Monday, September 30, 2013

Kickstarter - Not a (Bike) Store. Really??

I once saw one of the founders of Kickstarter speak at a conference. He was quite charismatic, in a laid-back hipster kind of way. But then I'm old.

About a year ago I noticed that Yancey and some of his other Kickstarterizing colleagues had a blog post to make absolutely positively clear that Kickstarter is not a store!!! "It's hard to know how many people feel like they're shopping at a store when they're backing projects on Kickstarter, but we want to make sure that it's no one."

Well, maybe. But in less than two minutes I found evidence otherwise. Searching for projects using the simple keyword "bicycle."

First off, we have "Fortified" that will kickstart a company to sell bike lights that last forever. Actually, they already kickstarted a theft-resistant bike light that I blogged about, which was a success (apparently) but now they are ready to move from theft resistant lighting to lasts-forever lighting - as an anti-capitalist attempt to keep big companies from selling us cyclists more crappy lighting (and other stuff - but they are starting with lights).

Fortified - kick in some $tarter money and you'll get some lights - but remember, it's not a store!

Mostly I have no problem with this product per se - in particular, the idea of fighting big corporations that sell people crap (so that they can sell it to us again later, again) is appealing. I am somewhat surprised that it is apparently appealing to others since this Kickstarter is over-subscribed by four-to-one and still has time to go. Wow!

But keep in mind, my comment today is that Kickstarter claims it is not a store. But here, other than nine people who signed up for a T-shirt, all the backers of this Kickstarter (and there are 845 of these supporters as of today) are backing at levels that insure (in theory) they got some of the early lights produced. Isn't signing up early to buy stuff something you can do at a store? (Like Amazon.)

My counter example is of a project that has effectively zero support because (I think) it isn't selling anything that anyone wants.

This is a good idea for developing world cyclists, but not so popular with Kickstarter "shoppers" (or however we are to refer to them)

In fact integrated shift-brake units are annoying and increase repair costs. My 1982 road bike with separate shifters on the down tube that are mechanically not much more complicated than what she is suggesting are very low maintenance, particularly compared to the combined Shimano 6700 Ultegra "brifters" (combined brake-shift units) that regularly eat shift cables and one stopped working altogether on one bike, requiring replacement. Ugh!

This simple easy to manufacturer, one-size-fits-all shift unit would be great for developing countries.

So, how much support for this project that could easily simplify life for thousands of Africans, how much support is there? Well, as of today, she has reached two (2) percent of her $10,000 goal with 31 days to go. She has four friends (one assumes) who have signed up at a funding level that would give them a "collectible bike shift lever" but . . . it just isn't as exciting an opportunity, apparently, as buying dramatic lighting systems for one's own bike.

Arguably regardless of what Kickstarter's principals wrote on this topic, it appears there could be some confusion among visitors of the Kickstarter site and some relate to it as a store.


Sidebar comment about "last forever" bike lighting - bicycle lighting in this country is getting better steadily - a little slowly in some respects (I think) but the problem with saying a light would "last forever" is that it suggests that in a couple of years you won't want something else simply because better stuff has come on the market. I myself am in this situation, although I am trying to not be wasteful and buy some new thing when the old one works OK - but still, I have a 100 lumen light that has a rather substantial separate battery that was typical four years ago and now the whole thing could be the size of the light unit. And twice as powerful - but I'm not sure I even want that much light.

The "Fortified" lights are fine for lumens and battery power (I suppose) but I suspect that they are typical for how narrow and focused the light beam is - which is, not very. This is incredibly annoying as more and more cyclists trundle along trails at each other seeing who can blind whom first. The Fortified 300 lumen headlight, as the company itself puts it, "lights up the whole road" - well, great, but actually that isn't what is wanted. In Germany I'm told they have standards for such things - anyway, it is hard to imagine that we have reached bicycle headlight nirvana today and that whatever I buy today, at any price, I would want forever.

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