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Andrew Pollock


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Sunday, 23 February 2014

My thoughts on the Ozobot Kickstarter campaign

I'm not an avid Kickstarter follower (if I were, I'd have gone broke long ago). I tend to wind up backing campaigns that come to my attention via other means (in other words, they're in the process of going viral). That said, I've backed plenty of campaigns over the years, and so I'd like to think I have a little bit of familiarity with how they usually operate.

When Ozobot came to my attention, I found it unusual, because they were pre-promoting their Kickstarter campaign before it opened. To me, this looked like a case of them trying to build hype prior to the campaign opening, which was a new one to me. The whole thing seemed incredibly slick, and I was surprised they were "only" seeking $100K.

The product looked like it'd be something cool for Zoe to play with, so I decided to back it anyway. Then all the updates started flowing in about how well it was being received at various trade shows and whatnot. Yet the amount of dollars flowing into the Kickstarter campaign didn't seem to be reflecting the external hype. I was watching the campaign's dashboard with great interest, because as time marched on, it was looking more and more likely that it wasn't going to make its funding target. This seemed highly unusual to me, given the slickness of the product and purported external interest in it.

And then they pulled the plug on the campaign. Purportedly because they were pursuing equity funding instead. They admitted they'd also read the writing on the wall and it was unlikely they were going to make their funding target. I haven't followed other campaigns to see how much of a last minute funding "pop" they have. Usually I've found they've closed at many multiples of their original target, and hit their target well in advance of their deadline, when they're ridiculously popular. My interpretation of Ozobot's campaign, from a funding perspective, is that Kickstarters gave it a big fat "MEH", which surprised me somewhat.

Then the question comes up: was the Kickstarter campaign a ruse all along? Was it just a new way of pitching for venture capital? The videos seemed pretty slick. The product seemed already complete, and $100K didn't seem like enough to take it to manufacturing.

It'll be interesting to see what becomes of Ozobot now.

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