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Knog halts PWR campaign; What that could mean for all Kickstarter backers

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Australian accessory maker Knog first let us know over the weekend that they had just decided to pull the plug on the recent Kickstarter for their PWR range project. We had just featured it a week earlier and it was likely on track to getting funded, although as they put it: underwhelmingly. The reason why was that they saw feedback from a few vocal supporters of their previous crowdfunding for the Oi bell that weren’t happy with how that product and delivery was turning out. As Knog puts it “out of respect for that community response” they decided to end the campaign before it got funded. What does that mean for backers of this project? And with the growing number of failures, delays, hiccups, and increasingly expensive projects on Kickstarter, what does that mean for the continued prospects of crowdfunded bike products…

brim-brothers-pods

There is no doubt that the idea of Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and the like is here to stay, but after a number of recent announcements from companies about problems with their projects, delays, or campaigns, it bears repeating that crowdfunding is risky, if also sometimes very rewarding. We’ve seen plenty of good products come out of Kickstarter, but then recently Brim Brothers completely gave up on delivering their power meter leaving backers empty handed, and out a substantial amount of money.

Usually working with a known company offers a bit more reliability, but it is still not 100%.

Knog_Oi_handlebar-bike-bell_sizes

Knog’s Oi bell seems to have been mostly a success, but still about 400 bells (out of 37,000 produced) had a production flaw that left 1% not ringing properly. And the project was already behind schedule, even from a reputable company like Knog who has a lot of experience in design, production, and delivery. And then there is also the fact that some think the bell is too quiet for truly urban use, something you only really can know if you can try a product in person at your local bike shop, or rely on the past experiences of others (like us at Bikerumor trying to give you reliable product reviews.)

Knog might be a good example then, of a company that is doing crowdfunding right, even if they’ve had their own missteps. They weren’t satisfied with 1% of failures for the Oi. They have a quality standard for 0% failures, and continue to back that up replacing anything that doesn’t work from the start. But some of those early backers who were “understandably” dissatisfied, plus the remaining handful of backers that had their deliveries held up by the quality control issues, were vocal that Knog shouldn’t go ahead on a new Kickstarter, while the Oi was not yet totally fulfilled. Once they recognized that customers really had an issue with them going forward with a second Kickstarter campaign while the other wasn’t really resolved (Knog says they set full shipping of the Ois as their internal milestone before the new project, but realizes that is different than products in customers’ hands) , they shut it down quick before credit cards got charged.

Knog’s takeaway on the process has been to not get ahead of themselves. As they put it, “pledges are for project Creators as much as Products.” That means to them that they must “make sure you can provide confidence to all backers, existing and new, by having total closure on a previous campaign before launching a new one. We learnt the hard way, so we would be very respectful of that if we return to Kickstarter.”

knog-pwr_modular-power-system_complete-line

Back to PWR itself, Knog assures us that there is no problem with the products or their development, and Knog still plans to go ahead with a launch in 2017. But it will get a quite different approach and schedule. They still see Kickstarter as a “great launch platform from both a financial and awareness point of view.” It lets them gauge interest and get more direct consumer feedback when they dip into a new product category, so actually encourages innovation within the company vs. sticking with more status quo products.

In the end they say that Kickstarter helped nudge the bell into reality, but they still went through their same R&D steps, which resulted in more design revisions than expected and ultimately put them behind schedule. While that usually would have happened before commitments had been made to buyers, here it was also an issue of contention. Knog reiterates that even using crowdfunding to accelerate interest, they “did not – nor ever would – cut corners for any customers, consumer or distributor” to bring their products to market.

Cyclotron_hubless-spokeless-smart-bike-Kickstarter_overall

motion-france-suspension-fork-anti-dive-damped-carbon-blade-travel-adjust-4

What is the take away out of all this?

Well there have recently been some crowdfunding campaigns with big buy-ins of over $1000€ for products like a hub-less bike and a leaf-spring fork. The more experienced company out of that looks like they won’t meet their goal, while the seeming newcomers raised 3x their target and got funded. Then there are established companies like Taga cargo bikes and BSX’s electronics that have pulled in more than $1 million each in funding on projects that are still a while out from completion.

How all of those new projects will deliver products to consumers is still up in the air…

oorr cycliq-duo-mount-gamin-wahoo-gopro-virb-cateye-computer-camera-handlebar-4

My personal thought is that crowdfunding belongs to products under around $100€. I’ve personally supported a few campaigns, and carry a multitool most places that I go that I picked up on Kickstarter. But my feeling now when I contribute, is that the money paid is disposable. When the designer delivers, great. But if they don’t I’ll chalk it up to supporting someone who had a creative idea. Maybe for projects bigger and costlier than that, the companies should look to serious investors who can truly vet its function, valuability on the market, and whether the company can really deliver and continue to support their new products.

We’ll keep covering crowdfunding, and things like clothing & accessories continue to look like great ways to support new and different  product ideas. There is a lot of innovation going on from small companies. Just proceed with caution…

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Erik
Erik
6 years ago

You’re not “covering crowdfunding”, you’re regurgitating content from Kickstarter pages with no journalistic due diligence. You want to talk about the state of crowdfunding? You and other sites like you are a large part of the problem. You give projects a greater voice with zero insight on the feasibility of the campaign, the product, or the company’s expected ability to deliver what they’re promising. Instead you go for the easy clicks by just touting some product you’ve never laid hands on. You lend the projects credibility they have not earned and debase yourself in the process. Do yourself a favor, put the slightest effort into your work; it might earn you some of the respect you clearly lack, even for yourself.

…or you can moderate this comment away like the other ones I’ve left on your postings about Kickstarter campaigns. Your choice.

Tyler Benedict
Admin
6 years ago
Reply to  Erik

Erik,
I appreciate your enthusiasm for the stories behind crowd funding campaigns, but wanted to clarify how and why we cover them. Your comments suggest that we should dive deeper into the project and assess whether or not it’s likely to succeed, whether the team behind it is worthwhile and likely to pull it off, and if the product merits the value or attention. Those are all worthwhile subjects, perhaps for a business magazine, but it’s simply not the purpose of Bikerumor…and it’s certainly not because we don’t respect ourselves or our readers enough to do so. It’s because our focus is on sharing the news on what’s new and interesting in an unbiased way and letting the readers decide for themselves if that product/service/campaign is of interest to them. And the reader has the ability to decide if the risk/reward of any campaign is right for them…that’s not a decision we can make for anyone else.

We tend to curate our news to present only the most interesting or useful products and info, which could be considered a small form of bias. We think of it as a way of not wasting our readers’ time with stuff that we don’t think matters. As for the viability of any crowd funding campaign, there are simply too many variables to do a full review of its feasibility, but we do reach out to many of them for additional details and to verify facts when there’s missing or incomplete information on the product. I’ve personally done that three separate times in the past two weeks. For others, we know the people behind them and trust them, which was the case with Knog.

Sincerely,
Tyler

Robin
Robin
6 years ago
Reply to  Tyler Benedict

Well said.

2pacfan187
6 years ago
Reply to  Tyler Benedict

> As for the viability of any crowd funding campaign
> we do reach out to many of them for additional details and to verify facts

In the Cyclotron article: https://bikerumor.com/2016/07/20/cylcotron-hubless-spokeless-bike-getting-funded-kickstarter/

BR makes a passing attempt at assessing the viability of the bike:
“There is no talk of geometry and seeing it ridden, it seems like it isn’t the most stable bike in a straight line that I’ve ever seen. Here’s hoping that is sorted out in the production process.”

but only in the middle of what amounts to copying their press release. I think it would be fine to be more harsh on what is obviously a flawed product.

Bob
Bob
6 years ago

Bought a Kong bell and was underwhelmed with the volume. Looks cool, nice tone but not loud enough to be effective. If walkers are wearing earbuds (seems 90% of people here do) then forget it all together. Bought it thinking it would be a more pleasant way to alert walkers so they don’t get mad at cyclist. I took it off and went back to calling out. Can change how loud I call out depending if they have earbuds in or not.

Groghunter
Groghunter
6 years ago
Reply to  Bob

Very much this. So much so that I have to take issue with “Knog’s Oi bell seems to have been mostly a success, but still about 400 bells (out of 37,000 produced) had a production flaw that left 1% not ringing properly. ” in the article. That is the narrative Knog is claiming, but it seems like the the satisfaction rate with the volume on the big bells is below 50%, & is damn near 0% on the small ones. Even the knockoffs on Amazon have poor reviews for volume.

Groghunter
Groghunter
6 years ago
Reply to  Cory Benson

I was faulting them for the design simply not being loud enough, period. I mentioned the knockoffs as an example that it isn’t the manufacturing that’s the problem, or a bad batch as Knog implies, but that the design is inherently flawed, regardless of who actually makes it.

joby
joby
6 years ago
Reply to  Bob

Agreed. Have the large and going to take it off and replace with a Spurcycle bell – so much louder. The small I have is one of the “thud” run and I really don’t even want the replacement; there was so much promise with this and I’m super disappointed with the products. Probably won’t ever ‘bet’ on a Kickstarter/Crowdfunding project again.

ERIK
ERIK
6 years ago

@Bob here we use cow bells on the bikes- they are LOUD, and still some walkers with earbuds cant hear… you cant alert stupid to their impending doom. #truestory

Bob
Bob
6 years ago
Reply to  ERIK

Well said ERIK, well said.

mudrock
mudrock
6 years ago

The highest risk I’ve taken on Kickstarter was a little multi-tool and the Otto lock, small ventures that don’t involve a huge amount of complexity and engineering. Ambitious projects, requiring a lot of r&d, should stay away from these campaigns. To me, the Volagi Kickstarter campaign, by a couple guys who know the industry and need funds to take it to the big boys (Specialized, Trek), is the perfect use of this idea, and a wonderful success story.

Chris MacDonald
Chris MacDonald
6 years ago

I got a pair of Oi bells, they’re both getting replaced. I’ll echo the comment above; I *really* doubt we’re talking about only 1%. How much more I have no idea, but 1% is as optimistic as the volume of the ring produced by this design of bell, or completing a campaign on time… 😉

I think there were lots of mistakes to go around here; the design itself likely limits the volume, but naturally no one from Knog is going to actually say that, especially as the entire reason for having a bell is to have it heard. Another pitfall of the design is that the way the metal bar/ringer is suspended on the plastic, (and how my particular bells seem to have been misaligned such that the ringer ‘leans’ in one direction or another loosely rather than align with the plastic carrier) means that tolerances are so tight that water ingress *significantly* reduces the volume (far more than the Spurcycle bell I have in the wet). So much so it sounds like knocking two spoons together. I live in Vancouver, BC, this thing obviously needs to work in the rain. 😉

IMO the volume ceiling and rain worthiness are things that should have cropped up and caught in design and testing while the misalignment of the ringer is probably a production QA thing. Though if you want to be picky, if the design is so frail as to open itself up to these sorts of issues in production, one could argue it’s a design failure as well.

Having had various Knog lights, a lock, and now these bells, they make nice *looking* things but I’ve yet to own anything of theirs that’s really stood out functionally. In fact ‘superior design’ has seemingly often come at the expense of functionality which I think is unfortunate, and honestly why I tend not to buy their stuff to begin with. Ah well.

Chris MacDonald
Chris MacDonald
6 years ago

I should add though that despite what I think of their design ethos they have backed up their product and I, as well as others, are getting replacements, so good on them. I have no doubt they’re good folks, I suppose I simply have an incompatible set of demands for the things I buy and use.

Groghunter
Groghunter
6 years ago

I think it’s important to add some context to that statement: if you have a genuinely non-functional bell, yes, they are taking care of you.

If you bought them in the first place based on their pitch video that was extremely misleading as to the usability of the bell(meaning, loud enough to actually be useful as a bike bell,) you are squarely in “buyer beware” territory. They aren’t even really acknowledging the fact that the design simply isn’t viable, & that their KS video demonstrated a product that we simply didn’t get.

Ford
Ford
6 years ago

still bloody waiting for mine, not happy with being ignored

joby
joby
6 years ago
Reply to  Ford

Ford – you want mine? Brass big and black small.

Hugh Mungus
Hugh Mungus
6 years ago

Sorry but if everything they make needs a kickstarter to fund it, is this a company to buy from? Just saying

Allan
Allan
6 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Mungus

Truth. IMO crowdfunding is a nice concept, but the economic reality tells me it’s a bad idea. Either the company needs someone else to help pay to make their products, or you have proven revenue-generating companies taking the easy way out on a new idea. Despite some good ideas and success stories that have come from crowdfunding, it also promotes a lot of underqualified people from attempting something they really don’t much about (the TRON bike is a perfect example), and laziness from others (“meh…not the best idea and it may not work, but hey just throw it up on Kickstarter, maybe we’ll get some bites and have other people pay for this idea to come to life”).

Also, in regards to BR and Kickstarter stories…come on, I don’t think I’ve read one article (other than the half-hearted line in the TRON bike story) where a critical word was cast upon an idea. Not every idea that has been posted on BR is a good idea, and though we don’t expect an article on these ideas to rip them to shreds, but as posted above, a lot of these stories read as press releases. Let’s not pretend people aren’t influenced by things they read on legitimate websites like this one. If it’s on BR, it should be a good idea, a viable product, and safe to put my money into it. “Everyone makes their own decisions about whether to back something or not” is easy to say, but the reality media has a huge influence on how people view something.

.: r|b :.
.: r|b :.
6 years ago

Yeah at the end of the day the Oi bell turned out to be a dud but I was the one who pledged for it. No one put gun to my head. I simply didn’t ask enough questions to properly evaluate the product. The product looked solid and since I just backed for one bell it wasn’t a big deal. I took a risk and I learnt my lesson. Will proceed with caution in analysis going forward. C’est la vie.

On the flip side…I’m looking forward to seeing if my Silca T-Ratchet and Ti-Torque tool lives up to the higher expectations I have for it.

Eric
Eric
6 years ago

I got two bells out of the kickstarter. Also disappointed. Overall quality is lower than I expected.

I’ve had so many issues with their lights that I never intended to buy another Knog product. I took a risk on the bell. Now I’m definitely not buying another Knog product.

McT
McT
6 years ago

I’m quite happy with my Oi, both in terms of build quality and volume

Andy W
Andy W
6 years ago

I’ve backed 16 projects now on Kickstarter over the last 2 and half year and it’s generally been a good experience. Mostly it’s been maker stuff but a few cycle related one’s

I’ve still not got the Reelight and not sure I ever will.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1651132789/neo-worlds-most-powerful-friction-free-bikelight

The Ding light was late but pretty good
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dingbikelight/ding-bike-lights

And the Weatherneck has been good
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fixitsticks/the-weatherneck-an-updated-bandana-for-outdoor-adv

My most expensive thing was a $152 maker board (which is now late) and I don’t think I’d want to spend anymore than that with the very real chance a project may fail.

Tom
Tom
6 years ago

Another unhappy bell customer here. I bought the 5-pack. The larger ones are marginally OK, but the small ones are useless. The spring for the striker seems woefully undersized. Currently pursuing return/refund. Slow going. Spurcycle bells are expensive, but astounding!

Aaron J. Humphrey
Aaron J. Humphrey
6 years ago

I bought a 5-pack as well, and received an empty padded envelope. I keep pinging them for an update and just got a promise that my original order will be with the ‘new’ bells. Not happy with customer support, can’t speak to the product yet, but the shine is definitely off that t*rd.

Kneel
Kneel
6 years ago

Has anybody looked at putting in a stronger spring on the striker? I have a ton of springs laying around at work. I may try to put a stronger one in.

Mint Zebra
Mint Zebra
6 years ago

I don’t support established companies launching a product on Kickstarter.

To me it’s lazy and a cheap ‘out’ to make a product without an investment or risk that the market might not want.
For established companies to crowd fund products creates a culture of ‘Let’s throw it against the wall and see if it sticks”! This is not the way to grow your business.

Be a grown up and take responsibility for the successes and failures in your business. Shimano has had some real stinkers: Biopace, Rapidrise, MTB Dual Control…. but they’ve had some great successes too. And they didn’t ask me, as a consumer, to pay for them to develop these products.

I think that the idea behind a Kickstarter campaign (and the spirit of crowd funding in general) is to give entrepreneurs the opportunity to create and launch a product that they couldn’t otherwise afford to do.

Knog is a large, established, international brand.
If they want to make a new product why should they expect their customers to carry the burden of funding it? Put on your Big Boy Pants, go to work and run your business.

SeattleCycle
SeattleCycle
6 years ago

I’m not sure what Knog’s actions say about Kickstarter (who cares?), but Knog’s PWR design was friggin’ stupid. It was a bike light, and a bluetooth speaker, and a headlamp, and a lantern. And they all share a… battery?

Here is a complete list of all the things I want my bike light to do:
1. Be a good bike light
2. There is no #2.

I don’t want to drain my bike light battery listening to my Doobie Brothers box set. And a lantern… why does a biker need that?

A headlamp? For bike camping? What percentage of Knog’s core uses bike camp?

Don’t be stupid, Knog.

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