Crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter can be a great place to make impossible dreams come true. Some campaigns are total pipe-dreams, sure, but they at least they often have a few working test models and a real plan. Others are simply empty promises and total trash.
The latest dubious campaign is the Kreyos smartwatch, which promised a waterproof, voice-activated wearable device. As revealed by Android Police late last night, the project founders never delivered on their promise, refused refunds, and have since made off with the cash.
The campaign set out to raise $100,000, and managed to pull in a total of $1.5 million. For most projects, this mean that the that the founders would be able to over-deliver, with even more features than originally intended. But of out of all of the stretch goals, like sleep tracking functions, precisely zero of them have come through.
The comments section on the original campaign is full of furious backers who have either never received their watches, or received junk items that arrived months late and barely resemble what they were promised. Reactions range from outrange to tacit acceptance that the money they contributed is wasted and gone forever. Some have threatened to never fund another Indiegogo project again.
When we sat down with Indiegogo cofounder Slava Rubin recently, we asked him about these kinds of dubious campaigns. He didn’t answer directly, but pointed out that Indiegogo is a much more open platform than something like Kickstarter, which actually rejects projects it doesn’t like. Naturally, that kind of openness is going to lead to, well, issues like these.
Pando’s James Robinson has come out particularly hard against these million-dollar rackets, unearthing a few similar “scampaigns” on Indiegogo. After Pando made their case for why the Healbe campaign is “fraudulent” and a “scam,” Indiegogo quietly removed the following language from their site:
Campaigns and contributions that have been flagged by our fraud detection system go through a thorough review.
To be fair, Indiegogo does block and remove campaigns which they flag as fraudulent. But removing that language — as well as the claim that Indiegogo is just a more open platform — appears to be a dodge at best, and at worst an attempt to wash their hands of the responsibility.
The major difference between Kreyos and the other campaigns is that while GoBe and Healbe might be built on ridiculous promises, those campaigns are still claiming that a product is on the way. The Kreyos campaign could be the first time an Indiegogo campaign founder overtly runs off with the cash. On the other hand, the Kreyos founder could show up tomorrow with the product as promised. We won’t be holding our breath.
Crowdfunding sites are gaining popularity as a place to gain support for futuristic hardware projects like Oculus Rift. But along with the corporatization of crowdfunding, campaigns like Kreyos are eroding the reputation of platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo as reliable platforms for funding cool projects.
The project’s backers are offering each other various suggestions of how to deal with their outrage, like filing a complaint with their bank or the Better Business Bureau. In the mean time, frustrated backers allegedly scrubbed through Kreyos cofounder Steven Tan’s Facebook profile and pulled the above photos before he upped his privacy settings. They show what appears to be Mr. Tan with a new Ferrari and a pile of designer shopping bags.