We've covered several crowd-funded inventions here at InnovationNewsDaily, from fingertip caps that allow people to use their touchscreen devices without taking off their winter gloves, to a suborbital space shuttle. Some of these projects have drawn single donations in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. What happens if such projects fail to make the product they promised?
At Kickstarter, the Internet's largest online crowd-funding community, there's no money-back guarantee, NPR found. Although Kickstarter's policy says fundraisers should repay donators if their projects fail, there's no mechanism to do so. A Kickstarter co-founder NPR talked with seemed unsure about the extent to which the company would enforce its policy.
"The kind of thing you're talking about is not a bridge that has been crossed yet," Yancey Stickler told NPR. "Someday it will. And you know, I think if something did go awry, it would be — it wouldn't be my favorite day."
Kickstarter began as a way for people to support their favorite artists, NPR noted. As the site grew, however, engineers started to come on board to raise money for complex, costly inventions such as spacecraft and giant robots.
Ultimately, the way the site is set up now, refunds are up to the good will of fundraisers. As business professor Ethan Mollick told NPR, "Enthusiasm is ahead of [the] tools. So, Kickstarter is a very minimal system in some ways. It's not really built to police itself."