Most Heavily-Funded Kickstarter Projects Miss Their Ship Dates, Can’t Handle Success

Crowd funding site Kickstarter has been host to some compelling endeavors, and the site offers a beautifully democratic way for people to back the kinds of products, technologies, and services they care about.

The fundraising portion of these projects can be thrilling, as we saw with the open source gaming console Ouya, but of course once a project has enough cash raised, the originators still have to execute their plans. Thomas Edison would say that the post-idea, post-fundraising phase of a project is about 99% of the work.

There have been some rumblings about what happens to backer money if a developer fails to deliver on a promised project, and Kickstarter has clarified its position on some of those issues. There aren’t hard numbers about how many Kickstarter projects fail, but CNN Money looked at what percentage of them struggle to ship their products on time. After all, delays upset those who’ve ponied up cash to support the devs--especially those who were promised, for example, first dibs on a product in return.

Kickstarter ship dates

CNN Money looked at 50 highly-funded Kickstarter projects, which together collected an impressive $40.3 million from about 420,000 total backers and were scheduled to ship this November. They found that 84% of projects missed their promised ship date. Twenty-six projects were late, while 16 still haven’t pushed a product out the door. The median delay is two months, although one project in particular got pushed back to the middle of next year.

What’s interesting is the reason why the projects fell behind schedule: They couldn’t handle the success. CNN Money found that the developers were typically inexperienced (though ambitious) and expected, say, a few hundred backers for a small project. When instead thousands of people filled the coffers with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, the project by nature changed in terms of scale and complexity.

Handling success is one of the keys to success, and perhaps devs hoping to raise some funds on Kickstarter need to be more prepared. On the other hand, if backers saw themselves as investors in a gamble (i.e., willing to lose the money they pledge) as opposed to patrons buying a product, the pressure to succeed won’t be as intense.