Crowdfunding your hardware product ain’t easy. Well, getting a crowd to fund your hardware product at least seems easier than actually getting that product to market. Crowdfunding cases in point: The oft-delayed Smart Plate and iGulu are oft-delayed once more, and in mysterious turn of events, crowdfunding darling HOPii has shut down entirely.
First up is Smart Plate, which bills itself as “The world’s first Intelligent Nutrition Platform that instantly analyzes everything you eat.” It’s been a long (now longer), strange trip for the combination plate + scale + mobile app that recognizes your food, weighs it and gives you its nutritional information. From the original pitch on Shark Tank that aired in early 2016 to a crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $150,000 to the promise of a ship date last summer, the Smart Plate has gone through a few iterations over its many months in developments. And based on an Indiegogo update earlier this month, backers are going to have to wait a few months more. From that update:
“…unfortunately, we have a new shipping date due to some manufacturing issues that developed during the latest quality testing.
…The new shipping date is this Holidays (November/December 2018).
We fully understand that the product delays have been causing a lot of frustration, but as they say ‘A delayed product is eventually good, but a rushed product is forever bad.’ We sincerely ask for your understanding and support.”
Backers who have been waiting are understandably upset and are venting on the Smart Plate campaign page. However, it won’t do them much good. As the refund policy points out:
“From now through shipping, we will not be able to provide any refunds. This is because all funds have been used for the production and materials of SmartPlate. We’ve already placed the order for 10,000 SmartPlates to be manufactured, and the production process is on-going and cannot be reversed at this point. We’d like to ask for your patience and support one last time. Give us until shipping, and if you are not satisfied with what you get, we will give you a full refund.”
Elsewhere, when we last checked in with the home beer brewing machine iGulu in December, that company had bumped its promised delivery date from Q3 of 2016 to July of this year. At that time, the company had even raised funding from three different Chinese venture firms. The amount raised was undisclosed, but iGulu’s CEO told us via email that it was enough to “…cover the full mass production and delivery for our first-generation machine. Then it also can support us to jumpstart development of our second-generation machine.”
Looks like the company should have raised more, as an Indigogo update from iGulu on August 5 said:
“Finally, we’d like to address all questions regarding the shipping date again. We have heard your voices, and we don’t mean to ignore them. We were overly optimistic about the shipping date when we launched the crowdfunding campaign. We certainly won’t make that mistake again. Instead, we chose to be transparent about development, testing, and production. Of course, there has been a fair share of bumps in the road. Due to our small company’s production numbers, we are not in a strong negotiating position with any of the suppliers. This position is because they can dictate the timing of the production. At this point, we feel it’s more productive to be prudent and provide honest updates on each stage of development rather than taking a guess and then having to correct it. Thank you for your understanding.”
Can’t miss a new ship date if you don’t make one, I guess.
Finally, we were taken aback to hear that HOPii, another crowdfunded home beer brewing system that had raised more than $380,000, has shut down completely.
HOPii’s sudden demise was surprising to us in particular because their countertop beer machine was a big hit as part of our Startup Showcase at last year’s Smart Kitchen Summit, and was Innovation Award Honoree at this year’s CES.
In an update on Indiegogo on May 24, 2018, HOPii CEO, Jong Shin wrote:
“This is going to be an update that no founder of a company would ever want to write. There is never a good way to deliver a bad news, but I am going to be as transparent as possible. We recently ran into an unexpected tragedy and unfortunately will have to close down the project. We will be sending you the details shortly in a separate email.”
It’s when you hop (pardon the pun) over to the Kickstarter comments page that things get intense. There’s a thicket of comments and angry backers and updates from HOPii, but it appears that there is some legal battle (possibly with LG, if one commenter in the thread is accurate) going on in Korea. Shin won’t provide details as the litigation is ongoing, but an update from three months ago says he was in Korea for the “start of the battle,” and that “justice will win and we will fight to stand for what we believe in.”
Additionally, there are walls of text outlining in detail a litany of production and money issues. There’s so much that we are actually putting together a follow-up story and have reached out to Shin for more details. We’ll provide a link to that story when it goes live.
Unfulfilled promises in crowdfunding projects help illustrate why Kickstarter launched its Hardware Studio to help make sure hardware projects don’t crash and burn through so much of other people’s money.