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Even Kickstarter success stories are sick of nonsense campaigns

The core idea behind Kickstarter, where a great idea can become reality with support from people outside of your average sphere of influence, is amazing. We've seen tremendous success stories come from the crowdfunding site and its clones, but more often than not what you hear about are the failures. Things that sounded amazing but were terrible when it shipped, things that promised to ship within six months but over a year later have yet to manifest, and sordid tales of people blowing backer money on parties or just plain disappearing with the cash plague the reputation of services like Kickstarter.

It's easy to say there's no such thing as a guarantee with Kickstarter. After all, you're not supposed to be buying a product, you're supposed to be investing in an idea with a "reward" for when that idea becomes reality. That sounds nice, right until companies like Pebble use Kickstarter as a shopping cart for its next great idea only to be bought by Fitbit before shipping it. If companies are going to be allowed to use crowdfunding sites as thinly veiled shopping cart systems, it'd be nice if there was some way to reassure would-be consumers when a new idea has a strong chance of successfully delivering that product. In theory, that's what a new service called FitForLaunch is all about.

More than anything, FitForLaunch seems entirely willing to ditch the "micro investor" pretense with its crowdfunding approach.

FitForLaunch is the brain child of Michael Armani, whose company M3D has had multiple successful crowdfunding campaigns for its 3D printers. Like most people paying attention to Kickstarter, Armani has seen competing products grab a lot of attention and either repeatedly fail to deliver or be bought up by larger companies and never ship at all. More than anything, the failure of others in the relatively fragile consumer 3D Printer space makes it difficult for those burned by other projects to trust much of anything. After launching a campaign to offer people who were screwed over by failed 3D Printer projects a steep discount on his own hardware, Armani has decided to try educating consumers before they click Back This Project again.

The goal of FitForLaunch seems fairly straightforward, but far from simple. It's a crowdfunding service that offers a delivery guarantee, with promises to either finish a product itself when possible or totally refund backer money should a campaign fail to deliver. It's a wild departure from how crowdfunding sites typically operate, but the site is able to offer this guarantee by thoroughly vetting the companies submitting campaigns and charging them all a warranty percentage before the campaign is launched. In theory, the end result is a collection of ideas that are much more likely to end in successful delivery of a functional product for the people doing the "backing" on the site.

Pebble Time

"#neverforget #RIPPebble"

More than anything, FitForLaunch seems entirely willing to ditch the "micro investor" pretense with its crowdfunding approach. You're basically pre-pre-ordering something because the sales pitch won you over and there's a reasonable guarantee that you'll actually get something close to what you think you're paying for. This isn't a tech-specific effort, either. The site is focused on games and art as well, with experts in each to help determine which campaigns are prepared to deliver the thing it claims to be ready to make.

It's a practical approach that is likely to win over people who are still extra salty about whatever campaign last left them feeling screwed over, but there's still a bit of a chicken and egg problem here. People go to Kickstarter because it's almost a household name at this point, and the sheer volume of ideas draws in more people from all over the world for different reasons.

Will FitForLaunch ever have a viral Potato Salad moment, complete with the thousands of people that participated in other campaigns immediately after? Probably not, but if it did you'd be able to buy knowing your order won't show up on the back of a hot shipping truck wrapped in nothing but a paper bag.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

  • I have no problems actually buying products that make it to store and stay relevant after a year but I'll never invest in an idea. No matter how promising. I almost bought into Skully and not even after a month so of going into "production" the bailed and shut down. Elio taking people money for cars and only have $100K cash flow after blowing off $200 Mil. Nope.
  • Yeah, some of the stories are downright terrifying when you think about how much money just vanishes.
  • Wow! I did not know that is what happened to Skully. I almost invested into it as well and Could not see myself coughing up so much for a product so far out.
  • I've seen someone cool ideas on Kickstarter but I've heard too many horror stories. Same thing that kept me from ever giving One Plus a try. Shopping online is where we find a lot of cool and useful products, but whenever it's not from a trusted big seller like Amazon I'm hesitant.
  • ....I wouldn't say that Amazon is trusting...they sell a lot of crap also...actually they sold also fake
  • Yeah but is that the middle man's fault or the actual seller? I always do a background check on people and companies selling on Amazon I've never heard of.
  • I invested in a Kickstarter project, after many delays they finally got it to market and started shipping and selling on their own. Never received the product and they completely ignore every attempt to contact them. They still actively sell the product and run a full website​.
  • So did I, never got my Znaps, even though the webpage sells them now. And they never respond to my emails. Lucky for me it was a small >$20 investment
  • I came in here to complain about ZNAPS...I only lost $9, at least. Funny part is, even if I got mine today it would be obsolete since my current phone is USB-C instead of micro-usb
  • Same here. I actually had forgot about them, and just realized they never shipped it to me, lol. ZAPTIP got me too, but only for the micro USB cable, I got a refund from PayPal for their USB-C one within my dispute window. Then I got the 2 UsBidi USB-C cables that promise to double your charging speed, but it didn't and looked nothing like what the campaign presented, but people who got the lightning cable version, got the version the campaign shows. I have received some products from Kickstarter though like the Hypercharge Hub by Linear Flux (love it), Chargetech wall charger, Nextbit Robin (great product, but they're now owned by RAZER), Mosaic (Was great upon launch, but they haven't updated the software on the app, so now it has very limited functionality), nexpaq (in beta now). As of now, with a few failure, I'm very skeptical of supporting another crowdfunding project. It's sad. So many great ideas, and some people who genuinely will put blood, sweat, and tears into making sure the product actually does come to market and deliver like they've promise.
  • Mine was over $100. Got in at ground level and bought all for family and kids. Communication was great up until the end and never an email, or confirmation of me canceling my order. Never again...
  • The site sends you to a '404 Not Found' page when you try to shop.
    This fraud is exactly why I will never participate in crowdfunding again...(the only exception for me was bringing back MST3K, a resounding success story, by the way!).
  • Same thing happened with me and lost almost $300 .. and when I contacted Kickstarter I got a canned message saying - we can't and won't help you .. your transaction is between you and the project. Haven't been on Kickstarter since.
  • Kickstarter needs an automatic penalty of some kind for people that don't deliver. There needs to be a reality bar set with consequences for missing promised targets. I realize bad things happen, but there are so many impossible projects that haven't had any reality filter applied. If you get your funding from Kickstarter, but miss your delivery target by more than 2 months, you should get automatically charged 25% of your Kickstarter total as punishment. If that drives you out of business, too bad. This would stop people from putting great ideas that cannot actually be delivered out there. If you haven't researched what it would take to manufacture your watch/phone/speaker, you shouldn't be saying you can deliver in 6 months.
  • I've done just fine on all of the crowdfunding campaigns I've backed. It's just risk management. I ask myself whether I'm willing to risk losing all of that money and having nothing to show for it, and if I'm not, I don't back a campaign. The mistake that many backers make is not seriously considering that they may not get anything in return...and that's on the backer, not on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. I pulled out of the Superscreen campaign because I have very little confidence that it will be as revolutionary as the creator says it will be (or that it will ship on time), and I'm not willing to bet $99 on it. However, I hope for everyone's sake that it goes as planned. I pulled out of other campaigns for the same reason, some of which shipped and some of which didn't. For the most part, I avoid projects where there are many outstanding technical challenges, projects where the creators appear to naively think that quality assurance and manufacturing processes are "easy", and projects from creators who want me to trust them without having any actual credibility. And if I had an iPhone or iPad, I'd avoid projects that try to interface with them via the Lightning port. I feel like those almost never end well.
  • I've never considered Kickstarter an "investment", I see it as pre-order for something that may or may not ship. An investment means that I own part of the company, not "you may get product X later on"...that's a pre-order, isn't it?
  • I once invested into a kickstarter project for a Magsafe type Micro USB cable and I'm still waiting for it to arrive. Oh and my current phone uses USB C...