Kickstarter and Accountability, or Who to Blame
So in crowd funding, you give your hard earned money to complete strangers in the hopes that they will deliver on promises made. What could possibly go wrong? I mean, everyone on the internet is who they say they are, and has the best of intentions, right?
So what if someone does take your money, and fails to deliver? What are your options? What is Kickstarter’s responsibility to make you whole? As I have mentioned previously I have participated in almost 30 Kickstarter projects (and one Indiegogo project) to date, I also have plans to start my own project in the not too distant future. As one might imagine, this makes me very interested in the whole accountability question, and even before NPR turned their spot light on this issue and forced Kickstarter to respond, it was one that my friends and I had already given a great deal of thought to; the answers might surprise you.
Did you know that 75% of Kickstarter projects fail to deliver their rewards on time? I myself only got my first Kickstarter reward last week, I expect to get more through the remainder of this year and the next; timelines in this sort of thing are pretty long. I also expect that I may never receive some of my backer rewards. Why? Because I had already taken a close look into Kickstarter’s very own FAQ where they deal with this issue.
Thanks to the NPR story, our favorite crowd funder has elaborated on this in their blog and beefed up their FAQ, but the answers remain the same: in the event a creator falls through, Kickstarter is not liable. They will not give you neither hug nor refund – caveat emptor. The entire point of Kickstarter is that you are funding dreamers and entrepreneurs to fulfill their vision; a good number of small businesses fail every year, why should crowd funded enterprise be immune?
Since I have started backing projects on Kickstarter, I can think of half a dozen that I have failed to back (that were otherwise desirable) because the project manager failed to inspire confidence that he was capable or likely to complete the task he had set for himself. I have also canceled my support of one project because they started adding unrealistic stretch goals that seemed to cost more than the funding levels they were assigned; whether he was trying to take his funder’s money, he wasn’t much good at math, or I am simply too suspicious for my own good – I couldn’t tell you.
The only thing that is for certain is that, like all things in life, there is an element of risk. Every person has to assess their own risk tolerance, and perform their own due diligence. It is not a question of whether a high profile project will someday fail – it is just a question of when. I just hope that the damage to the reputation of crowd funding is not too severe when the inevitable occurs.