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The future of crowdfunding is threatened by money grabbers and scammers

StartupsFeatures
by Guy Wright, 14 Jul 2014Features
The future of crowdfunding is threatened by money grabbers and scammers

Crowdfunding websites have been springing up like mushrooms after a spring rain and some of the projects have been inspiring, innovative and worthwhile, but recently these sites have been swamped with less than noteworthy projects and more than a few scams.

I've been a fan of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo for a while now because they sometimes bring to light some ingenious ideas (and some downright silly ones too). But recently I've noticed more and more projects that are downright stupid, absurd, technologically impossible, derivative, self-serving or outright scams.

In the past month I've seen a bunch of automatic plant watering systems, a score of fitness apps, GPS tracking devices for kids/pets/bikes, quad-copters galore, device chargers, apps to teach kids how to read, various robot kits, more than a handful of 3D printers/cutters, numerous camera stabilisers, a myriad of solar-powered inventions, more bike gadgets than you can count and dozens of social media dating site ideas. And these are all legitimate projects put forward by people who honestly believe in what they are doing.

Mixed in with these are the 'I need a new car' or 'I need a new PC' or 'I want money to restore an antique vending machine' or 'let's build a sustainable garden in Pittsburgh' projects – basically people begging for money.

And there are the just plain silly projects like the Cube (a 1in square cube made out of aluminium... that's it... just a cube made out of aluminium) or the Bluetooth-enabled LED candle, colour changing T-shirts, a hot tub built into an old Cadillac, toothpaste tube squeezer, beer bong flow regulators and Bluetooth-enabled vibrators.

But there have been a growing number of ideas that hark back to the days of charlatans, swindlers, cons, frauds and quacks.

I've seen at least three time travel projects, half a dozen energy generating schemes that basically amount to perpetual motion, gas additives that claim to boost mileage, backyard space exploration projects, homemade fusion reactors and techniques for taking pictures of ghosts.

Sometimes these scams are amusing until you realise that many of them are actually getting people to pledge money. Seriously people? Do you honestly believe that someone can actually build a time machine or a homemade fusion reactor?

Unfortunately the crowdfunding ideas that are actually worthwhile are being buried by the mundane, stupid or blatant attempts to get rich quick based on pseudoscience and scams that have been around for hundreds of years.

I'm afraid that if the people who manage crowdfunding sites don't start weeding out the inane personal pleas for money, and the simply impossible or fraudulent projects, the whole concept of crowdfunding is going to slip into oblivion.

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