Just over a week ago we featured a Kickstarter project called Lightstrap: a temperature- and brightness-adjustable ringlight set into an iPhone case, which aimed to bring better lit iPhone photos to everyone and rid us of the curse of evil red-eye. The project needed to raise a fairly sizeable $245,000, but only six days into its campaign it appeared to be well on course to achieve that with $67,197 pledged to the cause by 540 people and quite a lot of press coverage to boot. So why did Brick and Pixel, Lightstrap's developers, pull the plug on the Kickstarter campaign? In a message to its Kickstarter backers, Brick and Pixel stated that while the project appeared to be on course to hit its goal, it wasn't a slam-dunk. When it was offered the opportunity to put the Lightstrap into production through traditional channels, Brick and Pixel didn't feel that it could refuse. The campaign has been cancelled and anyone who pledged money to it won't have it debited from their accounts. Instead, they're going to have to wait for the Lightstrap to go on sale in stores and online.
As you might expect, there are quite a few disgruntled punters out there. Several of them are deeming the Kickstarter campaign a disingenuous attempt to raise the Lightstrap's profile and prove its viability as a product, lure in an external investor, and then dump the backers when a better offer came along. Quite a few would like to have been acknowledged for their support and perhaps offered a discount on the Lightstrap if and when it does make into full production. Even with those backers who remain hopeful for a positive outcome for the Lightstrap, there remains a sense of unease and there's certainly been an erosion of goodwill towards Brick and Pixel.
When I contacted Cassidy Crawson, one of Lightstrap's developers, he told me that he feels the backers' frustrations, but that it's a complicated business and they're doing their best to bring Lightstrap to fruition: 'We are deeply invested in this product (personally and financially) and we are making hard decisions with the goal of bringing Lightstrap to market successfully.' Brick and Pixel really do want the Lightstrap to make its way onto people's phones, but in one way or another they've managed to make a mistake.
Reading between the lines, it would seem that Brick and Pixel somehow underestimated what it takes to bring a product to reality, and how hard it can be to accomplish that through Kickstarter. Even when you have backers on your side, there are a great many other factors that need to be considered and you really do have to be prepared for anything. Furthermore, they also seem to have misjudged the depth of feeling that backers have for campaigns that they support. When we pledge money to projects, we're putting faith in the people behind them to deliver what they say they will. If a project doesn't reach its funding goal, that's all well and good and thems the breaks of Kickstarter. But if the project lead hasn't got it right, it's more than a sense of disappointment, there is, perhaps, an erosion of trust, too. For Lightstrap, I hope the it doesn't have a negative impact on its potential availability. For prospective Kickstarter project leads: check, check, and check again. And be prepared for anything.
In whichever way that the Lightstrap makers didn't get it right, it's a shame. I hope that they can somehow redeem themselves and finish what they've started.