For Jon Fawcett, Kickstarter success came with an unusual soundtrack: an air horn.
The din started on May 7, 2012, the day Fawcett and his colleagues at Fuse Chicken, a four-person design outfit in Akron, Ohio, launched their first Kickstarter campaign. They were trying to raise funding for Une Bobine, a product of Fawcett’s design that stuffed an iPhone charging cable inside a metal gooseneck, allowing it to double as a flexible docking station and makeshift tripod. It was a simple, clever idea, and the team set out with the modest goal of raising $9,800 to put it into production.
In anticipation of their micro-windfall, the Fuse Chicken office prepared a ceremony of sorts. In the days leading up to the campaign, team members downloaded a slew of sound effects to their computers, with the idea that they’d play them in celebration whenever they received a new pledge. Fawcett’s sound effect was an air horn. Starting that Monday morning when the project launched, every time he’d get an email notification that a pledge was made, Fawcett would let the horn blast forth from his speakers. Then his co-founders would join in the fanfare with sounds of their own--a cacophonous, call-and-response ode to their crowdfunded success.
"That lasted for about two days," Fawcett says.
In the week following the launch, the Bobine racked up a good deal of favorable press coverage. Pledges poured in, and the air horn threatened to upset the collective mental health of the office. It was promptly abandoned. Still, things remained stomach-turningly tense, as unexpected, outsized success can often be.
"There were some days where every five minutes we would have a new backer pop through," Fawcett recalls. "To the point that I just had to close my email sometimes. I turned email notifications off on my iPhone. I closed Outlook. I’d just go sit in a quiet room for five minutes, just to get some sanity."
By the end of the 40-day campaign, in June, some 4,500 backers had pledged $212,265 to make Une Bobine a reality. Along the way, Fuse Chicken had expanded its offerings, introducing a micro USB version of the charger suitable for Android handsets, as well as a shorter length option for each version.
It was an undeniable, unmitigated Kickstarter triumph. But as Fawcett would quickly learn, it was just the beginning of the Bobine’s journey.
Kickstarter successes like Fawcett’s aren’t uncommon. Of the 100,000 projects launched on the site to date, nearly half of them have reached their funding goals, drawing in some $630 million in total pledges. Many are things that probably wouldn’t exist if not for Kickstarter.
Indeed, in the long journey from an idea’s inception to its reality as a product in the hands of a user, funding is an all-important early step. But it’s just one step. Once people have pledged their cash, they expect an actual product, and actually fulfilling an order--getting the product manufactured and in the hands of a customer--is a fantastically complex process.
That could be, in part, why Kickstarter’s been trying to discourage products like the Bobine in recent months. At one point, for every glowing story of Kickstarter successes you’d hear about, you’d see another one about a product failing to come together, or a team sheepishly announcing yet another delay.
That trend came to a head last September, when founder Perry Chen wrote a blog post entitled Kickstarter Is Not A Store, introducing a slew of rules to discourage the types of products that were prone to these sorts of issues. Now, Kickstarter’s in the process of reasserting itself as a community for artists to find funding, as opposed to a place where designers go to raise capital to build products.
Still, even now, scores of gizmos do make it onto the site, and there will be many more teams, like Fuse Chicken, who