The Inevitable Crowdfunding Backlash When People Realize Projects Fail & Change

from the early-excitement-can-lead-to-disillusionment dept

We've been unabashed champions of crowdfunding and platforms like Kickstarter for quite some time now, though we've also tried to temper some of the hype. A little over two years ago, for example, we used the story of the open social network Diaspora as a possible warning for some of the initial excitement about projects. Much of that comes from just knowing what entrepreneurs go through: the initial idea is exciting, but things change over time, and expectations change... and some projects fail. When you're dealing with investors, that's one thing -- they're sort of designed to expect such a thing. But crowdfunding had a different vibe. Because people got so excited in the idea and really (quite literally) bought into it, we worried that as some projects failed, it might lead to a serious backlash.

It may be a coincidence that we highlighted this risk with Diaspora (one of the first Kickstarter projects to go really "big") a couple years ago... but it's possible that our worries are coming true. Last week, I saw a report from Liz Gannes at AllThingsD, which suggested that the Diaspora team was focusing on something completely different, a "collaborative web remixing tool" called Makr.io. The team definitely went through some significant hardships so it's not that surprising that they've shifted gears. Given that story, it's hardly a surprise that they're now officially "handing control of the project over to the community." They claim they'll still be playing an important role, but it seems pretty clear this is an effective withdrawal from the project, which never really caught on the way some people hoped.

And, of course, this isn't just limited to Diaspora. Bloomberg recently had a (well-timed) story highlighting how an awful lot of successful Kickstarter projects, at the very least, don't meet their deadlines to actually make or ship a product. This has turned at least some people off to the service, which (again) is unfortunate.

Of course, these kinds of platforms are only a few years old, and of course they're going to go through growing pains. I hope that, as they continue to grow and find success, at least there's some greater recognition -- and public admission -- of the potential risks involved, so that they don't take people by surprise, and that people understand that as much as they love an idea, execution is the truly hard part. Investing in the idea is great, but there's a risk involved that the end result won't match the snazzy video that the team put together for Kickstarter in the first place.
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Filed Under: business models, changes, crowdfunding, failures
Companies: diaspora, kickstarter


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  1. identicon
    Rekrul, 1 Sep 2012 @ 8:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Indeed, but is that really any different from other models? No investment is ever completely safe, no matter what a salesman tells you. If this fails, you have... exactly the same recourse as other methods give you. This is meant to be a problem that invalides the entire system?

    There's a difference between failing and the project originators just saying "Screw it!" and keeping the money.

    Let's say that someone pitches an idea for a new local business and you like it, so you invest. A month later, you ask how it's going and the guy in charge says "Yeah, it didn't work out. There were too many regulations, so we're just going to buy some stocks instead." Would you be OK with that?

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