • Kickstarter is an investment platform.

            OK, and digging loose change out of your couch cushions is you making use of a banking platform.

            Everybody involved here knows that "investment" means something very specific when you're handing money to a company to use in the formation and growth of their business. What happens when you funnel money towards a favored project through Kickstarter is no more an investment than losing some change in your couch is you making a bank deposit.

            There's nothing wrong with Kickstarter or with people on both en

      • by Luthair ( 847766 )
        Except that it isn't an investing platform, the backers aren't getting equity in the company. Personally I'm hopeful that eventually one of these failed projects will be sued and we'll get a better idea of the legal rights of the backers. Plus maybe one of these shitty companies will be forced into bankruptcy so everyone understands this isn't free money, its real life.
    • Considering the amount of successful projects kickstarter has, I think they should offer an insurance for x% of the price of good (optional), where you get a full refund if the item is not delivered within 3 - 6 months. They'd probably even end up making money of the insurance, and for some things (like a $700 bike I was considering) it would help a lot.

      You've got a winner there! You should start a kickstarter about it.

      I'm sure people will be happy to spend an extra $650 so they can recover their original $700

      • I'm sure people will be happy to spend an extra $650 so they can recover their original $700

        Given the way insurance works psychologically (people are risk-averse more than they are profit-oriented), you'd be surprised how many takers you'd find at a slightly lower price.

    • Sounds good in theory, but get an insurer to underwrite such a scheme - you won't, and for good reason. Kickstarter is a deliberately risky investment (the website promises nothing, the projects promise nothing), and you are voluntarily making the decision to invest in something that guarantees nothing, so no insurer will cover that.

      • by gsslay ( 807818 )

        Exactly. An insurance company is in the business of taking on risk. If they wanted to take on the high risk of the Kickstarted company, then they could invest in it themselves. Why do they need a middle man?

        • An insurance company is in the business of making money by taking calculated risks. If there were a risk model that worked in their favor, it could happen. I just think it would be so complicated to evaluate the risk, it would never be considered.
      • by swb ( 14022 )

        This might be less complex than it sounds.

        In theory, underwriters could have access to the history of kickstarters and could develop some risk models for projects.

        A surety bond could be part of the overall projects funding (everybody pays) but becoming a beneficiary of the bond could require contributing at a higher level, encouraging higher investments.

        Underwriters would probably apply some basic rules to the project (fraud mitigation) which might actually add some kind of discipline to projects which coul

        • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

          This may present another problem.
          If the insurers rate projects differently and offer different insurance rates for each project, this insurance rate would effectively become an endorsement of sorts.
          Also, I don't think there's anything preventing individual kickstarter campaigns to offer such an insurance if they want.

      • I think it sounds horrible in theory. A system where poor decisions don't have negative consequences is more tolerant of failure. Kickstarter project teams need to feel and be responsible for their performance. They don't need the excuse of "well, at least nobody lost any money".
  • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @02:58AM (#49169761)
    Rather than spend all the money, 20% will be refunded. And a software source and PCB will be offered. It is a failed kickstarter, but not as bad as those which went home with the money breaking all promised delivery. Like moulyneux and godus for example.
    • If you go through the comments, you'll see that they apparently don't have the right to do that.

      "Kickstarter does not offer refunds. A Project Creator is not required to grant a Backer’s request for a refund unless the Project Creator is unable or unwilling to fulfill the reward.
      Project Creators are required to fulfill all rewards of their successful fundraising campaigns or refund any Backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill."

      So for those who invested in return for a reward, they're entitled to a 100% refund. Not 20%. Seeing as the company behind this has other assets and doesn't plan to close its doors, giving back only 20% doesn't cut it. If the IP has value, it should be sold, along with the rest of the business, to make the refunds happen. And judging by the number of people who are demanding a full refund or that they liquidate

  • so did they or did they not have a running prototype? it seems they did but then they wanted to develop another more expensive product.

    the story reads like they started r&d after getting the money. _all_ r&d including case manufacturing options(yes there are other options than injection molding and 3d printing, which are all pretty much cheaper in their unit range) and all code for the micro and choosing another micro..

    I mean, how the fuck can you spend so much more on your r&d that you were supposed to already have been done?

    furthermore, they didn't design the product to the means they had available - for example, if you're a low run and injection molding tooling is too expensive(and you know that because you've done a cursory google search beforehand, right, right???) you can get of the shelf aluminium cases and such quite cheaply. sure it's 5-10 times more expensive per unit than injection moulding but still would be under 10% of the 99 bucks. lasercutting etc would all be options - they would just have had to compromise on the overall shape of the frigging device. like, fuck, http://www.alibaba.com/product... [alibaba.com] here's a box 3 dollars + cheap ass shipping. or a bunch of other similar boxes, extrusion they could have cut etc. then the cheap ass method of pcb for the ends( cheap cheap in low run too) to hold the display, buttons etc.

    fuck you could even source them as 3d printed pieces nowadays cheaper than the quoted 25$ per case due to the tooling.

    really, the whole story reads like they didn't do the development beforehand and promised stuff out of their asses. they wanted to change the product to a more expensive one and do the r&d again after the kickstarter while the kickstarter should only have had to pay for the production of what they already demonstrated.

    whats even worse? they're using this as a publiciy stunt for their smartphone apps! that is they have a revenue source, they're an existing company, they just blew a lot of customers money on paychecks to themselves and didn't deliver.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      It's Arduino syndrome again. They see people selling those for a few bucks, and cases for $5 and figure that they will be able to do the same.

      • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

        It's Arduino syndrome again. They see people selling those for a few bucks, and cases for $5 and figure that they will be able to do the same.

        Why is it that the Chinese can throw together HD cameras for $10 but western companies struggle to do the same for $100? Is manufacturing no-how not taught at universities any more or is it that the Chinese simply have all the factories and hence the manufacturing skills.

        • by Luthair ( 847766 )
          I imagine many are exposed to the process and know people in it, they're using their own money, and often use shoddy components that didn't quite pass Q&A. Its a bit like the Korean 27" monitors that were the rage last year, the panels were the ones that didn't quite meet the grading for Dell / LG / Apple.
  • From what I read the dongle is merely the interface from the camera (USB) to the smartphone (USB). That should be trivial. (For my setup a USB OTG cable + adapter to mini USB is sufficient, there are tons of apps to control cameras).

    The article states that they had to use a beefier micro controller etc., but I wonder: why not do all the processing on the smart phone? These days our phones have so much processing power AND sensors, there should be no need to do any kind of non-trivial logic outside, especially when you're just trying to launch your first product.

    • by emj ( 15659 )

      From what I read the dongle is merely the interface from the camera (USB) to the smartphone (USB)..

      When did SMOP become the "small matter of electrical engineering and product design"?

    • I can't see why. You can get an ATMEL microcontroller at least as powerful (or more) than that one for $3 to $7 (depending on how capable you want it to be) in small quantities (qty 10). That's the SAM D21 CPUs ($3) and the SAM 3N or SAM 3S for $7.

      I have to imagine the enclosure and such is more expensive than they thought.

      The hardware seems pretty basic. I could make a prototype version from the CPU I just bought in a week. Yes, that includes sound triggering, opto triggering, etc.

      Their AUX port seems HORR

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        They started out with an Arduino. Any project that starts with an Arduino and then claims it will easily transition to a custom design has a high probability of failing. Anyone who knows how to do that wouldn't be using an Arduino to begin with.

      • I have to imagine the enclosure and such is more expensive than they thought.

        such things are very expensive, which is why you often see the same case reused for multiple products. There are 423890 kitchen timers on the market, but only 34421 plastic molds for kitchen timers out there. The first number goes up much more rapidly than the second. hooray for sending your design off to China! Chinese electronics manufacturers would like to thank you very much.

    • by tantrum ( 261762 )

      I also wonder how this could fail so misearably.

      As a hobby photographer/nerd I created my own unit that seems to do pretty much the same as this one. It's got a motion detector, lightening detector, sound activated trigger, datalogger, tempsensor, variable timer for timelapses/shutter contro, bluetooth interface to control from a computer and "fairly long range" 868mhz wireless shutter control.

  • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @03:37AM (#49169843)

    Refunding the remaining money and making the work they managed to get done available to the community is a decent way to act here. In a bankruptcy case your remaining assets would go to your creditors.
    In this case they are giving those assets back to the people who paid for them.

    That means the product could still come into existence or form the beginnings of other even better designs.

    All in all, that was actually quite decent of them.

  • The fundamental problem with Kickstarter is that there's no accountability for handling the money. There's simply no assurance that the people running the show have estimated costs correctly, or know how to manage a project with budge constraints. Since the "investors" have zero ownership, they can't step in to right the ship.

    Don't bother kickstarting any major project that doesn't have a project manager experienced in the field (a famous, experienced designer, for instance, isn't necessarily good enough.

    • by N1AK ( 864906 )

      The fundamental problem with Kickstarter is that there's no accountability for handling the money.

      Only if you completely, and entirely, miss what it's used for. If someone wants to set up a kickstarter equivalent where projects must be independently audited, project plans validated, and investors have some legally watertight form of ownership as well as power to intervene then they are welcome to set it up.

      Here's one of the projects highlighted on Kickstarter's frontpage: Help send The Kinsey Sicks to th

  • Between a real entrepreneur and a person with "just" a good idea.
    You actually need to be both in order to sicceed!
  • by drolli ( 522659 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @06:41AM (#49170289) Journal

    * Really: they had a "team happiness person"?
    * Featuritis: Why not start with a single sensor (if possible itegrated in the basic product), but try to develop everything once
    * Idiotic presumptions everywhere like asssuming that the non-availability of a specifi part for V1 is best cured by a completely revised V2. Or that the resolution of the display matters
    * Senseless Perfectionism: Hoho, the company they hired was "not able to use github". Yes, then take the source and put it there yourself (no need to delay, and no excuse for delivering late)
    * Lack of a preexisting SW concept (they really had to have a running prototype where a backer looked at the source to tell them that the MC could be put to low-power mode. (If you select a MC, the first thing you do should be to determing if the state transitions between the sleep modes support what you want to do *on the high level*)
    * Complete lack of technical understanding about MCs (they complained that thet had no "arduino expert"). MCs are great tools. You dont select the MCs by the SW you have, or by how conevnient and popular they are in the "maker" circles. You select them by the IOs they have, and by the power consumption. For most things you actually dont end up with anything close to an arnduino (e.g. for low power: look at the MSP430, for raw IO features: look at the M16C series)
    * A broken assumtion from the very start: That this needs to be modular. I am pretty convinced that (lets exclude the laser module) most of the sensors could have been integrated right away, for less money than the box you put them in.

    That being said, this should have been a 2-4 man project for 6 months, with focus on solving the technical problems first. A more or less working prototype electronics design (2man months for the most important sensors) should have been done before promising anything on Kickstarter.

    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      I can't agree more. If you really need external sensors, put them in simple $0.50 off-the-shelf enclosures with a couple minutes of kitchen table machining done to adapt them to your application. Learn how to cleanly superglue lenses/windows etc. Repurpose other off-the-shelf parts - say use IR motion sensor lenses for your trigger lenses, if you need a wide-field Fresnel sort of an IR lens. Reuse $1.00 off-the-shelf cables that you can buy in bulk on eBay to connect sensors to the main unit. If they break,

  • I myself have looked into using someone to get my models produced and found I could get it done much cheaper than these guys claim.
    Proto Labs was my choice as i found I could get protoypes from a proper injection-mold cheap ($4-5k) and after the protos I could get production runs of 5k series for less than $1 each. Compared to the 50k I read in this silly fail, they could have done 5 rounds of new mold + 5k impressions for same price.

    Oh, and I am not affiliated with or paid by Proto Labs. I just wanted t
  • They've made some very major blunders. First of all, for that price and that sales volume, you go with an off-the-shelf enclosure and machining that can be done in your kitchen, if need be. Yeah, the custom pluggable enclosure looks cool, but is wholly unnecessary. A membrane keypad with display and other windows can be had cheaply even when full custom. All in all, they've totally overdesigned it physically. If I wanted to develop open source firmware for such a device, giving my time away for free, I coul

  • My over-all impression is of a typical fool who thought (maybe still thinks) that he's the next Steve Wozniac, but in fact had none of the knowledge, or ability that The Woz had at that age.

    Anybody can come up with a cool idea for a cutting edge product. Hell, I do it daily.
    The reality is, there is a big difference between an idea and a product.

    Yes, it is important to try something new. It's also important to have a reality check. Small steps people !

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