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Another Kickstarter kicks backers

Yet another crowdfunding campaign has gone sour, with GearEye backers losing hope they will ever receive their tracking device despite raising almost $1 million back in 2016.

Almost $1 million dollars and four years later, this is all GearEye has to show for itself.

GearEye raised $922K from 3870 backers on crowdfunding platforms, IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, to build a camera gear tracking device that uses RFID tags. The concept is to fix an RFID sticker on gear, scan and calibrate the RFID using the GearEye Dongle to a smartphone app, and track the gear if they are lost or stolen.

It doesn’t seem overly complicated but GearEye’s estimated shipping date, July 2017, came and went. To this day, backers report they haven’t received a product, and despite frequent updates they have completely lost their patience.

‘Happy anniversary everyone – it has been a long time without any product and just unsupported updates,’ writes backer, Scott Whiting, on KickStarter. ‘You might want to write this one off. I think we paid for updates – looks like this old and outdated technology isn’t going to be delivered but enjoy the empty updates.’

And here’s backer Mick from Australia: ‘When do Australian backers get the GearEye, seems that there is a lot of disgruntled people as we have been promised delivery but its been such a journey. A lot [of people] no longer want to support this project. I feel that some type of legal body or T&C in Kickstarter should be applied and money returned. It’s terrible and we the people had an honest view that this was going to be something of value, but has turned out quite the opposite.’

The Kickstarter page has over 1300 comments from backers.

GearEye initially aimed to raise just US$60K, with a pledge of US$129 buying a kit with 20 tags, so raising almost $1 million placed the fledgling company in good financial step to build the product. But against all odds, GearEye CEO Julia Lerner says a lack of financing almost killed the project!

‘The new small form factor was challenging and led us to an entirely new hardware design, which in turn, led to new software development, while the lack of financing almost killed the project,’ Lerner told PetaPixel. ‘But we finally succeeded, and there is no other mid-range RFID reader so small, lightweight, and easy to use.’

If the company actually almost went broke, it’d be fascinating to see how the finances were utilised!

Lerner has provided 44 updates on the Kickstarter page, and to date claims they have begun shipping and has provided blurred pictures of the product. The company has launched an app, but understandably many backers have had enough and either want a refund or more transparent updates with shipping schedules and direct communication. Some backers report that refunds requests have gone ignored.

There are claims by backers that GearEye is fraudulent. It seems more likely the management are horrendously incompetent and don’t possess the skills to manage this project despite ample financial support. GearEye has over promised and failed to deliver, with some updates lacking transparency and appearing to mislead backers. When looking at the big picture, it’s reasonable for supporters to suspect it’s a con.

Backing an inexperienced team is one of the big risks with crowdfunding. Sometimes projects are even an outright scam, such as the case of the X-Tra Battery – a fake crowdfunding campaign which raised over $300K to build a camera battery with increased capacity.

Individuals interested in crowdfunding gear projects should do their due diligence before fronting the cash. It’s worth carefully reading the concept pitch, research the brand or management team to find out their history and business/industry experience, ask questions, and so on. Although when trusted independent media promote the products, interested parties have reason to believe the project is credible.

Photo media hold responsibility

Unfortunately, many shonky projects do receive widespread coverage and promotion. Online photo media will unfortunately cover just about anything without much thought, in the never ending effort to keep fresh content on the homepage. Doing the bare minimum to churn out copy is rewarded, and there is naturally little to no journalistic effort. Slow news week? There is always some quirky or ambitious crowdfunding campaign to keep readers clickin’. With the X-Tra Battery rather than promote the product, all the photo media had to do was Google either name of the two project managers to find they had no online presence or profile. What a scoop!

Back in 2016 GearEye was published in Petapixel, DIYPhotography, Fstoppers, Dpreview, PDN Online, and Adorama. The coverage is entirely promotional, framing GearEye as a credible product without highlighting the risks of crowdfunding campaigns from unknown companies. While it doesn’t appear to be paid or sponsored content, the articles come across as advertorial.

‘Ready to take off for a certain photo shoot? Create a list of the gear you need to bring, and then app can quickly ensure that all those items are in your camera bag before you leave,’ writes Petapixel in 2016. ‘Once your shoot is done, you can do another headcount to make sure you’ve placed everything back into your bag. If anything is missing, the app can notify you and you can use the Dongle or Case to track down the missing item.’

And Dpreview: ‘GearEye has been created with photographers in mind, but of course would work with any other type of equipment or tools as well. The project has already passed its funding goal, so if all goes well the first units should be delivered in July 2017. Until tomorrow you can still secure a GearEye standard pack by pledging $129.

Canon Rumors stealthy promoted GearEye using a crowdfunding commission platform, KickBooster. It works by routing a hyperlink via KickBooster and over to the crowdfunding campaign, providing a paid percentage of each consequential sale to whoever published the link. The financial incentive to promote the campaign is undisclosed. Canon Rumors used KickBooster to promote the fraudulent X-Tra Battery, thereby unknowingly participating and benefitting from the rort.

Canon Rumors promoting GearEye:

I’ll be honest, I very rarely get excited about a product on Kickstarter, which is why it’s very rare to see us promoting any of the campaigns. However, this one is pretty cool. What is Gear Eye?

GearEye is a smart gear management system for on-the-go professionals. It enables you to manage your equipment through thick and thin: organization, tracking, and making sure you always have everything you need whether at home or on the job. GearEye is a game-changer for anything from the smallest messenger bag to the largest camera suitcase.

When photo media promotes shonky crowdfunding campaigns, it adds fuel to the flames that burns the backers.

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