Crowdfunding Failures 4 Great Prototypes That Failed To Launch

4 Crowdfunding failures we can learn from

Not every great product idea makes it into production. Even some excellent products are crowdfunding failures that didn’t make it past the prototype stage, leaving the inventors, backers, and fans scratching their heads and wondering why. Over the years there have been some pretty high-profile examples of great prototypes that didn’t make it into mass production, and there is something we can learn from cases like these.

Typically we looked for answers to the following questions about 4 high-profile crowdfunding failures that all obtained the cash to get into production, but still failed:

  • What made the product very attractive?
  • How much did it pre-sell?
  • In the company’s communication, and in press articles, what are the main difficulties invoked by the company?
  • What steps did the company take in an attempt to go into production?
  • How long after the campaign did the company officially give up?

Understanding these points that killed even these promising product ideas that had reached the prototype stage allows you to avoid some of the same mistakes during your own product design and NPI process and reach the market.

Please note, we gathered the following information on crowdfunding failures through online research from various internet sources and you can see the links to them throughout. Also, Sofeast was not involved first-hand in any of these projects.


coolest cooler

Let’s start with one of the most famous crowdfunding failures, a cooler that was probably far better than anything else on the market and was Kickstarter’s record most-funded crowdfunder at the time with over US$13m…

What made the product very attractive?

Coolest Cooler claimed itself as 21st Century Cooler that’s Actually Cooler, the product offers several great features (
● Portable cooler: The COOLEST is a portable party disguised as a cooler, bringing blended drinks, music and fun to any outdoor occasion.
● Ice-crushing: The 18-volt ice-crushing beast built into the COOLEST will power through more than 6 gallons of blended goodness on a single charge.
● Rechargeable lithium-ion battery: The cooler is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and t
● Waterproof wireless Bluetooth speaker: You can DJ the music right from your phone or Bluetooth-enabled device directly to your COOLEST. Just turn your phone on, match it with the COOLEST speaker, and rock out with your bad self. The removable Bluetooth speaker is also rechargeable and can be paired with a second speaker up to 30 feet away.
● USB Charger: Re-charge your gear wherever you are with the waterproof USB charger.
● LED Light: The COOLEST has unbreakable lights embedded in the lid so you easily find what you’re looking for with the push of a button.
● Gear Tie-Down: The COOLEST’s locking tie-downs are like having a roof rack on your cooler so three trips can be done in one. Easily secure your lawn chairs, blankets, towels, toys, fishing tackle, or grill.
● Beach Tires: One of the worst unintended workouts can be had by trying to drag a conventional cooler through a sandy beach. The COOLEST wheels are twice as wide so they roll easily and don’t sink in.
● Essential storage: The COOLEST has storage for a half dozen reusable plastic plates, which also double as a cutting board for the ceramic rust-proof pairing knife.
● Split lid and divider: The split lid design and removable divider give you some great packing options. You can keep your cocktail ice separate from your regular ice. Or you could put ice only on one side, pull the drain plug and the other side becomes a totally dry refrigerator, perfect for keeping sandwiches and any other perishable food cool and dry.
● Bottle Opener: with magnetic cap catch, plates, knife, corkscrew, and a removable divider that can also be used as a cutting board

How much did it pre-sell for?

It started from $165 for early birds (, with estimated delivery in February 2015 (for US backers only):

“COOLEST EARLY BIRD: Get your very own COOLEST, complete with blender, a waterproof Bluetooth speaker, USB Charger and all the other awesome features. You will be saving at least $135 off of the retail price. You’ll also get the COOLEST Drink Guide and all our updates. (add $15 for shipping)”

What were the main difficulties blocking them from getting to market?

There are several difficulties that made the company give up on the Coolest production (according to,

● There were manufacturing strikes abroad that stopped Coolest production for months, racking up unbelievable bills.
● The US tariff increase on Chinese imports from 0 to 25 percent has affected the entire Coolest product line, making the Coolest cost much more to manufacture and ship than anyone paid for it on Kickstarter.
● After trying to switch factories to reduce overall costs, and trying to earn more revenue by creating additional products to sell like the Solar Lid and the Vibe soft-sided cooler, in the end, that tariff and the trade war, destroyed the Coolest’s last options to continue their operation.

The reasons why the product was blocked from reaching the market appear that the people behind that project had probably not done proper DFM and the prototype they showed in the campaign was clearly far from “manufacturing ready.” Also, they seem to have failed in production planning and inventories

While externally an unforeseen increase in import tariffs is claimed as a problem, they were already way behind schedule, so that’s probably not a legitimate issue in this case. The manufacturing strikes simply sound like an excuse.

What steps did the company take in an attempt to go into production?

In early 2015, Coolest Cooler started working with Dragon Innovation to aid in the production process of manufacturing, shipping and delivering over 60,000 backers. Dragon may assist with a wide array of product completion including factory selection, vetting, project management, and more. With teams both stateside and in mainland China coordination of a project the size of Coolest should be able to keep on track and hopefully on schedule (

How long after the crowdfunding campaign did the company officially give up?

5 years since started in 2014. In December 2019, Grepper and Coolest LLC, announced they were ceasing operations and would comply with the Oregon Department of Justice agreement. More than 20,000 backers who didn’t receive a cooler were told they could claim $20 back, leaving them significantly out of pocket compared to the original purchase price of around $200 (

What can we learn from the coolest cooler’s failure?

Make sure you just need to “press the button” to get into manufacturing, before you launch a crowdfunding campaign. All the ‘discovery’ processes should be over, and you should be in ‘delivery’ mode.




One of the more intriguing crowdfunding failures, because the Zano was a really unique drone that was ahead of its time, if only it could have made it to market…

What made the product very attractive?

ZANO offered several attractive features (according to, such as:

● Revolutionary Intelligent Flight and Autonomous Operation, complete with Obstacle Avoidance
● Lightweight and Durable. Conveniently take ZANO anywhere.
● Instant image and video sharing capability to social networks.
● iOS and Android compatible
● Digital Image Stabilisation
● Failsafe software features ensures ZANO will always return to your mobile device if it feels it’s strayed too far, is losing signal or is running low on battery.
● “Follow me” feature, which will instruct ZANO to constantly maintain that distance from your smart device and follow you whilst avoiding any obstacles that may get it in the way during flight.
● Facial recognition capability
● 360 and 180-degree Panoramics
● Instant imaging editing suite (Image filters, adding text, audio, etc.)
● Custom LED Pixel Art creation
● Swarming capability. A user will be able to control multiple ZANO’s from one device, this will enable photographs and video of the same event from Multiple Vantage Points.
● Removable battery feature. This means a user can carry multiple charged batteries, and when ZANO is starting to run low on juice, simply bring ZANO home, pull the battery out, put a charged battery in and you’re back flying in no time.
● Free Flight Mode

How much did it pre-sell for?

Starting from $169.95 for pre-order sales, the company promised delivery by July 2015 (

What were the main difficulties blocking them from getting to market?

● After receiving over three million dollars from crowdfunding on Kickstarter, the team was unable to create a product that matched their original description and eventually filed for bankruptcy after delivering around 600 partially functional drones. Unlike the first public demo video, the mini-drone has poor performance; staying airborne for only a few minutes, colliding with walls, and delivering very poor video. Testing the first batch of Zanos to come off the production line, Ivan Reedman (Zano’s Team Leader) explained that they had to get the swarming network, the GPS, and the wireless network all in a smaller footprint than on a mobile phone which are very challenging (
● There were also software problems that make it difficult to meet the target specifications and has to be upgraded (
● Missing a series of deadlines set on the Kickstarter page led the company to become increasingly panicked. And there was a lack of internal communication and crisis within the company. It is also believed that there is corruption in spending the campaign money (

What steps did the company take in an attempt to go into production?

● Going to mass production. The Kickstarter campaign was so wildly successful (the company initially asked for just $282,000) that the founders were overwhelmed with orders. This led to mistakes, such as going straight into mass production without ordering a small sample of drones (
● Hiring professionals. The company hired engineers and developers headed by Australian technologist Ivan Reedman and was eager to bring the first batch of Zanos to come off the production line (

How long after the crowdfunding campaign did the company officially give up?

A year since they started in 2014. A Kickstarter update posted by Torquing on 24 November 2015 apologized for disappointing backers and detailed an “unaudited” breakdown of their expenditures over the course of the year (

What can we learn from the zano’s failure?

On the product development side, the initial demo promised a level of performance that was never that of production units, so either there was deception or they had severely underestimated the technical challenges. The fact that they gave up so fast points to an immature product design as well as aspirations so high they could not realistically be fulfilled. Key learning: ensure your product design is mature and you have validated the claims.
On the manufacturing side, they clearly did not get good advice. They went straight into mass production, skipping the PVT and maybe also DVT phases. With no small pilot run to detect and iron out issues, the risk of serious issues widespread across all units of the first mass production runs is very high. Key learning: don’t try to go fast by skipping critical phases of the NPI process.


3. TIKO 3D


Again, a fairly famous one of the crowdfunding failures involved an innovative 3D printer that proved to be too technically difficult to take from prototype to mass production…

What made the product very attractive?

Aside from being quite a unique portable 3D printer at the time, the Tiko Unibody 3D Printer claimed that the product was designed with superior features such as (

● Accurate: Tiko printed products at a 200-micron resolution, but it can print as fine as 50 microns.
● Tiko is unibody: That means the whole frame is one piece, introducing an amazing array of benefits. Easy to manufacture. Virtually impossible to misalign. (Building a ‘unibody’ 3D printer will require a significant capital investment to get the first printer off the assembly line. Once that’s done, though, the creators of the Tiko printer hoped they would have a viable product that could be manufactured for far less than their competitors).
● Wireless and flexible: Tiko can print from anywhere. Not only can you print large objects, you can actually remove them easily, too. Tiko’s print bed is flexible, so once your print is done, you simply lift the printer off the bed, then twist to pop off your print.
● Lightweight and strong material: Tiko’s slender unibody frame, delta mechanism, and ultra-compact liquefier/end-effector enable it to print objects far larger than any similarly sized 3D printer.
● Easy to use: Tiko’s browser-based software is super user-friendly. We’ve already optimized Tiko’s performance, leaving only a few straightforward settings so you can spend more time on your ideas and leave the printing to Tiko.
● Safe for pets and children: Tiko’s enclosed build chamber also means children and pets can’t interfere with the liquefier, a small but dangerously hot component that is typically left exposed in other 3D printers. Taking things a step further, Tiko has an onboard accelerometer that automatically shuts the printer down if it’s disturbed.
● Auto-calibrated: The accelerometer is used for auto-calibration, plus something even cooler. Tiko can measure its own performance, so with your permission, we can use performance data from your printer to help make every Tiko better.
● The printer nozzle material is made from titanium.

How much did it pre-sell for?

● $99 for the limited earliest bird (
● $139 for limited early bird
● $179 for the normal price

What were the main difficulties blocking them from getting to market?

The main difficulties were producing a good quality product and its innovation, Tiko also had a huge debt to pay off (; :

● Tiko put a lot of innovation into its unibody frame. Unfortunately, they decided to extend that innovation to the rest of the printer. Even before the Tiko Kickstarter was a week old, the 3D printer enthusiasts had questions about the Tiko printer.
● The decision to use cheap stepper motors led directly to the very poor performance of the finalized design. The efforts to fix hardware problems in software were not effective. Eventually, Tiko had too much technical debt to pay off.
● Too many issues with the components. The first batch of the Tiko 3D printers started shipping Friday, July 1st, 2016. After intensive testing, the problems encountered ranged from blocked carriage ball joint neck, some wires shaking loose, Bowden tube fittings and insufficient torque on the extruder motors. According to Tiko 3D’s subsequent Kickstarter update, all the major problems encountered were solved. The liquefier problem – the number 1 problem keeping Tiko 3D printer from being released to manufacturing (RTM) – seems to have been solved as well according to Tiko’s update. However, after so many delays and a lot of open communications over the last months, the makers at TIKO3D became vaguer in their communications.
● Tiko’s passive-cooled titanium liquefier was perfect when prototyped, but not when mass-produced. Sculpted from an alloy developed exclusively for turbine engines, machined to tolerances comparable to a wristwatch, and surface treated to specs matching a race engine, Tiko’s liquefier nozzle was very well-engineered, but proved tough to make at high volume.
● The unibody design was somewhat unusual in that it is an enclosed extrusion with both straight and round edges. It was difficult to design the tool for this, it turned out that the straight edges were shrinking and pulling the corners in too close. Tiko’s chassis was a pretty big and unusual shape even for quite an experienced extrusion company, so it required some iterations.

What steps did the company take in an attempt to go into production?

The company started mass manufacturing and shipping in October 2016. Tiko released some 27% of Tiko’s components for manufacture in China. So not only were some parts done early, they even got sneak peeks of the full-scale manufacturing operation.

The parts were to be made using injection molding and other processes, which means they’d have different tolerances and mechanical properties than the prototypes. If any of these changes compromised performance, they’d need to go back and tool them again. There was a considerably long RTM (release to manufacture) process during which they transition from pre-production to rapid scale-up, and any mistakes then would probably not have quick fixes. The whole manufacturing process depended on everything being done correctly upfront. It took nearly a year, but Tiko 3D printer finally shipped to their Kickstarter backers. They also start taking preorders starting at 12 pm EST, November 28th, 2016 (

How long after the crowdfunding campaign did the company officially give up?

A year from the campaign in. By the end of 2016, Tiko was effectively shutting down production, and refusing to refund backers. Tiko has even refused refunds on shipping costs (

What can we learn from the Tiko 3D’s failure?

The choice of critical components was poor across the board, it seems. The product design should have been validated through usability & performance testing before the crowdfunding campaign was set up.
The liquefier technology was simply not mature to even plan for manufacturing.
They went into manufacturing but the process may not have been mature, either.


4. The Dragonfly Futurefön

The Dragonfly Futurefön

What made the product very attractive?

One Device to Unite Them All™: Introducing the Dragonfly! With its unique folding and transforming architecture, the Dragonfly Futurefön ™ capabilities extend far beyond any other single mobile device. Dragonfly offers (

● Dual Displays for Double the Screen Real Estate: Dual Super AMOLED 2560 x 1440 = over 12” of eye-popping usable work space.
● Illuminated keyboard and slide-out touchpad.
● Smart Cliq’s touchscreens provide for advanced notifications and interaction.
● The detachable display functions as a stand-alone Android phone or tablet.
● Made of high-quality aluminum uni-body construction
● Dual Operating Systems: run all your favorite Android apps alongside the flexibility and power of Windows 8 software.
● One Data Plan to Connect Them All: the Slingshots 4G LTE antenna tethers to provide connectivity no matter where you are. In other words, you get one device that does the work of three or more, all running on one data plan. That adds up to a savings of hundreds of dollars per year.
● One Cord to Charge Them All: The Dragonfly incorporates a smartphone, tablet, dual display laptop and Bluetooth headset and all are charged with but one cord. This is so simple to use and makes your life so much easier by not having to remember to charge all of your separate devices.
● The Dragonfly Architecture: In addition to the components inside the Slingshot Phablet, the Quad-Folding™ architecture of the Dragonfly offers much more room when unfolded, while at the same time maximizing portability and mobility by folding it closed when it is time to get going.
● Dual Batteries: the Dragonfly will have a 3,200 milliamp battery in the Slingshot and a large capacity system battery in the base to keep you unplugged while running longer and faster than anything else around. Also the smart LED charging light that surrounds the single charging port input on the base is also very intelligently designed.
● Built-In Bluetooth headset for uncompromising communication capabilities.
● Double the Camera Power: the Dragonfly will have dual front and rear facing cameras for video chats and docked ‘selfies.’

How much did it pre-sell for?

● $799 USD for Dragonfly Futurefön Win-Droid
● $599 USD for Dragonfly Futurefön Android (

What were the main difficulties blocking them from getting to market?

The product was too good to be true to begin with and no actual production effort was ever disclosed. This campaign was practically a scam and the owner has been indicted on fraud charges (

The Dragonfly Futurefön was developed by Idealfuture in which its business license had been allowed to expire without a single product shipped. IdealFuture portrayed Batio as an entrepreneur who’d been building exotic personal computing hardware for decades. Social media VP Bridget Hogan claimed in an interview that IdealFuture already had a US-based manufacturer, allowing it to ship the Futurefön within six months. A closer look at Batio and IdealFuture might have raised several red flags. And while Batio had been working on experimental computers for decades, he hadn’t actually shipped any — including a laptop he’d already promised Indiegogo backers in an earlier campaign (

Between November 2014 and July 2016 there were a total of 83 official campaign updates. After the first year or so of these, a few readers quickly noticed that any actual progress on the device was more or less nonexistent. It was the same song and dance over and over: A plethora of different 3D renders, a few non-functional 3D-printed prototypes, excuses about delays, and a relentless optimism in every post (

Batio had been indicted on fraud charges that spanned 13 years, from Armada’s early days to the last Indiegogo updates. And the alleged total profits were far higher than even IdealFuture’s biggest sceptics imagined: in addition to the $725,000 he’d gotten for the Futurefön, he’d supposedly collected $5 million from Armada investors, a fundraising venture that now seemed like a fraud (

What steps did the company take in an attempt to go into production?

They basically didn’t take steps as this campaign was classified as a scam.
● In November 2014, Idealfuture’s Social media VP Bridget Hogan claimed in an interview that IdealFuture already had a US-based manufacturer, allowing it to ship the Futurefön within six months and they are working very closely with manufacturing partner to ensure delivery in late Q1[US] – early Q2 2015. They also claimed that they were refining the specs and design as well as working on prototypes. Also took the necessary next steps to get the Dragonfly into production and secured a USA based electronic manufacturer (
● Production and prototype have never happened?. Five years later, realtor and musician Ryan Farhood says he invested $10,000 in IdealFuture and worked on a song for the company. (The jingle was sadly lost to history.) A friend had vouched for Jeff Batio (CEO of Idealfuture), and Farhood was impressed enough to share the Futurefön design with a connection at chip-making giant Qualcomm. But when Qualcomm was unenthusiastic and Farhood started asking hard questions about the project, he claims, his relationship with Batio soured. “Everything was pure pose. There were no prototypes. There was no working, functional model,” says Farhood. “Too bad I’d already deposited the money.” (
● In September 2019, Batio, owner of Armada Systems LLC and Idealfuture Inc, has been indicted on fraud charges. He was found guilty Friday of all 12 counts against him, including six counts of mail fraud and six counts of wire fraud. Each count is punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Batio falsely claimed that Armada and Idealfuture had completed the engineering on the 3-in-1 computer and the multi-screen system, and that the products were close to being brought to market. In reality, Batio knew the products were not complete and that production would not start within the promised timeframe. Batio also claimed to be involved in discussions with large technology companies concerning partnership deals, licensing arrangements and marketing agreements, when, in fact, Batio’s contacts with those companies typically consisted of nothing more than his opening sales pitch. From 2003 to 2014, Batio defrauded victims out of $5 million. As the years passed and he failed to produce or license any products, Batio in 2014 began to solicit funds on the crowdfunding website From 2014 to 2016, Batio raised more than $700,000 on Indiegogo from investors all over the world by fraudulently promoting and selling the 3-in-1 device (

How long after the crowdfunding campaign did the company officially give up?

2 years since the campaign started in Indiegogo in October 2014 until July 2016 (

What can we learn from the Dragonfly Futurefön’s failure?

This was a scam, so as a backer, do your due diligence and consider that if something seems too good to be true, it often is! This is a good example of crowdfunding failures demonstrating that everyone needs to exercise caution when running and considering crowdfunding campaigns, as it is not a well-regulated area.


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