Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Free Money, Coolest Crowdfunding and Phil Gardner

One of my favourite quotes from Ryan Holiday's book, Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator is by Nicolas Chamfort, a French writer, who believed that popular opinion was the absolute worst kind of opinion.
"One can be certain," he said, "that every generally held idea, every received notion, will be idiocy because it has been able to appeal to the majority."
When it comes to record-shattering crowdfunded campaigns such as the Coolest Kickstarter which pulled in over $13 million in 30 days you can't help but compare it to the images of frenzied buying most common to trading room floors.

Research experts have determined that these super viral projects have little to do with the actual product and everything to do with media manipulation and the bandwagon effect.

Deceptive tactics and astroturfing reign supreme on social platforms with studies by big data giants like Google indicating approximately 30% of online comments and reviews are fake.

While Kickstarter advises backers that it is up to them to research projects before they fund them, the excitement of the moment can get to all of us.

More often than not, backers caught up in the frenzy of the stampeding herd are left disillusioned months and sometimes years later while the projects they believed in and supported fail to deliver and project creators disappear like a thief in the night - this is not what Kickstarter is about.

As Kickstarter is unquestionably the biggest name in rewards based crowdfunding its growth has brought along with it some unintended consequences.  What began as a platform for creative types to fund projects that would have previously been unattainable is quickly becoming a quick and easy way to fleece larger and larger groups of unsuspecting individuals.

Websites like  make it as easy as a couple of mouse clicks for a project creator to purchase backers; a price tag of $5 gets you a $2 pledge and a generic comment for your project - want more? No problem!  Pretty much anything can be added on for a few dollars more.

What if you were to give someone almost $1000?  What kind of support does that buy you?
Screen shot taken from Ryan Grepper's blog

Ask Ryan Grepper, he knows - his good friend and get rich quick scheme guru Brenden Burchard, paved the way by inducing his followers with the promise of an almost $1000 bonus for anyone willing to support the Coolest. 

Another friend and supporter of Grepper is Mark Reyland, the disgraced former Executive Director of the United Inventor's Association of America (UIA).  The internet has many dubious accounts of Reyland's exploits; most disturbing is his attempt to steal a member of the UIA's rights as an inventor by manipulating her patent application.

Only 3 months old the with over 5300 comments, enough to overload anyone - there are a few guys whose trolling has piqued my interest with their fanatical defense of Ryan Grepper. 

On 11/05/2014 in response to some questions I posed in the comments section, Phil Gardner of Calgary, Alberta Canada extended an invitation:

"I'm posting using my real name, i'm from calgary Alberta canada, and you can feel free to look me up on facebook. My current photo on there is my name on the back of a Yankees T shirt"

So I did.  Just 2 wks after his public invitation Phil forgot to check his sensitive feelings at the door and cried foul.
"do you think fellow backers should be researching each other online and attempting to post personal information online about each other?"
What is really interesting about Phil Gardner is his 160+ comments on the sole project he has backed (the Coolest), as the rhetoric in those comments consistently attack anyone who dares express doubt or concern, even when those concerns are rational and fact-based.

Phil Gardner of Freedom 55 Financial

Based on Phil Gardner of Calgary, Alberta Canada's FaceBook he is a Financial Advisor at Freedom 55 Financial (a division of London Life Insurance Company) - According to their recruiting video financial planners with Freedom 55 play an important role in helping clients make decisions that could mean the difference between financial crisis or stability.

So in theory, Phil Gardner should be pretty good at looking at objective facts and making smart decisions - or not.

Cyber shills and comment trolls are a dime a dozen, but Phil is a special breed - A guy who makes his living advising people on critical financial issues can't possibly be this big of a moron.

Certainly Freedom 55 gave him some sort of training on ethics and responsibility - they must have.  It doesn't seem like it quite stuck.  When presented with objective facts regarding Ryan Grepper's history of patent infringment lawsuits and knowledge from experienced crowd funding advocates, @_PhilGardner continues to spread his gospel of misinformation.

Grepper's blatant disregard for ethical conduct is evidenced in his 02/11/2012 video where he demonstrates his $24.99 luggage scale "invention" - The same product which resulted in him being slapped with a patent infringement lawsuit in 2009.  It wasn't his invention any more than the other 21k+ luggage scales any marketer can have custom packaged direct from China are.

Questionable intent lies in the video interview where he specifically stated his views of crowd funding as "a pledge drive for your idea."
"you're leveraging a network of strangers to fund your project. They're not giving you a loan; they're not taking equity in your company; they're not investing. It's basically money that never has to be paid back."
"the beautiful part about crowd funding is the money you get from these strangers, never has to be paid back."
None of the comments made in that video lend themselves to establishing his intent to deliver. If he views the funds collected here as "free money" as he details on video, there is no need for him to pay it back i.e. deliver to his KickStarter backers.

What does Phil have to say? Just more misdirects, lies and crying about his feelings being hurt because he was called a shill - except he wasn't, until now.

So is Freedom 55 Financial Planner Phil Gardner a paid cyber shill or just an idiot? That I don't have an answer for - either way you cut it, only a fool would let this clueless moron handle their money.