The Unhealthy Relationship Between Crowdfunding and Electric Skateboards.

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Kickstarter and Indiegogo are amazing platforms for innovation and change. They allow people with killer ideas to launch campaigns in hopes of getting those ideas funded, and let backers of those campaigns get in on the ground floor of new technologies and enjoy the bragging rights of having the latest and greatest toys.

In the case of electric skateboards, however, the use of these platforms has turned into a shitshow of epic proportions.

Pomelo Pro. Stary. Marbel. Leafboard. Louboard. Ionboard. In fact, there have been so many campaigns that haven’t delivered on what they promise in terms of either timing or performance, I could just about list them ad nauseum. The landscape is littered with the smoking corpses of once-promising boards and the pained faces of the bitter backers who once believed in them.

When smart people get in over their heads

It turns out that having a great idea and being able to turn that idea into a living, breathing product are not always complementary skill sets. (Unless you’re the impressive Arcboard, who pulled off the christmas miracle of delivering what they promised right when they said they would.) For many failed campaign owners, this was likely their first time running a business, let alone building something entirely new in a rapidly growing category.

Imagine living on the cutting edge while trying to meet a hard deadline. If you build in generous buffers to handle unexpected delays and promise the board months later as a result, some other less scrupulous company might promise something better much sooner and steal the buzz. If you try to beat everyone to market, you might overlook a critical flaw that could have been found with proper testing in place.

Even if the core product team manages to do everything right, you have to trust and depend on outside forces to deliver for you. It only takes one vendor to deliver a shitty part and you’re behind the eight ball. You force them to go back and reengineer the part at their cost and their motivation might lag. They might prioritize paying orders from competing campaign boards over delivering on the recall work. Then maybe when they come back with the new part, it no longer works with the rest of the other pieces you had to re-engineer.

The dream is now a stapled together nightmare

All of which means you either ship a flawed unit on time or keep pushing the dates back until you can build the best possible version of your product. Meanwhile, you’ve got to find a way to explain the hold up to serious enthusiasts who have dropped big money. It’s not surprising that project leaders unaccustomed to this kind of pressure often check out emotionally or disappear entirely.

Some companies have given in to the pressure, abandoned all pretense about creating something new and have simply bought mass-produced Alibaba boards, slapped their own grip tape on them, and raised the price. (I’m looking at you, Ionboard.)

Frankly, it’s a wonder that certain campaigns aren’t being held to the standards that define legal fraud, given that they took money and shipped out nothing or delivered a steaming pile of disappointment. But maybe even legality is a casualty of the confusing wild west that is the crowdfunding scene.

There’s a sucker born every minute.

Despite all of this turmoil, I still see people on Reddit, Discord and other platforms ask about boards that are only available on crowdfunding platforms. I find this borderline unbelievable, but maybe it’s a sign that the wounds are healing and that at some point in the future we can hear about crowdfunded boards without shaking our heads. You can certainly argue that the next team with the skills and determination of Arcboard deserve the chance to show what they can do.