Is lateness failure?

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Kickstarter projects are great at a lot of things, but meeting deadlines isn’t one of them. This isn’t just a Kickstarter thing. All creative projects, whether they’re on Kickstarter or not, often take longer than expected. What’s unique about Kickstarter is that everyone gets to see how things are made and exactly how long it takes to make them.

A research project from a Wharton professor earlier this year sparked a conversation about how long Kickstarter projects take to be completed. The research found that just 25% of surveyed projects delivered rewards by their Estimated Delivery Date. In other words, many projects were late. (The professor also found that only 3.6% of surveyed projects failed to deliver. This got much less attention.)

Occasionally art is known for how long it took to be created. Sometimes for better (the Sistine Chapel) and sometimes for worse (Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy). But with few exceptions, the amount of time a creative work takes to be made has little relevance to its audience. If anything, the longer the period of creation the higher esteem the work is held.

The focus on lateness within Kickstarter brings three problems. 

First, it incentivizes creators to take shortcuts to hit their deadlines. As legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto recently said, "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” 

Second, it ignores what makes Kickstarter so unique: getting to watch a project come to life. The opportunity to see how something is made and to have a hand in its creation is a special thing. If a creator turns the creative process into a story they share with backers, delays don't have to be bad news.

Third, it presumes that Kickstarter is a store. Sure, it's unacceptable for a store to ship something late. But Kickstarter is not a store. The Estimated Delivery Date is the creator’s best guess at how things will go, and it’s made at a very early stage in the project’s life.

We at Kickstarter know quite a bit about lateness ourselves, funnily enough. Our original plans had Kickstarter launching in April 2008, but a variety of obstacles delayed the launch an entire year. Does this delay make Kickstarter a failed project? We hope not. Ultimately the creative process takes as long as it has to take.

    1. Brad on

      I figured, I clicked on your name and figured that out after I commented.

    2. Hector L

      Lateness is failure because it's a fundamental rule of business to under-promise and over deliver. Expectation management is everything in business whether it be here on KS or in the physical world, to many creators on here are to eager to set a aggressively early estimated delivery date to try and convince as many people as possible to back. This is deceptive and a honest business professional would set extremely conservative delivery dates then surprise backers with early fulfillment if that was possible and if not the expectation was already set that it would take a long time way before money ever was even exchanged. I backed a smartwatch project that was not the pebble and the Creator of the project since day one promised Android compatibility. It was only after the period of time one can actually withdraw a pledge after one has had it withdrawn from their account that the creator informed us that android would not be available as originally promised, now that's some deceptive practices right there, and KS washed themselves of it all. I now have an expensive, overly big watch smartwatch that does little more than tell time because the company who makes it (who was a veteran company making bluetooth devices so none of this startup excuses) still doesn't support android. Since then i have not backed anything because of the lack of backer protection. I now just wait for products to become commercially available because at least that way i have the ability to return a crappy product like the watch i backed.

    3. Brad on

      That sucks that 1 bad project can ruin you entire KS experience, to bad you never backed any of my projects.

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      Stephen Kenney on

      I pretty much feel the same way as Hector. I won't be using KS anymore to back projects. There are lots of good projects out there, but KS taking money and washing their hands of any problems (especially when fraud is involved) leaves a sour taste in my mouth. To be clear, the responsibility and accountability lies solely with the creator but there are things that KS needs to do to protect the backers.

      They (KS) have taken some steps, but I don't think they go nearly far enough. My predication is that if KS doesn't start offering some sort of backer protection it will be defunct within 5 years. It only takes one bad project to turn people off and quit using KS.

    5. Missing avatar

      David Elliott on

      "What’s unique about Kickstarter is that everyone gets to see how things are made and exactly how long it takes to make them." - This would be wonderful if it were true. I've backed over 100 funded projects (I won't say "successful" because success is a shipped product in a reasonable timeframe), and in my experience most creators stop sending out updates as soon as they have the money. That's the key to why people stop backing projects after a while. I don't mind late - I do mind being treated like I don't matter.

    6. Missing avatar

      Stephen Kenney on

      What I get tired of hearing is that Kickstarter is funding dreams and you should never expect anything. If that is true why are there rewards? This is not grant money with no strings attached. There are obligations. In my case, the consumer protection division of the City where the creator is based is investigating him for fraud. The real question may become, if you take the money, miss your stated deadlines, and do not communicate for extended periods of time has fraud been committed? There are laws in place that state that you have to give notice if you are going to miss deadlines. This is why Amazon sends out updates every 30 days if delivery is delayed. I get that this isn't a preorder, but there needs to be some accountability.

      Whether the laws pertain to KS remain to be seen, but precedents will probably be set in the near future.

    7. Marie-Andree Poisson

      @David Elliot. Totaly right. Good and transparent communications are an exception after funding. I got in KS to back a project, but also to follow and influence a design/production process. It is less and less possible, even though there are still rare cases where it's still is.

    8. Missing avatar

      John Barton on


      basically the best project to back is one where the creator has experience in making whatever it is they want to reward you with, has the production ability already lined up, has worked out ALL the kinks in design, and who will not only ship on time but who will document every step of the way?

      Sounds like it could and should be a lot of fun even for seasoned companies. I can't imagine a better way to make products than those which are already paid for at a good profit and as a bonus you get to add hundreds of happy customers who want to share the journey.

      I have read through many of the KS projects doing homework for our own first one and I see that fulfillment is very often a major source of frustration. I also see that very often the projects ARE pretty much like an ecommerce store and when it's that way then I would guess that the listed ship date would be expected to be more concrete.

      Being in the custom case business for 20 years I know how hard it is to juggle communication with dozens of people at the same time. To me it seems like a KS project would almost need a full time person just to manage the updating and documenting and communication.

      What I would recommend to everyone who gets a project funded is that this is the BEGINNING of the relationship not the end. As a creator I know that once you have a customer you have a person who cares about you and your product and if you want to keep them then you have to care back.

      I see a lot of railing against mass production and the "the industry" in these projects. Complaining about how impersonal the big brands are. Well, the opposite of impersonal is personal. It's being WILLING and able to greet and talk to every single person who backs you, to invite them in for virtual tea and treat them as more than just a person with a credit card who bought into your story. When they buy in they are buying in for the first chapter and want the whole thing, give it to them sincerely is my advice.

      Hope we can follow our own advice when it's our time.

    9. Brad on

      Why haven't you backed any John?

    10. Missing avatar

      Stephen Kenney on

      Well, there has finally been resolution to my issue. The creator was fined $2700 + by the City of Chicago and it could have been much worse for him (he finally issued refunds to those of us who requested). It was a long and slow process, but the consumer protection laws worked. What I think a lot of creators don't understand or realize is that laws still apply (they are often running a business) and they may have to be a registered business in their area and pay taxes.

      Not being a registered business really hurt this guy in the end and I am guessing that is what the largest part of the fine was for.

    11. Ryan Lucas on

      Lateness is absolutely failure when it's almost a year after the project manager said the expected delivery date was. It's also failure when the project manager publicly speaks about using the money he made from the Kickstarter for projects other then the Kickstarter. Kickstarter washes their hands of all of these projects and says it's between the backer and the project manager. Sorry but that's no longer good enough. If Kickstarter made no money whatsoever for listing a project, I would understand this line of thinking. When the project manager pays a portion of the funds to Kickstarter, then yes there is some inherent responsibility here. You (Kickstarter) are responsible for contacting the project in question and following up as to why it is not being completed, and letting backers know what their legal rights are. I can see a few months fine, but iControlPad2 will be a year late this fall. Plus the manager is running it out of the United Kingdom, while the page says Winooski, Vermont. You shouldn't let this crap slide so easily, and while you changed your terms of service late last year, it certainly doesn't help the projects that were formed before that. Since I was forced to use Amazon payments and it's too late to get my money back from them, I'm trying to work with my credit card company. Your TOS states that the project manager provides or refunds, yet it's up to us to hound the project manager until they fulfill their duty. If they ever fulfill it. There's zero communication besides a once a two month complaint about how hard it is, but with no pictures as promised. I have filed with the BBB, FTC, Attorney General of Vermont, FBI Tips, and UK Action Fraud. I know a pyramid scheme when I see one. It's time you step in and assist backers with these type of projects before we start taking our funding elsewhere.

    12. Ryan Lucas on

      I personally, plan on continuing to back projects, just not through the Kickstarter platform. I simply back the project with the smallest amount possible ($1) and then when the project opens a forum outside of Kickstarter, post funding, I buy a full sized pledge thru them directly. I seem to have better rights that way. The fact that I submitted my money through your platform and through Amazon payments is making it much harder for me to resolve with my credit card company. I'm finding I would have avoided all of this by working directly with the project manager. At least then when fraud comes up, my buyer protections for the payments are handled. In the end this means you (Kickstarter) will loose quite a bit of money, or projects will not get funded. The whole idea of your platform to begin with was to bring backers and projects together for a common good. When we start doing better without using the platform, something's wrong.

    13. Shari Bromley on

      There are a lot of good comments here. As a backer, I realize that Kickstarter is not a "store". I'm happy to back creators with a product/dream/idea that I share an interest in. That's what brought me to Kickstarter anyway. Nor do I have a problem with projects that are late as long as there is good communication from the creator telling my why and what for. I guess what I mean to say is that I back projects in "good faith" believing that their creators will act in good faith towards fulfillment.

      My problem with Kickstarter is that there seems to be no protection for backers from potential scams. Maybe I just don't understand where to seek help from this site. When a project creator seems to have turned his back on the backers who made it possible for his product to produced, I can't help but feel like I've been scammed.

      I look at estimated dates of delivery as no more that a good guess. If it takes an extra year or so because of problems like: production, shipping, health, real-life, natural disasters, etc., as long as the creator talks to me through updates on the Kickstarter site -- I'm good. S___ happens, we all know it.

      I backed a project just over a year ago with an estimated delivery date of last December. At the time the creator seemed to be honest and above board, communicating frequently about production hold-ups and such. The item I backed was produced and delivered to him in mid February. He began shipping shortly afterwards. He also began selling the product on his website around the same time... You can get the product from Amazon, eBay, and his site. Where's mine? I have no idea how many backer rewards have been fulfilled. I do know there's a vocal amount on his update page who haven't any more of a clue than I do.

      Is it right for a project creator to sell their product to the public without fulfilling their responsibilities to their backers?

      I'll continue to back projects on Kickstarter, I'll just have to take some time to research the project before committing.

    14. Andy Newman on

      I have no problem with delayed projects, as long as the creator communicates with his or her backers. Too many assume if they don't have great news to share, they shouldn't update or communicate at all. To me, that's insulting. Kickstarter is about supporting and seeing the creative process. If a creator doesn't do their best to fulfill that vision, their failure is much greater than simply being late.

    15. Shiv Shambhu on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    16. Shiv Shambhu on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    17. Missing avatar

      Andy on

      Kickstarter makes us realize our ideas when we have no so much money. But according to tips:, we can follow this tips on Kickstarter. But i think we can use commerce order fulfillment services of and

    18. Missing avatar

      Andy on

      Kickstarter makes us realize our ideas when we have no so much money. But according to tips:, we can follow this tips on Kickstarter. But i think we can use commerce order fulfillment services of and or Amazon FBA services. You can compare their services to explosion your business

    19. Missing avatar

      andy on

      Great good. I will start a project about ecommerce in kickstarter. And now i am now wondering to know which order fulfillment company should I use, the or Shipwire is expensive but has many warehouses in US, and ChinaDivision is cost effective, but they can only shipping from China to worldwide. Could any one give me suggestions?

    20. Missing avatar

      Namaku Keren on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    21. Missing avatar

      Doa Ibu Tersayang on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

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