Ubuntu Edge Fails: The Winners And Losers

A crowdfunding campaign for the Ubuntu Edge on Indiegogo has failed to reach a goal of $32,000,000. 27,488 backers laid claim to 5,837 copies of Ubuntu’s cutting-edge premium smartphone concept.

In the end it was all for naught. The campaign fell $19,187,224 short of the goal.

IndiegogoFor Indiegogo, this is a lost opportunity – but it won’t be the last

It’s a bad day for Indiegogo. This was a big opportunity for that platform to step out of Kickstarter’s shadow. This is one of the frustrating things platforms have to deal with; perception in the public is often driven by the success or failure of the campaigns on their platforms. In the end Indiegogo had little control over the outcome, but they’ll forever be tied to it.

Indiegogo doesn’t get to say they had the most successful crowdfunding campaign in history. Fabian Scherschel stated the sentiment bluntly in his blog: “The only record Canonical can legitimately claim is falling short of their target by the biggest amount.”

Indiegogo does get to say they had the campaign that raised the most money, which is hardly consolation but it is a step in the right direction. The point is this: if anyone doubted you could raise more on Indiegogo than Pebble raised on Kickstarter, toss that notion out the window.

Indiegogo comes away from this with a bit of new swagger. I mean, a huge company launched a $32 million campaign on the platform, and it had a chance to succeed. What isn’t possible at this point? Be assured Indiegogo learned plenty from this whole experience, and they’ll put that to good use the next time a company wants to raise tens of millions of dollars on their platform.

canonicalFor Canonical, it’s a mixed bag

Canonical may have started something here with wildly ambitious crowdfunding campaigns. In failing to raise their goal on Indiegogo, Canonical generated an insane amount of content about their device and their approach to convergent tech. In that way, the company is very much a winner in the whole situation.

Canonical now gets to march out into the world with some hard data on just how many people were willing to drop $600 or more on a smartphone they designed. That is powerful stuff. There are also the reviews of their software, which will give smartphone manufacturers a glimpse into what to expect from the press if and when they decide to start selling Ubuntu-powered devices.

RELATED – Ubuntu Edge Watch: Some Backers Angered With Canonical CEO’s Comments In Wired

However, in not extending the campaign and, more specifically, in not explaining the why of the decision, Canonical has exposed themselves to some risk. Which brings me to…

crowd-imageBackers got the short end of the deal, but the story isn’t over yet

In examining the details of the campaign, I can’t shake this conclusion. I don’t want to believe this is the case, but all the evidence warrants it.

The backers are the biggest losers of all.

There is an informal, unwritten contract that backers and project creators enter into when a campaign is launched, at least in the rewards-based world. Backers do anything and everything they can to shepherd the campaign to success, and in return project creators are transparent and engaged with the backers, giving their full effort as well.

Did that happen here? I can’t seem to argue that it did.

The question looms over that last bit, specifically. Canonical didn’t do everything they could to bring the Edge to market, and that isn’t fair to the backers.

Did the backers do everything they could to make the Edge a reality? Um… yes. I saw one backer refer to money he or she spent out of pocket on AdSense advertising for the campaign. AdSense advertising! Others launched complete standalone web sites supporting the campaign, handled media outreach on the campaign’s behalf and more. How many project creators would kill for that level of zeal? The backers more than held up their end of the bargain in the campaign for the Edge.

Having said that, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth left the door open in his last backer update, emphasis ours…

As for crowdfunding, we believe it’s a great way to give consumers a voice and to push for more innovation and transparency in the mobile industry. And who knows, perhaps one day we’ll take everything we’ve learned from this campaign — achievements and mistakes — and try it all over again.

So, perhaps that was why the decision was made not to extend the campaign, and that is hard to argue with. The campaign wasn’t ideally executed from the start, and even with 60 more days that $32 million was a long shot. I’m sure the folks at Canonical have learned a ton about the process.

Truth be told, there is no handbook for raising $32 million from the crowd.


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