As backers fume over yet another scampaign, Indiegogo's year from hell keeps getting worse

By James Robinson , written on September 5, 2014

From The News Desk

2014 seems intent on being the year that breaks Indiegogo,  leaving us all shaking our heads that anyone ever thought handing over millions of dollars on an unaccountable platform, for totally unproven hardware was ever a good idea.

Now, Indiegogo has another name to etch into the walls of its growing hall of dishonor: Kreyos.

Kreyos' story is starting to feel as old as time itself. It went live on Indiegogo in June last year, trying to raise $100,000 for what it promised to be the only smartwatch to combine both voice and gesture control. It ended up with 15 times that amount: $1.5m. Its Meteor smartwatch would track sleep, and exercise, and be waterproof. Kreyos promised that it was ready to go straight into production when funding closed in August and would ship by November. Yay, technology!

(If there was a pick up manual for scampaigners, "production ready, just as soon as we have the cash" would be number one on the list.)

And then, yeah, it didn’t ship by November. It began to ship last month, nine months late. Kreyos claimed on its Indiegogo page a month ago that every order has been taken care of, but the comment section is still riddled with angry notes from backers who have not received their watches, or even the promised shipping number to track when it would arrive.

The bigger problem though -- as has been reported -- is that the Kreyos Meteor doesn’t work. To rally opposition to Kreyos, two disgruntled backers have produced an exhaustive treatise on all the problems with the watch (that link is worth a read). The much vaunted gesture control does not exist. The speaker is on par with an off the shelf walkie talkie. The watch claims to be waterproof, but some watches got waterlogged and broke as soon as they got wet (the broken watches are documented in a Facebook group for disgruntled Kreyos backers that has almost 700 members). Its pedometer is useless. Kreyos promised seven days of battery life but early reviews put the actual figure at closer to 24 hours.

One backer put a seven-minute clip up on YouTube to document just how useless his watch is. Another backer has put his up for sale on eBay UK under the headline of “The Worst SmartWatch Ever.”

Kreyos claims that the problems are limited to certain batches, but aren’t helping themselves by retroactively changing their terms of service for Indiegogo backers to deny refunds to people who waited out the delays in hope of receiving a working watch. Such is the level of animosity towards Kreyos, that old photos pulled off co-founder Steve Tan’s Facebook page of him posing with a rented Ferrari and designer shopping bags in Italy in 2010, have been circulating the Internet as evidence that he’s misused the funding Kreyos has received.

And as usual, Indiegogo, king of the tone deaf response, have stood by idly as backers are swindled out of cash, only breaking their silence to announce on Instagram and Twitter how excited they were to have received their watch, clueless to the fact that many of their fellow backers -- the very people that keep Indiegogo in business -- were involved in a Waiting for Godot-esque farce to get theirs.

The thing about crowdfunding scampaigns, as we’ve learned with Healbe, is that you can point out why something can’t work, but you’re still debunking a product that doesn’t exist yet. People get sucked in and excited, and even with all the evidence in the world, you're still going to get accused of having a vendetta.

We’ve followed one crappy Indiegogo scampaign after another this year -- Healbe, TellSpec, Ritot, and so on -- but Kreyos gives us a picture of what happens at the end of these stories.

Backers are left with a lump of coal, if anything. Indiegogo, whose anything goes policy abets an extremely low level of competence from its campaigners, has taken its own $60,000 and left with no duty of care for the people who are left way out of pocket. Crowdfunders are obligated to deliver promised perks, but the promised perks don’t actually have to work.

The scary thing is, through all of these stories, all of this backlash, Indiegogo hasn't displayed a single moment of contrition, or the slightest inkling to change. It still trumpets being the platform that doesn't say no! when yet again, this openness has left it tens of thousands of dollars richer, and its customers paying out for broken promises.

We've contacted Indiegogo and Kreyos for comment and will update this story with their response.