There’s no denying that without Kickstarter, many artists and inventors whom we now love would never have gotten off the ground. Without GoFundMe, people who really need some help would have to go without. Without Indiegogo, entrepreneurs would have to spend all of their time and energy chasing after investors—or at least appear on an episode of Shark Tank.
Yes, there are a lot of uplifting stories of success in the land of crowdfunding. These are not those stories.
Some projects are too strange, too silly, or too flat-out confusing to be believed. They get their funding, too.
We’re not sure who’s forking over their hard-earned dollars to make these wacky dreams come true, but we’re glad they did. It’s not so much that we can use the products coming out of these campaigns; it’s that we can definitely use the lols.
1. Laser Razor
We wanted to love Laser Razor; we really did. The campaign, launched by a company called Skarp, aimed to create a razor that used lasers to provide a smooth, even shave. The initial Kickstarter campaign generated $4 million…before it was promptly shut down.
You see, Kickstarter requires inventors to have a working prototype before they can receive crowdfunding income. Laser Razor was a cool idea, but it didn’t exist; that technology is light years away, and yes, that was an intentional pun. Investors received full refunds. End of story, right? Nope.
Not to be deterred, Skarp re-launched the campaign on Indiegogo, collecting more than $440,000. That time they did provide a prototype, which you can see below. Try to imagine shaving with this thing. Even if it worked, in order to work quickly, it would probably carve out big sections out of your face. There’s a reason why Jedi don’t shave with lightsabers.
Still, we wish Skarp luck. Shaving with a laser would be really cool, and even if the technology’s not there, at least someone is thinking outside the box.
2. Triton Artificial Gills
Since 2013, the Triton team worked to develop the latest in diving technology: wearable gills that were billed as an advanced oxygen respirator capable of allowing humans to spend extended periods of time underwater.
The artificial gills were incredibly small and looked like a groundbreaking, space-age invention. That should have been a warning sign.
As word of the Triton spread, scientific scrutiny started popping up. Dr. Alistair Dove, director of research and conservation at Georgia Aquarium, noted that the device would have to filter through 90 liters of water to provide sufficient oxygen for a human body.
Eventually the company came clean, admitting that the artificial gills aren’t a standalone cure for, uh, drowning. The team refunded $900,000…then re-launched the campaign with a new model, which would feature replaceable liquid oxygen cartridges.
“We have to warn anyone even briefly considering this crowdfunding campaign that they need to consider very, very carefully putting a single dollar to this product,” wrote Stephan Whelan of DeeperBlue, an online diving community “There is no actual proof the tiny ‘liquid oxygen cylinder’ technology exists as they describe it.”
The new campaign quickly attracted $300,000.
3. Sprayable Energy
Love coffee, but hate the taste of coffee?
Well…that’s strange, but Sprayable Energy has you covered. It’s an energy mist that you spray on your skin to get your caffeine fix without actually drinking or eating anything.
We’d be lying if we said that we didn’t want to try it, although we do question some of their marketing language. For example, “What if you never had to worry about being tired again?” seems to indicate that this is something other than caffeine—and as anyone who’s pounded coffees to pull an all-nighter will tell you, although caffeine is amazing, it has its limits.
Nevertheless, Ars Technica reporters found that it might actually work. The spray’s active ingredient is Caffenium 1X HPUS, which sounds kind of terrifying but cool, and the product relies on a legitimate-looking, patent-pending process for increasing caffeine solubility. The Ars Technica people said that they wouldn’t be switching away from coffee anytime soon, though, and warned that if you drink a lot of caffeine already, Sprayable Energy probably won’t be a game changer for you.
4. Crystal Wash 2.0
Crystal Wash 2.0 promises “clean laundry with no detergents.” The Kickstarter campaign received pledges of $268,368—well over the $100,000 goal—and the product made it to market.
By the way, the 2.0 isn’t just marketing mumbo jumbo; this campaign was for the second version of the laundry balls. The problem is that the science behind the Crystal Wash 2.0 is somewhat dubious. The company claims to create a “hydrogen peroxide effect” by rubbing ceramic against the water.
This cannot happen. In fact, as Gizmodo reports, the Federal Trade Commission issued a consumer report warning against laundry balls in 1999, noting that the molecular structure of water can’t be really altered by hitting it with pebbles.
But does it work? Well…we’re skeptical. Reviewed.com wrote: “When it comes to stain removal, Crystal Wash does not work any better than hot water. And, when it comes to some important stains, Crystal Wash often works far worse than laundry detergent.”
Nevertheless, Crystal Wash balls have 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Get a set of two here for $60.
5. Signal Proof Headwear
Ever wish you had a really stylish tinfoil hat?
Meet Signal Proof Headwear. It’s designed to prevent many types of electromagnetic waves from, uh, entering your skull.
“One day we had a conversation with my cousin,” the creator wrote. “He talked about one night he could not fall asleep and thought it might be caused by wi-fi or cell phone signal. He said that he would appreciate something that protects his head during the night.
“Then we started to think. What if there is a grain of truth in this story. Our bodies are exposed to a variety of signals the whole day – cell phones, wi-fi, satellites, tv and radio, microwaves, electric devices, lights or heavy doses of cosmic rays during the flight.”
As the Kickstarter campaign pointed out, the headgear is “not blocking for 100%…but better than nothing.” Well, to be clear, it’s not necessarily better than nothing.
Microwaves, infrared rays, standard radio waves, and long-wave radio waves are all types of non-ionizing radiation. That means that these types of radiation don’t have enough energy to remove the electron from an atom. They can’t cause cancer or disturb your cells. There’s no scientific evidence that these rays affect your health at normal doses.
That’s not to say that they can’t have any effect. Microwaves, for example, can heat things up, but microwave strength drops sharply with distance. We can’t say with complete certainty that there’s no truth to Signal Proof Headwear’s premise—we suppose that your Wi-Fi could be keeping you from falling asleep at night. It’s just extremely unlikely. It’s far more likely that staring at a screen is keeping you awake.
In any case, the company’s caps do look pretty spiffy, so even if they don’t provide any sort of protection for your health, at least they don’t hurt your style.
6. Watermelon Straps
This 2013 Kickstarter campaign failed, and we assume that the 2013 watermelon crop encountered untold losses as a result.
Watermelon straps were—wait for it—straps for your watermelon. Creator Mike Draghici explained the project:
“The idea behind Watermelon Straps was simple. During our July 4th vacation, we purchased a watermelon at the grocery store. It was a pain carrying it around and lifting it in/out of the shopping cart. The plastic bag wasn’t big enough to fit the watermelon either. Then, when we got home and in the kitchen we accidentally dropped it on the floor trying to hold it right and the watermelon broke! So lame!”
“We have several large supermarket grocery stores considering our straps. We need to make sure we have the capital and distribution capabilities to keep up with production and demand.”
The campaign earned $330, which was well below its $25,000 goal. In our opinion, Draghici was short sighted: Why make watermelon straps when you can make a more general-purpose set of straps for any melon?
7. Potato Salad by Zack Danger Brown
We’d like to end this article with the greatest Kickstarter campaign ever created…or the worst, depending on your point of view. A guy named Zack Danger Brown came up with the idea to make potato salad…and, yep, that’s the entire campaign.
It quickly became a viral phenomenon in 2014. Although Brown initially set a goal of $10, he eventually received pledges of more than $55,000. To his credit, he gradually upped the ante for his “investors,” offering incentives like “receive a bite of the potato salad” and “hang out in the kitchen with me while I make the potato salad.”
The best part of the initial campaign was the “risks and challenges” section, which read: “It might not be that good. It’s my first potato salad.”
Some people were outraged by the stunt, claiming that Brown was taking advantage of the public somehow. That wasn’t the case; he donated the money to charity (sans the expense of the potato salad ingredients).
“I mean, it is going into charity,” Brown said of the money in an interview with TechCrunch, “but let’s say it wasn’t, let’s say I am keeping it all. There are comedians who charge $50,000 per appearance. I’m not in the wrong.”
He’s got a point. There are a lot of questionable projects on crowdfunding sites, but this clearly wasn’t one of them—everyone got exactly what they paid for.