In our monthly Rise and Fall column we look back at crowdfunded gadgets that reached their funding goal. Months or year later, how are they doing? If they’ve shipped to backers, are they still supporting the gadget? If they haven’t shipped, why haven’t they met their shipping deadline? We hope this column will give us all a place to understand.
What’s today’s gadget, and what does it do?
The Podo camera launched on Kickstarter in September 2016 with the goal of shipping by December of that same year. It reached its $50,000 goal in days and exceeded it to reach $761,130. The idea was that the Bluetooth-connected camera could be stuck anywhere and then controlled through a user’s phone. Its companion app allows users to take photos, record video, or record audio. It also provides a live preview of what the camera’s seeing, so users could line up their shot.
This wasn’t the company’s first Kickstarter project — its first project, which was essentially the first generation of this camera, shipped.
What happened after funding? Did it ship?
Some units have shipped. President and co-founder of Podo Labs, Eddie Lee, tells me they still have between 6,000 to 8,000 units left to send out, so it’s now been two years since that original ship date. Lee said the company had to ship 25,000 units and that the remaining devices are being produced now. The company ran into multiple issues, he says, including a transistor shortage and holdups in the device’s supply chain.
Backers seem to be complaining not that they haven’t received their camera, but that their accessories never showed up. The company was updating its Kickstarter page regularly with updates until November of last year. Now, Lee says, it’s emotionally taxing to update the page and that he wishes he had better news.
“I have to apologize to the backers. In the very beginning it was easy to be very involved and handle all responses right away and have all this energy and optimism, and over time, it’s like, “three-month delay.” I’m not making the products myself. I’m not over there in the factory. Sometimes I wish I could do more but I can’t. It wears on you. “Three-month delay, six-month delay, nine-month delay,” and then I’m slower on the responses. On the other hand, I understand the backers are frustrated because they’re left more out of the loop. It comes sometimes out of your frustration to want to do more and give better news but sometimes you just can’t handle it.”
What are backers saying?
The comments section is a dark place. Here’s a snippet:
Some people do seemingly love theirs, though.
What does the company have to say for itself?
I called Lee to chat about his crowdfunding experience and how he’s feeling now. About the shipping delays, he says, “Sometimes it does get emotionally and physically draining giving people bad news all day. Like, ‘I’m sorry your product’s not there. I’m sorry that it’s delayed.’ You wish you could give them better news, but you just can’t because of circumstances.”
This seems to be the biggest reason for the lack of communication on the company’s end. “For us it wasn’t a matter of hiding something, but it just got emotionally difficult,” he says. But he followed up to say the company will ship all its units.
For future gadget makers, he recommends being “really real based on costs and timeline and not [to] be too exuberant or overconfident.” He also says, “Crowdfunding is this amazing tool that lets a good idea be funded no matter who has it. It’s way more democratic than VC funding. It does have this great potential — we just have to tweak the system and have people be more realistic about it.”