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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Crowdfunding Overload

As Crowdfunding gains more and more attention with each high-profile campaign, media coverage increases with them, further fueling the campaigns and driving them to more success.

In particular, the campaign for a 'Veronica Mars' movie garnered especially high coverage and fanaticism, raising over $5.7 million!
Its success caused some to murmur the beginning of the end for traditional Hollywood movie funding. While this is unlikely, it did catch almost everyone's attention and led to Zach Braff's own campaign and will likely spawn many others. (*Side note: I very much support Zach Braff's efforts, as I loved his first movie 'Garden State', so go support him if you're so inclined! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1869987317/wish-i-was-here-1)

I don't begrudge the success of any project because I know there is hard work behind each. However, while there may be many causes, projects, and inventions that are worthy of support, there are also an increasing number of products that are more marketing than innovation.
Additionally, I've noticed fewer projects are getting recognition that are actually start-up based and require the funds to launch. (This may also be due to Kickstarter's recent policy change that requires prototypes to be made and pictured, as opposed to computer renderings).

In some instances, they are even just flat-out scams.
One such example was a project that was selling some rather good looking watches for $100. It was later discovered that the exact same watch was already available, for $15 each. But if you don't do your research, it seems quite easy to fall prey to any number of seemingly new and ingenious projects.

While I believe deliberate scams are a small fraction of crowdfunding projects, I also think many are not too far off.

Just one of the latest examples of such a product is 'Pucs'.

Pucs in a drink

The idea is simple. Marshmallow-shaped stainless steel nuggets that you store in the freezer. When you want something chilled, you throw a few in your drink (not dissimilar to whiskey stones).
The product looks well-made and the price is not unreasonable, $35 for 6 Pucs and a nice hardwood case for them. In fact, it looks good enough to raise over $51,000; having stated a goal of only $2000 (check out the Kickstarter, they really do look pretty cool).

Why do I praise the presentation while accusing them of falling just shy of running a scam?
Because behind some solid marketing and design, is an over-priced product with some less-that-impressive science.

Here is the graph they provide to show how the Pucs cool a drink (in this case, water):
It looks fancy (math and science!), but if you actually read the chart, you notice that the drink only cools 7 degrees with one Puc and takes an incredible 5 minutes to get there. (Three Pucs gets you 15 degrees cooler after the 5 minutes).
Additionally, they are calculating temperatures starting at 66 degrees Fahrenheit, not even room temperature which is closer to 72 degrees. And to top it all off, 50 degrees isn't all that cold (for those who forget, 32 F is the freezing temperature of water and drinks will approach that temperature when you put ice in them).

As a quick comparison (and plug for my company), our product, the Coldwave, can cool a steaming hot drink (close to 200 F) down to near-freezing (about 34 F) in less than two minutes.
Look! We use math too!

Similar looking, but we cool faster and colder. (And more liquid! The Puc calculation uses 7 oz., we used 12 oz.)

The point of all this is not to disparage Pucs (OK, it is a little); rather, it is to highlight the fact that there are numerous crowdfunding campaigns out there that are more design and marketing exercises than "startup" products in the marketplace.

If the project creators are able to convince people to give them money, I give them credit; it is something we wish we could have done better at IceColdNow.
Just be sure to do your homework and don't be tricked by impressive photos, only to be disappointed when a product doesn't perform as you expect (even if it performs just as the makers say it will).

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