Wisdom of the Crowd? A Look Back at Crowdfunded IoT Projects

There's no doubt that crowdfunding can be a great tool for IoT startups, but it's no guarantee of success.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

In this story from June 19, 2015, I wrote about a California startup called Drop that had launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund production of a solar-powered, Wi-Fi-connected temperature, acidity and chlorine sensor designed to help homeowners better maintain their swimming pools.

According to the Kickstarter campaign page, Drop only raised around half of the $100,000 it was seeking, which closed that funding option (Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing approach, so if the goal is not met, the startup gets nothing).

I called Drop's founder, Alvaro Alliende, whom I had interviewed for my story, but his phone number is no longer working. Drop has not been active on Twitter since July 20, 2015. The website is still up, however, and it is still accepting $149.90 pre-orders for the product. That seems rather suspect to me, given the startup's dead phone number and inactivity on social media.

Chasing Molecules
On July 9, 2015, we ran this news story about something that, at first blush, sounded to me like science fiction: a pocket-sized molecular analyzer that could tell you whether a pill is counterfeit or how much fat is hiding in your morning muffin. It's not science fiction; rather, it's a crafty use of a technology called near-infrared spectrometry. But some of the nearly 13,000 individuals who backed Consumer Physics' phenomenally successful SCiO pocket analyzer fundraising campaign (it raised $2.7 million, or 1,381 percent of its goal) now want their money back, according to several posts from backers that I read in the comment section of the campaign page.

I checked in with Consumer Physics' CEO Dror Sharon. He did not reveal how many refunds have been isssued (Kickstarter does not require that project creators comply with refund requests, but Consumer Physics is doing so). He did, however, characterize the number of refunds requested as "minute and totally inconsequential." But if you read through the comments, it's pretty clear that some of the backers who requested a refund are rather exasperated with the company.

Sharon says Consumer Physics has shipped the SCiO device to around 1,500 of the 12,958 backers so far. The company says it plans to begin shipping more devices (an updated version) to more backers next week, and that all backers should have them by the end of September.

Waiting for a Signal
On August 7, 2015, we wrote that Punch Through Design, a hardware- and software-development firm, had raised $53,000, well surpassing its $30,000 Kickstarter goal, to fund the production of its LightBlue Bean+, an Arduino-compatible board that can be programmed wirelessly using a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) device on the OS X, Windows, iOS or Android platform. The Bean+ includes an onboard accelerometer, a temperature sensor and an RGB LED.

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