When a Kickstarter Project Threatens to Fail

The crowd-funding site Kickstarter, as weÔÇÖve written, can be a wondrous tool. Entrepreneurs post an idea for a new product and then turn to the Internet community to raise capital to fund its development. According to the siteÔÇÖs new statistics page, Kickstarter has helped 60,786 project creators raise $261 million.

When it works, the site pleases everybody. Creators find an easy path to start-up capital, investors get in on the ground floorÔÇöand in many cases, receive a finished productÔÇöand New York-based Kickstarter takes a 5 percent cut of the money raised.

EveryoneÔÇÖs happy. Except in cases when the whole thing goes horribly awry.

Cam Crate, an effort to create a durable carrying case for a DSLR camera, represents the rare example of a Kickstarter project that has pretty much gone off the rails. Matthew Geyster is a 25-year-old inventor in Boston who has previously turned to Kickstarter to develop such products as iPad sleeves and a dual-tip stylus.

In late 2011, Geyster used a two-minute video to introduce his idea for a weatherproof camera case. His product would allow people to ÔÇ£take your camera wherever you go,┬áno matter what the conditions are,ÔÇØ he said in the video. The pitch worked. The project raised $24,601 from 370 backers and caught the attention of the tech blogs.

Then something completely ordinary happened. GeysterÔÇÖs plans┬áchanged. He found that his design didnÔÇÖt accommodate the ÔÇ£pick n pluckÔÇØ foam insert needed to┬áprotect the camera, and a boxy new design looked much more conventional and less exciting. Meanwhile, his ship dates┬áslipped. Backers who expected a product in the mail had to wait. ÔÇ£I was originally trying to ship by May but┬áafter a while realized there was no way I was going to make that,ÔÇØ Geyster says.

Financial backersÔÇöwho had laid out $75 each, or more, for the caseÔÇögrew incensed. They left hundreds of┬ácomments on the Cam Case Kickstarter page, complaining about the delays and the new design and┬áwondering if they had been defrauded. The page now looks like itÔÇÖs been taken over by a swarm of┬áangry bees. ÔÇ£IÔÇÖve given Mr. Geyster one last opportunity to give me specific expectations on┬ádelivery,ÔÇØ wrote a disgruntled backer named JMag. ÔÇ£Barring that, I will proceed with my appointment at the┬áState Attorney GeneralÔÇÖs Office.ÔÇØ

Geyster says itÔÇÖs all been extraordinarily stressful and confesses to not having provided his backers frequent-enough updates. But he also believes some of their┬áexpectations are unrealistic. ÔÇ£Some people think of this as a window-shopping thing, when┬áitÔÇÖs not,ÔÇØ he says. ÔÇ£You are investing in someoneÔÇÖs idea instead of going to a store and paying to get it┬áin a month.ÔÇØ He says most backers have been nice, though heÔÇÖs received several e-mails┬áthreatening litigation.

On June 21, Geyster tried to calm the furious hive with an update on his project page. ÔÇ£Cam Crate┬áis a project IÔÇÖve been working on now for close to a year, and to pull fraud on Kickstarter and┬áruin my reputation is not something I am doing,ÔÇØ he wrote. ÔÇ£Making products is my hobby and┬ápassion so please stick with me and see me follow through with this project.ÔÇØ

Geyster also says if he ever does another Kickstarter project, heÔÇÖll be more transparent with his investors. ÔÇ£People expect a little more out of you because itÔÇÖs a project,ÔÇØ he said. ÔÇ£They want to know the back end of everything.ÔÇØ

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