Monday, August 25, 2014

Coolest Kickstarter - First thoughts

Photo credit: Coolest/Ryan Grepper
As a crowdfunding advocate, I am torn between what appears to be incredibly skillful marketing plan by a guy who seems pretty insightful in the pitfalls of supply chain management and recent experience with 2 savvy marketers who executed crowd funding campaigns with great marketing but misappropriated funds leaving thousands of backers flapping in the wind.

After reading through the comments and looking through the various websites of Ryan Grepper, creator of the Coolest Cooler project on Kickstarter the past couple of days, there is no question Ryan is a talented marketer and savvy businessman. is chock full of information and gives a lot of insight into Ryan's perspective which I think many could benefit from.
While each individual pledge is only around $200, the cumulative total is over $10 million - as Kickstarter has made clear, it is up to the backers to vet the project creator.  It seems odd that so many people are engaging in personal attacks this early in the game - regrettably, this behaviour serves no purpose as the only person qualified to answer is the project creator.
The reality is that should Ryan not deliver in 6 months, which is probable given the fact that the majority of crowd funding projects deliver late there is little recourse aside from regulatory intervention. Now is the time to ask questions.

All that being said, there is no history I have been able to locate that offers concrete evidence of his ability to perform; however, if Ryan's writing and insights from his blog are any indication, he seems to be clever enough that he may well be the first creator on a project this scale to deliver on time.

I originally posted the 3 questions below directly @Ryan Grepper who chose not to answer; he did however post a new update about a speaker upgrade and some battery changes.

Based on experience this sends a huge red flag.  When a project creator only focuses on the marketing and superficial buzz creation the message it sends is "Give me your money" - Something almost 50,000 are gladly doing.

Here's the thing, has anyone stopped to as
  1. What do you mean by "secured $100,000 in high-end 3D printers"; i.e. rented, purchased, etc? If this is new equipment, will the learning curve impact your 6-month timeframe to market?
  2. Given the size of the parts you are looking to create and the process used for injection molding and casting, wouldn't those funds be better allocated to CNC as that is the process that will be used to create the final molds? 3D printing seems like an inefficient means to an end in this case.
  3. You are pretty forthcoming about your successes and challenges on your blog, you also write about the pros/cons of patents. You were sued a few years ago for patent infringement - I am not looking for details, I have read through the case.  I am interested in your learnings and how you avoid such issues going forward as those are the behaviours which will impact this project.
I love crowd funding and the promise it holds for small business; I am also very cognizant of the fact that when handing over $10 million to someone it is a good idea to know who that someone is.
A novel idea that would allow this project to come to market given its goal of $50,000 and protect backers would be if the 48,000 backers all dropped their pledges to $5. This would give Ryan 4x what he projected the cost to market would be and no one gets the short end of the stick... it's a win-win.

Would you give this guy $10 Million?