The Rock smartwatch was able to garner almost $40,000 in pledges from crowdfunding backers before Kickstarter finally had to pull the plug on the campaign. The run-up to how that happened should strike fear into anyone looking to pull a fast one on the crowd.
The man pictured above is Vak Sambath, the face of the Rock smartwatch. Sambath and his team touted the watch as being “the best-looking, the toughest and the smartest smartwatch on the market today.” They provided a feature comparison chart that juxtaposed the watch against competitors like the Pebble and Samsung Galaxy Gear, showing that the Rock was superior in many ways.
Then the crowd started digging.
They found another watch, the Chinese-made Z3, that was eerily similar (read: identical) to the Rock product. The Kickstarter comment board for the campaign turned into a hotbed of criticism. Sambath was called to the carpet for being unresponsive. He was called a fraud. Backers encouraged eachother to report the campaign. Some backers immediately lowered their pledges to $1 so they could still comment without having their money at risk.
Sambath took issue with suggestions of fraud and outlined his opposition in a comment on Kickstarter, explaining that even though the devices may look similar, his was better. He provided 14 reasons why.
First, the commonly-available Z3 (new variant):
… and the Rock:
Kickstarter finally pulled the plug and sent the following email was sent out clarifying the situation.
A review of the project uncovered evidence of one or more violations of Kickstarter’s rules, which include:
- A related party posing as an independent, supportive party in project comments or elsewhere
- Misrepresenting support by pledging to your own project
- Misrepresenting or failing to disclose relevant facts about the project or its creator
- Providing inaccurate or incomplete user information to Kickstarter or one of our partners
Accordingly, all funding has been stopped and backers will not be charged for their pledges. No further action is required on your part.
Sambath continues to take issue with the crowd’s reaction…
People act like amazon or apple don’t use parts from China! Obviously they don’t know how to run a business. Watch #sharktank
— Vak Sambath (@vakster) December 7, 2013
This was all very much avoidable, and it highlights one of the points many crowdfunding stakeholders try to make when talking about how to effectively run a crowdfunding campaign. No truth is too much for the crowd. If the product was pitched as a Z3 smartwatch with vastly improved software, the crowd may very well have bought in. (Kickstarter probably would have rejected just such a product, but he could have raised money on another platform.) That would have been an accurate account of the product itself. Obfuscating the truth in hopes of garnering more funding constitutes fraud.
It’s also rather interesting that live photos of the device didn’t match up with rendered photos whatsoever. This is supposed to be a no-no on Kickstarter. How the project even made it through the vetting process is somewhat perplexing.
In the end the lesson is simple: don’t mess with the crowd.
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