Business

This guy’s startup helps Kickstarter projects ship, but his own backers are calling BS

Above: Shopstarter and Cobra Wallet founder Alex Kennberg.

Image Credit: Alex Kennberg

Cobra Wallet reached its Kickstarter goal in October 2012 with the promise to ship the product to backers three months later.

Today, the wallets still have not shipped, which wouldn’t be such a big deal if the project’s owner hadn’t founded a startup in the meantime — one dedicated to helping successful Kickstarter campaigns fulfill their orders.

The startup is Shopstarter, a post-crowdfunding support system that includes a series of tools for managing orders, communicating with backers, modifying shipping information, and more.

VentureBeat ran an article earlier this week about Shopstarter’s new retail marketplace. Shortly after the post ran, the email came flooding in with complaints about Cobra Wallet and its owners.

“These guys are crooks,” said backer Kevin Greczyn. “They took $51,000 from backers and still have not produced anything close to a finished product. They promised they would ship last January. Here we are, one full year after promised ship date, and still nothing. They will not disclose how they spent our money, which is required on Kickstarter, and now I see why. I bet some of the backers’ $51,000 was used for Shopstarter.”

Another backer, Mike Josephs, said, “We were promised Cobra Wallet over a year ago, and there is still no sign of it. [Project co-creator Joshua Moore] and Alex have been very deceptive during this process and extremely rude and arrogant to their backers. They at one point shipped unfinished wallets, which I will not lie, looked as if they had cost $3 to make.”

I contacted Cobra Wallet and Shopstarter founder Alex Kennberg again to ask about these allegations. He acknowledged that the wallet had faced manufacturing delays, but he said that a handful of backers have been acting “over the top.”

“We are trying to bond steel and TPU, which prove to be difficult and it’s hard to find experienced mold engineers to complete the task,” Kennberg told VentureBeat. “The project is quite a bit delayed, and it’s understandable that some backers are upset. It’s unfortunate that they choose to be very rude about it. Shopstarter is a different corporation and does not have access to Cobra Wallet funds or IP in any way.”

An estimated 75 percent of all tech and design projects on Kickstarter are delivered late. The owners of successful campaigns, particularly those that significantly surpass their goal, are often not prepared for the challenges of manufacturing and order fulfillment.

Kennberg formerly worked at Google and did Cobra as a side project. It had a $30,000 goal and raised $51,128, and said he experienced first hand how difficult the next steps were, so he set out to create tools to help other people in his position.

Shopstarter launched a year ago.

One way to look at this situation is that Kennberg built a startup to solve his own problem, which is generally considered a good reason to start a business. However, it’s also ironic that a man dedicated to turning Kickstarter projects into real businesses can’t manage to ship his own project.

Backers are calling him out for hypocrisy, saying that he is not the best person for this job. Maybe if Kennberg hadn’t been building Shopstarter, the wallets would be shipped and in backers’ hands. But we don’t know this.

Kennberg and Moore posted an update to the Cobra wallet page this morning detailing some of their manufacturing hiccups and proclaiming their innocence.

“Can you imagine how much time we spent and stress we had while dealing with all the issues?” they said. “We had no intention in tricking you to accept an 18-month project by pretending it was a four-month project. … What would we have to gain? We don’t want you to be pissed and would love to work out a solution that’s reasonable for everyone.”

More information:

Kickstarter is an online platform for funding creative projects. Once a project is approved by the Kickstarter team, the creator of the project must set their own goal for how much they would like to raise and a deadline to raise the m... read more »

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