We mention a lot of Kickstarter projects around here, from Womanthology to OUYA, and we think the platform is a pretty cool thing filling a pretty cool niche. But that doesn’t mean that we’re unaware that there are a lot of projects that fail, and a growing worry that while successful Kickstarters get a lot of press… that press kind of stops when the project gets greenlit at the end of its funding period.
And that’s where many people worry about accountability: Kickstarter’s job is to provide a platform for funding the production of a creative process, and then any control it had over the project ends. Whose job is it to make sure that backers actually get the rewards that were promised in exchange for their pledges?
In an article on the ambiguities of responsibility in failed, late, or struggling (but funded) Kickstarter projects, NPR asked Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler whether the company would get involved if a project creator was unable to deliver on their promises:
“You know, that would be new ground,” he says. “I don’t know. I mean, no, I don’t think that we would. But certainly, the kind of thing you’re talking about is not a bridge that has been crossed yet. Someday it will. And you know, I think if something did go awry, it would be — it wouldn’t be my favorite day.”
NPR brought up several examples of struggling Kickstarter campaigns: from a man who raised $10 million to make a smart phone watch who just missed his first delivery deadline to a creator who used Paypall to pay back 40 of his 500 backers since it had been a year since his project was funded and the promised iPhone case with built-in earbud wrap was still un manufactured. Kickstarter does not have onsite facilities in place to process refunds.
Additionally, since Kickstarter funds are handled through Amazon Payments, creators can use the Amazon service to offer 60 day refunds. This is a somewhat shorter period than the production processes of most funded Kickstarter projects I’ve seen, but Kickstarter says it’s had experience guiding creators through the process that would allow them to use Amazon Payments to hand out refunds past that period. Overall, the clarification emphasizes that, in Kickstarter’s experience, an open an honest communication between creator and backers usually heads off ill-feeling. Ideally, backers want to see a project come to fruition because they’re interested in it existing in the first place as much as they are interested in possessing it.
It’s a bit of a reassuring update to the recent concerns about Kickstarter projects not delivering, and while there’s still a healthy does of “buyer beware,” it’s good to see that Kickstarter is aware of the worst case scenario.
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