While there's no doubt that some Kickstarter projects are innovations that can rack up huge investments from interested backers, there's also the ever-present risk that you won't see a return on your investment — or if you do, it'll take a lot longer than promised. CNN Money has put together a comprehensive look at the risks inherent in Kickstarter by looking at the top 50 most funded projects and when they all managed to ship, and the reality is that only eight of those 50 projects shipped on time. 16 of the top 50 haven't shipped at all yet, including the Pebble Smartwatch and Occulus Rift gaming headset, both of which have been significantly delayed. These delays have come despite the fact that almost 420,000 backers have pledged a whopping $40.3 million to these top 50 projects. These results echoed that of a study by a University of Pennsylvania researcher who saw 75 percent of 471 different tech and design Kickstarters fail to ship on time.
Not the percentages most backers would like to see
As for the reasoning behind these delays, CNN Money found a consistent pattern through interviews with the teams behind the projects — often times, these Kickstarters were run by a team of relatively inexperienced people expecting to only see modest interest. However, once these projects took off and huge backings started flooding in, the reality of producing enough product to meet the unexpected demand would destroy the original product timelines and production plans. "In the first 24 hours, everyone is happy and slapping your hand," said Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe. "And 48 hours later, the reality sets in. There's a bit of fear: We're going to have to make all of these."
There is a caveat to CNN Money's research: most of Kickstarter's top-funded projects fall into the technology, video game, or design categories, while the majority of the site's projects are artistic projects that don't attract nearly as much attention or money. So while not all Kickstarter backers are going to experience these kinds of lengthy delays, those investing in more high-tech projects should have their expectations accurately aligned. After all, as Kickstarter has been stressing lately, users aren't simply buying a product — they're buying into the whole production and development process, something that is always subject to potential setbacks and delays.