Kickstarter dreams; and that sinking feeling

sabertron_bannerI’ve backed a fair few Kickstarter campaigns over the last few years and, generally speaking, it’s been an excellent experience. Apart from those where it hasn’t, and I feel like I’m dealing with one of those now.

Way back in June last year I backed Sabertron, a foam sword that lights up on a hit and keeps score. My hope was that it would, as promised be delivered in time to be my kids’ Christmas present. It wasn’t. And now more than a year later it still hasn’t been delivered and the chances of it being delivered for this coming Christmas look slim at best.

In all of the campaigns I’ve backed there seems to be a similar process. They start out with lots of enthusiasm and there is tons of communication. But as time goes by and deadlines slip the communication because sparse and then fades off into non-existent. Sabertron is firmly in the sparse communication mode at the moment and a lot of people are getting frustrated. My take-away lesson for anyone with a Kickstarter campaign is that, unless you are taking the money and running, keep talking to people just so they know you haven’t left the building with a backpack of cash and a ticket to Argentina.

Anyhow, that isn’t really what this article is about. Reading the comments, the feedback, the screams, from backers of failed campaigns it strikes me that Kickstarter is an unusual place. It is set up not as a shop, but as a way of getting backing for a developing product. So, going in, you know that there’s a chance that you might lose money and I think most people recognise that. There are those who scream about being ripped-off but they are far from the majority. There are many more who just have to express their unhappiness. And mostly they aren’t unhappy about the money, they’re unhappy because they bought into the dream of the product and that product now wont exist.

Sabertron is a great example. A foam sword that knows when you make a hit – for a kid that’s just a joy to contemplate. That product deserves to exist because it just makes so much sense. So the campaign foundering is just an utter disappointment. No one likes losing money, but losing your dream is much, much worse.

And that’s the thing I keep reminding myself of when campaigns I’ve backed founder. I’ve lost a little money; the people who have invested their time, their reputation, and their one great idea have really lost something far more substantial. My disappointment will disappear when someone else takes up the idea. For the founders their dream is over.

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