Kickstarter tightens rules on hardware projects, it’s about time

We cover Kickstarter quite a lot on this site, because that’s where so much of innovation in tech takes place these days. For every project we do cover, however, there’s a handful we don’t touch, either because it’s a stupid idea, a copy of something that exists, or just an outright scam. I’ve personally had a hand in taking down a scam project, and it frightens me how easy it is to use the site for that sort of activities. 

Well, how easy it used to be, if Kickstarter’s new rules are successful in their goal of making people realize they’re pledging a project that might succeed, they’re not pre-ordering from a store. There is a new section on the project page, where the project creator has to talk about risks and challenges, and how those will be met. Hardware projects will additionally require that all images are of working prototypes, no fancy 3D renderings that anyone can spit out. Furthermore, there will be no more bulk rewards allowed. Project creators can still offer products in sets that make sense, like a 5-pack of home automation dongles, but offering 100 smartwatches for resale is no longer permitted. Since pretty much all projects currently offer such rewards, that one is going to affect the most projects.

This change is long overdue, if you ask me, but I’m not sure it’s enough. The particular scam I helped take down actually used fully functional hardware, the only problem being that it was an existing, commercial product that someone tried to resell to people who hadn’t heard of the original. There was also another project that I refused to write about when the project creator contacted us, because I was convinced it was a scam, and it later turned out that I was right. You had to really pay attention to realize why, however: It showed actual hardware that seemed to communicate with an app, but that “app” showed clear signs of being made in HTML to mimic actually working. In both those cases, Kickstarter approved projects that could be identified as scams by their video material alone, and both those projects were in the clear with regards to these new rules.

My point is that the people actually working at Kickstarter seemed to be incompetent, or at least not competent enough to notice signs of something being a scam. As long as that’s the case, these new rules seem like something of a half-assed attempt to fix the problem.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.