The Top Crowd-Sourced Failures
Over the last 18 years, crowdfunding has been a popular option for both individuals and corporations to help secure funding for their upcoming projects. They set up a page with their best pitch material. Then wait for people to decide whether they want to invest their money in the venture.
Most of the time, people are paid back with a reward. This can be anything from a carefully produced finished product to the satisfaction of knowing that you helped, along with the company’s gratitude. Different platforms have different policies. However, generally, each company has the option to make their campaign either an all or nothing campaign, where the money is either raised in its entirety or not at all, or a campaign where the company gets to keep the money raised, even if it’s just a fraction of their goal.
Although most of the companies and individuals who raise money on these platforms are honest, there are some who for whatever reason just never ended up following through on their promises. Here are some of the craziest crowdsourced failures of all time.
Many of the most popular items up for crowdfunding on these sites are gear designed to make traveling easier, like the Baubax Travel Jacket, which was one of the most popular Kickstarter projects of all time. Unfortunately, they can’t all be winners.
The iBackPack, which appeared on Indiegogo in 2015, advertised itself as a sleek travel backpack that had the ability to charge your devices on the go. Plus, it could function as a mobile hotspot. They claimed that they were able to do this with special embedded batteries and raised around $720,000 on Indiegogo alone.
However, soon after they were fully funded, all communication between the company and backers stopped and their content was wiped from YouTube. The company claimed that production halted because there were issues with the batteries, but it’s likely that was just an excuse and backers will never see their money again.
Congressional Internet History
One concept that proved a little too unusual to actually get off the ground was a 2017 GoFundMe campaign that tried to raise enough money to buy the browsing data of all sitting members of the U.S. Congress. Although many critics claimed from the beginning that it was illegal, the campaign — fueled by the current divided political climate — did raise $190,000 to make the lofty goal a reality.
It didn’t take long before wiser heads stepped in and confirmed that the action would be impossible to undertake.
One of the most confusing crowdfunding campaigns of all time was undertaken by a comedy troupe called FND Films. They’re a three-man team out of Chicago whose comedy routines are locally quite popular.
In 2014, FND posted a campaign on Indiegogo which was intended to raise money for a feature film. They raised $75,000. However, after three years, there was no indication that they’d even started production. This infuriated their 600+ backers, who were eagerly anticipating news of the film and instead got Instagram photos of the trio on a series of expensive vacations.
It turns out, the whole campaign was an elaborate stunt for their 2017 movie It’s All Good. The movie was about indie filmmakers who crowdfunded a movie and instead used the money for a vacation.
There have been several popular watch campaigns that have made it on to the list of the most funded projects of all time on both Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Central Standard Timing, whose slick smartwatch CST-01 was rolled out in a project on Kickstarter in 2013, is not one of those lucky success stories.
They billed their project as “the world’s thinnest watch”. It earnestly began production after being awarded more than $1 million from 7,658 backers. It took a long time for the company to figure out the technology to make the watch work. After many backer updates that slowly went from bad to worse, the company announced that they were filing for bankruptcy.
It’s unlikely that anyone who gave them money will ever get it back.
Wengash Silver Anti-Radiation Underwear
Occasionally, projects are created on crowdfunding platforms that are intentionally designed to take advantage of credulous consumers. Although these sites are designed to support radical entrepreneurship and bold ideas, you can generally identify the scams because they come across as too good to be true.
Take the case of the Silver Anti-Radiation Underwear, which was supposedly being manufactured by the Wengash Corporation. This underwear, which was supposedly made of pure silver, was marketed as protection against cellphone and microwave radiation. Even though the company raised all the funds that they asked for, there’s been no update from them.
Elio Motors Scooters
One company that scammed over $17 million out of over 65,000 backers is Elio Motors. Their flagship project was an incredible-sounding scooter that was designed to look like a small sports car. They claimed that it had incredible fuel efficiency and would hit the market in 2014 with backers’ help.
Funny enough, the Elio Motors team actually went on an educational speaking tour based on their self-reported skill at fundraising. Updates from the company quietly came to a halt within a few months. Apparently, they spent most of their investment funds on generous salaries for their top brass. Now, they are struggling to sell off enough of their equipment to keep the company from going bankrupt.
Skarp Laser Razor
Another shady company that managed to wheedle more than $4.5 million from unsuspecting backers on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo is Skarp Technologies. Their innovative laser razor was supposed to be the next big thing in shaving.
While they initially raised $4 million on Kickstarter, it quickly raised the suspicion of Kickstarter staff. After some digging Kickstarter found out that the prototype that they used to win over investors was actually fake. Skarp then moved over to Indiegogo, where they somehow managed to collect another $500,000.
Although they’re still posting updates, it seems pretty obvious that their product will never come to market.
One company that used a technicality to extract more than $900,000 from backers before being found out is Triton. They created a small device that they claimed would allow people to breathe underwater by extracting usable oxygen from the water.
It turns out, their device did allow people to breathe underwater, but not by using an extraction process. Actually, their device housed small, disposable oxygen tanks that consumers would have to keep repurchasing in order to use the device.
In a rare turn of events, Kickstarter made them give backers their money back because they distorted the facts so shockingly when selling their product.
Kobe Red Beef Jerky
One company that almost succeeded in ripping off hundreds of people is Magnus Fun. This company claimed to specialize in creating handcrafted Japanese beef jerky. Their product called Kobe Red came in three distinct flavors. It was advertised with an enthusiastic marketing campaign filled with rave reviews that supposedly came from happy customers.
Instead, when journalists did a little digging, they found out that the company didn’t actually exist. Luckily, Kickstarter was able to step in before any payments were processed.
Show B.o.B the Curve
It seems like someone who is crowdfunding for a project-based solely around their own ignorance would be an automatic pass from most people. Then again, some people aren’t great with money.
In 2017, a musician known as B.o.B, who claims to be a flat-earther, started a campaign on GoFundMe to raise $1 million so he could go into outer space and see once and for all whether the earth was flat. Even though the campaign came nowhere close to its goal, B.o.B was able to keep the $6,888 that he did manage to raise because of GoFundMe’s rules.
Crystal Wash 2.0
One company that was so ballsy that they actually shipped a completely useless product to their backers is Crystal Wash.
Their Crystal Wash 2.0 laundry system was billed as being able to completely remove stains without the use of detergents or chemicals. Two plastic-looking laundry balls and a smartphone app formed the basis of the product.
It turns out, the balls were a complete marketing scam. In fact, tests showed that stains came out equally well using just hot water. They raised a total of $268,368 on Kickstarter.