Kickstarter announced a new program to assist projects to successfully launch products, including desktop 3D printers. But will it help the situation at all?
The problem seen all too frequently in the 3D printer portion of Kickstarter and similar crowdfunding sites, is simply that such ventures very often fail miserably. Most of the time it is a very slow death, dragging out over many months or even years.
It’s excruciating for backers, who in some cases have put out hundreds or even thousands of USD$ in hopes of acquiring a promised machine.
We always recommend extreme caution, particularly with the ultra-low cost desktop 3D printer launches, where it is frequently seen that the management of the startup underestimates costs or otherwise mismanages the launch in some way that puts them out of business.
And leaves the backers often without any recourse. It’s a big risk.
In the past we’ve suggested such startups consider using a service like Dragon Innovations, a service that can analyze your hardware design and tell you what it really will cost to manufacture, and even help startups find a contract manufacturer to do so.
But very few startups bother, and I suspect it’s because they perhaps think they know better, which is usually the problem in the first place.
But now Kickstarter is launching a new program they call the “Hardware Studio”. It’s composed of two parts:
A toolkit that will contain “valuable tools and tutorials”, launching in September;
Access to Avnet, a marketing service company and also, guess who? Dragon Innovation.
Both of these companies can provide very significant advice to startups, who often simply don’t have the experience to proceed successfully, even if they have a good technical idea or design.
As for the “valuable toolkit”, it’s unclear what this is, as Kickstarter hasn’t explained them in any additional detail. However, I can speculate that it would include basic business planning spreadsheets for things like cash flow, cost of goods sold and other important factors and ratios.
Every company, large or small, must manage toward aligning those factors correctly.
This is all good news for Kickstarter participants, but will it solve the problem? Will we see the end of failed Kickstarter campaigns? Will backers continue to lose money by betting on poorly managed startups?
The ability to use the new program will certainly result in fewer problems, but won’t eliminate problems.
One issue is whether startups will actually use these services. The most poorly managed companies are the ones who need this stuff the most, yet they are also the companies most likely to feel they don’t need any help because they know best.
Another is that even if a startup uses these services, there is no guarantee of success. If management is not competent, they are not competent no matter how many programs Kickstarter can throw at at them. And then there are those few startups that are outright frauds right from the beginning.
That all said, I’d be quite happy to see a “Certified By…”, or even a “Used Kickstarter’s Hardware Program” badge prominently displayed on the campaign page. That alone would help reduce the risk somewhat.