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Rejoice as 2012, the year of the first mega-crowdfunded projects draws to a close! As I write this at the end of December, the Ouya Android-based game console is shipping now, and the much-delayed Pebble smart watch is moving forward again.
2012 was the year that some aspiring crowdfunders like Pebble learned that overwhelming crowdfunding success has a cost -- namely that it's overwhelming. Delivering new products promised to backers takes some doing, especially when the total number of shipments stretches into the hundreds of thousands.
Offering up copies of a new album, movie, video game, or even books -- all of which can be delivered digitally with relative ease -- is one thing, but actually mass producing and shipping a brand new physical gadget is something else altogether.
Following the success of Pebble and others, Kickstarter recognized the potential for problems and shouted from the mountaintops that "Kickstarter is not a store" and wouldn't we all rather work on more artsy projects that kickstarted Kickstarter so many moons ago?
Despite the plea, a galaxy of new product-based ventures still help populate the many crowdfunding platforms floating around the digital ether. But a successful crowdfunding raise doesn't equate to happy backers who receive their promised incentives on time.
In fact, CNN compiled a list (that looks to me to be incomplete, given the absence of Ouya, but anyhow...) of the top 50 Kickstarter projects and looked at how many shipped the promised fruits of their labor on time.
Turns out the answer is 8. Yes, only 8 out of 50.
I can confirm today, however that the statistics are at least slightly better with the news that the first Ouya game consoles are on their way to backers who paid more for a developers kit, and shipping a day early, no less!
Things have not gone so smoothly for the Pebble watch, which raised over 10 million dollars on Kickstarter and eventually had to shut its campaign down before things got out of hand.
Or perhaps they were a bit too late.
Pebble originally promised delivery in September, but by the end of the summer it became clear that wasn't happening. Months later, Pebble is still mum on when its nifty smartphone extension could actually arrive. And in the interim, evidence has surfaced that Apple may actually be working on its own smart watch.
Suddenly being forced to compete directly with the world's most successful company does not exactly brighten the prospects for a crowdfunded startup like Pebble.
But Pebble continues to press forward. Yesterday, the company's filings with the FCC began to show up on the agency's website, so there's a little progress.
2012 was the year of the crowdfunding breakout, but clearly there's still some debris needing to be swept up from all the collateral damage caused by the explosion of this new investment vehicle. Let's hope 2013 is a time to do some catch-up and cleanup while still holding on to the momentum.
- Eric Mack is Managing Editor for Crowdsourcing.org. He has covered business, technology and politics for more than a decade for major outlets including CNET, CBS, AOL, NPR, Wired, and the New York Times. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter and Google+. Also be sure to follow Crowdsourcing.org on Twitter.