- Hollis Johnson
- Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter allow anyone to pursue funding for their pipe dreams. With zero barrier to entry, the site has its fair share of weak ideas.
- The podcast “Your Kickstarter Sucks” documents the worst projects that crowdfunding sites have to offer from week to week.
- Podcast hosts Mike Hale and Jesse Farrar spoke to Business Insider about the most egregious Kickstarters they’ve seen over the years.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In the past decade, sites like Kickstarter have changed the landscape of fundraising – average people now have a platform to raise money for bold, new ideas without the red tape and financial barriers associated with traditional fundraising methods.
As it turns out, a lot of those bold, new ideas are absolutely terrible.
The podcast “Your Kickstarter Sucks” wades into Kickstarter’s murky underbelly. For the past two and a half years, the podcast has documented the worst projects that crowdfunding sites have to offer. Hosts Jesse Farrar and Mike Hale have become unofficial historians of bad Kickstarters, rounding up poorly-thought-out gadgets, tasteless creative projects, and blatant grifts from the world of crowdfunding.
The duo compares Kickstarter to a modern-day QVC, where an endless stream of hyper-specific products promise to improve the lives of customers. But unlike QVC, Kickstarter has no barrier to entry.
“It’s not just full-on scams,” Hale said. “There’s also just dumb guys who have dumb inventions that they usually make in their garage or something, and [with Kickstarter] they have a megaphone now.”
A Kickstarter spokesperson told Business Insider that the platform has a list of rules for campaigns and prohibits certain projects, including medical treatments, drugs, pornography, sweepstakes, and weapons. Campaigns that abide by these rules are fair game – Kickstarter doesn’t “pass judgement on the quality of those creative projects,” the spokesperson said.
Farrar and Hale spoke to Business Insider about the most egregious Kickstarters they’ve seen over the years. Here are some of the projects – or types of projects – that stand out for their tastelessness, dubious financials, or just plain bad ideas.
LICKI Brush, a tool designed to help you lick your cat.
The 2018 LICKI Brush purports to let cat owners participate in an “intimate licking ritual” with their pets.
“It’s a brush that you put in your mouth and act like a cat and lick your cat,” Hale said. “Just goofy landfill s— that just goes in the trash automatically.”
The project raised $52,179, surpassing its goal. The brush is now available for order online.
LICKI did not respond to a request for comment.
“Mein Waifu is the Fuhrer,” a Nazi-themed anime dating simulator.
This 2019 campaign solicited donations to fund an anime video game featuring infamous leaders from Nazi Germany reimagined as wide-eyed anime girls. Top-tier Kickstarter backers also received life-sized body pillows depicting the “waifu” – an online term for a female avatar which one is attracted to – Third Reich officers.
“This was not the same flavor of parody as [2019 film] ‘Jojo Rabbit’, this definitely seemed to have more of a passion for the source material,” Farrar said. “And that just sucked to me. It sucked that that was on there and that people like it that much and that Kickstarter doesn’t have a problem with it.”
The project raised $87,659, surpassing its goal. Kickstarter decided it wouldn’t remove the project because it classified as a parody and thereby complied with the site’s terms of service, it said in a statement to the Daily Beast.
One of the Kickstarter’s creators, reached for comment by Business Insider, said the purpose of the project is to poke fun at dictators and said it is in the same spirit of parody as “Jojo Rabbit,” adding that “our last game parodied Kim Jong Un’s North Korea, and our next game will be parodying the Soviet leaders and their allies.”
A “Meme Restaurant” that would offer “Tide Pod shakes,” hot “covfefe,” and burgers named after Harambe.
In one of Kickstarter’s more infamous campaigns, a 25-year-old and her teen brother pitched a restaurant that would serve dishes based on internet jokes and asked for $300,000 to get the restaurant off the ground in 2018.
The project was canceled within just 72 hours after it went viral and was spammed with messages from trolls, Vice reported. Farrar told Business Insider he thinks Kickstarters for restaurants are harmless but don’t make sense to seek to crowdfund the expenses of opening a single restaurant.
“It doesn’t hurt anybody but it seems like such a tragic misunderstanding of how Kickstarter actually works,” he said.
The creators did not respond to a request for comment.
An unending stream of “Cards Against Humanity” ripoffs, and similar adult-oriented party games.
Cards Against Humanity, the dark-humor card game for adults, is one of Kickstarter’s biggest success stories – the game went viral after raising $15,000 on the site in 2011. Since then, dozens of copycats have proliferated, usually selling “unofficial expansion packs” to the game that use the exact same gameplay with a specific angle.
Almost all of the card games lean into a random, shock-value brand of humor reminiscent of meme culture circa 2014.
“These games get churned out like once every week,” Farrar said. “They just have a sense of humor that I don’t share, where it’s like ‘Wacky Unicorn saves the day, and here’s a card where it’s the unicorn’s booger’ or whatever.”
Copycats of Cards Against Humanity over the years have included Guards Against Insanity, Crabs Adjust Humidity, Cards Against Originality, and Humanity Hates Trump. The original Cards Against Humanity has begun taking legal action against copycats, according to Kotaku.
None of the creators of these games responded to Business Insider.
An explosion of “smart” products that questionably claim to simplify your life.
Farrar and Hale have documented a slew of “smart” devices on Kickstarter of various devices that inexplicably incorporate AI, Bluetooth, or smartphone compatibility.
A sampling of such campaigns that have graced Kickstarter include a smart ring, smart bag, smart toothbrush, smart sunglasses, smart USB cable, smart umbrella, smart pillow, smart sleeping bag, smart tea infuser, smart cutting board, smart gulf club, smart gulf bag, smart deodorant holder, smart toilet flusher, and smart mug.
A minimalism trend across Kickstarter that went overboard.
Before Kickstarter’s obsession with “smart” devices came a fixation on minimalism, with a wave of products like a minimal pen, minimal key organizer, and countless minimal wallets, all of which offered pared-down designs of products most people already own. One designer even created a minimal nativity set meant to present “a minimum amount of features while still representing the story.”
“I guess for a couple years the number one problem was that stuff seemed too big? I don’t really know what minimalism meant when it came to a wallet,” Farrar said.
“Back in the 2000s everybody had huge wallets, just lugging them around with both arms,” Hale said sarcastically.
A high-tech “indoor drone” meant to protect your home.
The Aire is essentially meant to function like a home security smart device, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Nest, but with a turbine attached that ostensibly allows it to patrol multiple rooms in a house.
“Because of the fact that it was the size of a mini-fridge I just kept picturing the battery going out and it falling on my kid’s head,” Farrar said.
The project raised $84,464 on Kickstarter before its creators mysteriously pulled the campaign and reimbursed backers in late 2017. Its creators said they were “considering several unexpected business opportunities” that came up since they began the Kickstarter.
The project creators did not respond to a request for comment.