A Denmark-based company that had become one of Indiegogo’s most notable funding successes is now facing severe criticism from backers after joining a new Indiegogo pilot program that fails to promise a firm delivery time.
Airtame, which has raised $1.275 million to build a wireless streaming dongle, said recently it has joined a new program at Indiegogo called “forever funding.”
Indiegogo launched the “forever funding” pilot program last month, and it lets select fund-raisers continue to raise money on the crowdfunding platform even after the original deadline has passed.
“By allowing campaigns to continue after they reach their goals, this turnkey pilot project reflects the increased use of Indiegogo by businesses, artists, and activists who seek to attract and develop new audiences,” Indiegogo wrote in a blog post last month.
The backlash raises questions not just about Airtame’s reliability, but also about Indiegogo’s strategy to move beyond its crowdfunding roots and into a new space where it offers ongoing funding to established companies.
Airtame has not responded to a request for comment. An Indiegogo spokesman referred to the company’s blog post on the new program.
The problem from the point of view of many Airtame backers, based on comments on its Indiegogo page, is that they have still not received the original product.
“Wow a new campaign for new features! … oh wait, did I miss the part where I actually received the first product I paid for or are you raising money for more vaporware??” wrote one commenter.
Based in Copenhagen, Airtame has made a big splash since announcing its original fundraising campaign. The gadget it was building, which is called a “wireless HDMI,” would allow for high-speed sharing between different screens in a house or office without the need for a chaotic tangle of wires.
The response was overwhelming. The campaign raised $1,268,332 by the January 20, 2014 deadline. The goal was $160,000. The company was so hot, Engadget named it “best startup” at the International Consumer Electronics Show in 2014.
However, this success created problems for Airtame. Originally, the company had hoped to deliver the gadget to backers before the summer. But with the huge demand, it had to figure how to build and ship 15,000 units, far more than it originally anticipated.
So the company apologized and said shipments would be delayed.
“We want to thank everyone for your patience and support,” Airtame execs wrote in a blog post. “Please know that we are pouring our hearts and souls into this project. The BETA versions are expected to ship in July, with general shipping to backers starting in October and pre-orders to follow shortly after.”
Such delays are not unusual in crowdfunding campaigns. Pebble, for instance, had to push back its delivery time for its first smartwatch.
And there are signs that Airtame is coming around. According to Airtame’s shipping status page, the company has shipped some beta versions and will finally start shipping to its backers in November.
In the meantime, backers are worried that continuing to raise more money, either to build more dongles or to create a new product, is going to distract Airtame from delivering on its original promise.
“I agree with pretty much everyone before, get the first product out before you start trying to do something else clever,” wrote another backer. “It would be nice to know/ be told that this won’t have any effect on the shipping of the original backers’ rewards, but to be honest I doubt I would believe it, even if I were told that. I know these sort of things are not simple, but it would be nice to think that you were focussed on what you promised to deliver some time ago.”
Updated 10/24 with a response from Airtame:
In an email, the company said it was still committed to shipping devices to original backers next month. In addition, the company sent the following statement from Airtame chief executive Jonas Gyalokay:
“The product comes first for all founders. There’s a fine balance between delivering on time and delivering something awesome. Since most founders are perfectionist, the number one goal is to deliver something remarkable. And they’re ready to sacrifice everything else, rather than ship something where people go: ‘It just works.'”