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S’pore Kickstarter product fails to deliver after raising more than S$30,000

There have been no updates since April 2016.

Belmont Lay |Mandy How | April 18, 2017 @ 12:57 pm

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Update, April 20, 2017, 15.05pm (See bottom of article for updates): Gabriel Wong, the founder of WOLO Life Clock Kickstarter campaign, has published a post on his personal Facebook page following the publication of this article.

Kickstarter is a platform for entrepreneurs to entice the masses to give money so funds can be raised and projects can materialise, all in a bid to make products for people. 

Since its entry into the Singapore market on Aug. 31, 2016, local entrepreneurs have been making their mark with ingenious products and surpassing funding goals.

However, as with everything that has to do with money, sometimes things are not all rosy on the crowdfunding scene as it seems.

 

WOLO Life Clock project

According to a tip-off sent to Mothership.sg, the WOLO Life Clock Kickstarter project has gone silent after raising more than S$30,000 from 118 backers of the project.

The WOLO Life Clock is a reverse clock that counts down the seconds to remind individuals of their life span and the urgency to live to the fullest as the next big event draws near.

Their funding period ran from Jan. 6, 2016, to Feb. 10, 2016, — a total of 35 days — and the product was supposed to be delivered in May 2016.

But May 2016 came and went with no products delivered. Worse, the last update provided by makers for the backers was in April 26, 2016:

The update informed the backers of a two to three-month delay on the delivery of the product due to new partners.

For the uninitiated, products from Kickstarter do not always come to fruition despite the best efforts of entrepreneurs and manufacturers. High-profile failures have happened.

Just that with high-profile failures, there is no running away from the publicity and being accountable to people who have put money into the project.

WOLO has gone quietly

But since no WOLO product was eventually delivered, multiple backers have been asking for their products, or even just updates from the company:

 

They are also understandably furious, and spoke of legal action:

 

One of the backers noted that the founder’s last login was on Nov. 9, 2016:

 

At this time of writing, the WOLO website has been taken down, while their Facebook page remains, but with no updates. (Update, April 20, 2017: It appears the WOLO Facebook page has also been removed after publication of this article.)

 

Who are the founders of WOLO?

Acting on information provided by the tip-off, two people believed to be involved with WOLO have been identified.

This is a photo posted on the Kickstarter page of four people who claim to be friends and who started the WOLO campaign:

The most recognisable person from the group is one Gabriel Wong:

Working 13 hours a day recently but it felt so fulfilling! #iamcapital #lifestyle #wolo

A post shared by Gabriel Davis Wong (@lifestyle_artist) on

Life of a start up. Cup noodles 😂 #shopsimple #capital #iamcapital

A post shared by Gabriel Davis Wong (@lifestyle_artist) on

 

The second person involved in the project, is apparently the current founder of DamnWorthIt, a lifestyle site thing:

Jan. 6 is also the date the WOLO Life Clock launched on Kickstarter

Facebook post:

According to Google cache:

According to Google cache:

Discrepancies in project information

The responsibility of projects ultimately lie with backers.

According to Kickstarter, projects that appear on the platform are not Kickstarter’s responsibility.

The onus of evaluating whether a project has merit and is worthy to be backed falls solely on backers themselves.

And this is where some red flags would have been raised if backers pored through the information available about the WOLO Life Clock.

Firstly, although the WOLO campaign was started by people in Singapore, it is listed on Kickstarter as originating from Farmington Hills, Michigan.

Secondly, a video put up on the Kickstarter page also shows one Jason Miller as from the WOLO Development Team. But a search online does not bring up any matches of such a person.

The only publicly available information about the company behind WOLO is a Linkedin profile

Furthermore, a majority of the S$30,000 sum raised came from two S$10,000 pledges, suggesting that this campaign was backed by institutional backers and not small sums raised from multiple individuals.

Abiding by the Kickstarter logic, having the backing of multiple small-time individual pledges generally bodes better for a project than having a few bigger-time pledges. This is so as having the backing of many people shows the project has wider reach and less risk of a big backer pulling out and causing the project to fail.

 

One last bit of irony:

We have reached out to Wong, one of the identified persons related to WOLO, for comment and will update this article when he replies.

Time is really winding down.

 

Update, April 20, 2017, 15.05pm

Gabriel Wong, the founder of WOLO Life Clock Kickstarter campaign, has published a post on his personal Facebook page some eight hours after the publication of this article on April 18, 2017.

He wrote:

Some of you reached out to me regarding an article written about me and my failed project on Kickstarter 2 years ago. Thank you for your concern. It is definitely something that I’ve been overlooking and pushing away. I’ve no excuses for it, it is definitely my fault for not handling it properly but for what it’s worth, I would like to share what happened and learning points from my mistake so you don’t have to make them.

In the post, he gave a few reasons why the project failed and said “it is definitely my fault for not handling it properly”.

He also claimed some 70 to 80 percent of refunds have been made so far and he couldn’t update the Kickstarter campaign page because a partner in the United States was in charge of creating the Kickstarter account.

Following the publication of this story, a Kickstarter backer of the WOLO campaign emailed Mothership.sg a screenshot showing a fresh log in made on April 18, 2017, by the campaign starter.

According to the comments left on the Kickstarter page, the last log in before this by the campaign starter was in Nov. 9, 2016.

Any updates about the product was made on an earlier date in April 2016.

A search online for the name “Jessica Pellegrino”, as seen in the screenshot, did not yield any meaningful results that would shed light on her identity or her role in the WOLO project.

It also appears the WOLO Facebook page has been taken down following the publication of this article.

But not before a new update was posted after more than 10 months of inactivity:

According to Kickstarter’s official terms of use document, creators and backers enter into a legal agreement and there are terms that govern that contract:

Throughout the process, creators owe their backers a high standard of effort, honest communication, and a dedication to bringing the project to life.

[…]

If a creator is unable to complete their project and fulfill rewards, they’ve failed to live up to the basic obligations of this agreement. To right this, they must make every reasonable effort to find another way of bringing the project to the best possible conclusion for backers.

According to Wong’s post, he is now offering refunds to remaining backers but they will need to contact him personally at [email protected]

This email address for backers to contact the product’s founder to seek refunds was also posted on the Kickstarter comments section by one backer on April 18.

 

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About Belmont Lay

Belmont can pronounce "tchotchke".

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