Earlier this year, Kickstarter made some changes to the way they deal with campaigns to fund new types of hardware. Most importantly, the product has to actually exist. But what happens when the Kickstarted project is obsolete before it even ships?
That’s what happened to the Syre, one of the many smartwatch-ish projects launched on Kickstarter. It wasn’t the first product that was a wrist strap that holds an iPod Nano like a watch, but it did feature a neat innovation: a super-small Bluetooth dongle so you can run around with wireless headphones.
Higher-priced backer packages included items like an iPod Nano and Bluetooth headphones for people who didn’t already own them. Great idea! Some backers even chose the “retail package” for resellers (now banned on Kickstarter) that cost them a $900 pledge and would get them thirty products to resell.
The problem? Since the project launched, Apple came out with a new iPod Nano that made the Syre unnecessary. It now includes Bluetooth. Oh.
That means there’s still a market for the Syre, but an ever-shrinking one going forward. What made the product special–the Bluetooth functionality–is now part of the iPod Nano when it ships.
The Syre already existed in prototype form back in the summer of 2012, or at least people in its Kickstarter video were exercising with things that looked a lot like the product. The creator posted photos of himself visiting the production line in China. He posted photos of what were allegedly the iPods that backers would receive. But the watch bands…didn’t ship. Nothing shipped.
In an interview with Techcrunch, the creator said that despite those sleek prototypes, the engineering for the Syre wasn’t quite done yet. The product shown in the last few updates was different from that prototype, but backers would still be happy to have it. They’d like to have something.
The product’s backers are now understandably irate. More than a year later, backers are mad and they’d at least like the iPods they paid for, if they can’t have their money back.
Where can backers turn when something like this happens? Kickstarter makes it very clear that once they send a project creator the money, it’s all out of their hands. It’s up to the creator and backers to sort things out themselves, whether that’s a refund, sending some kind of product, or a chargeback.
The problem, of course, is once a project has gone on for this long, enough time has passed that disputing the charge with one’s credit card company is no longer an option.