Kickstarter: Great Idea, but a bad experience

UPDATE: CustomSLR will now ship out $125 backer’s C-Loop and Glide Strap products!

So here I am in November 2011. I’ve been traveling and shooting photography quite a bit for my new job as a Community Manager at ASTRO Gaming. Taking shots of Pro Gamers, company booths, and just the interactions between the gaming audience at major events like Penny-Arcade Expo, E3, and MLG tournaments. I hear about a new product launching from a new start-up company that I became familiar with through a local “SJ Made” / “SJ Eats” food festival.

CustomSLR was started by two brothers, Ben Wong and Ivan Wong, who desired to make a product that would allow DSLR cameras to be used in an easy gripping motion, but not held by the typical strap locations. They produced their C-Loop, which is similar to various other products on the market, where it moves the strap process to the tripod mount area of the camera. This allows for the DSLR also to be positioned upside down for a little easier grip. At the same time, they introduced their Split Strap system and Glide Strap system which helps with the weight distribution of items held across your shoulder and the ability to “glide” just the attached item up and down the strap system, while the strap maintains around your body.

I had been following them on Twitter and Facebook for a few months, and they announced their new project, the M-Plate. This was their next phase of camera mounting gear, which essentially is a tripod mount that fits both the ACRA Swiss and Manfroto type tripod mounts. They announced their Kickstarter project to fund the M-Plate back in October.

Kickstarter is a funding company of sorts. It allows for entrepreneurs to host their projects/ideas for a product online, gauge interest from their respective communities, all in hopes that they will pledge their money towards the project, and in return, receive one of the product packages upon completion. This is helpful for those budding creators who don’t have the means to raise capital themselves, but perhaps have some great ideas for products that they can actually implement.

Ben and Ivan had used the Kickstarter website before, for their original product launch of the C-Loop. In this new Kickstarter project, they listed the estimated shipping date to be December 2011. The date sounded good, as the time period between the last MLG event in November, and my next event wouldn’t be until around March, so I decided to help fund their project by pledging my amount of $125, which brought me to their second tier package. This included their C-Loop, Glide Strap, and the new M-Plate.

A few days before I pledged in November, their M-Plate project had reached their original funding goal of $15,000, so I’m already promised the product as all Kickstarter projects that are fully funded should actually be produced. Time passes, and December 9th comes around, which was their funding date, meaning all of the money pledge and ran through the Amazon “holding process” (All Kickstarter projects have their funds authorized by Amazon, and held until their funding date) was now given to CustomSLR.

Now this is where it gets bad. The M-Plate has apparently been going through all types of design changes to make it accessible to both tripod mount types. This is understandable as it’s a new product that is still in it’s finalization period before being mass assembled/produced. Where the problem lies, is that CustomSLR offered these other Tiers of their Kickstarter M-Plate project offering their other products (Glide Straps + C-Loop combo, limited edition C-Loop HD combo, etc.). All of these products have previously been on Kickstarter, funded, and now produced and sold on their website with no delay.

There are a growing number of people concerned over this project and the shipping times. They’ve already missed their original shipping date by an entire month, but then posted information on January 24 that they have yet to confirm their production samples yet, and that it would production would take place 30 days after that. So realistically all backers are looking at a March time frame at a bare minimum for delivery.

For the backers who pledged $125 or $250, their Tiered packages offered those other products that are readily available. Why not send those ahead of time, as they already know their project is delayed. (Would make for a good gesture for the company. A way of saying thanks, and we’re sorry for the delay)

Kickstarter offers no “buyer’s protection.” Simply if the funded company is not communicating, we’re suggested to post to their comments board, which we have. There’s no way to report to Kickstarter of our complaints or issues, so instead, we have to take to the web to create these long drawn out blog posts. Once the money is drawn and the project is funded, it’s done, and seems out of Kickstarter’s hands. There’s definitely some issues with the system Kickstarter has running. Good idea in concept, but could use some refinement…