Another Set of Failed Photography Kickstarters Leaves Backers Without Their Rewards or Refunds

Another Set of Failed Photography Kickstarters Leaves Backers Without Their Rewards or Refunds

net SE, the parent company for Meyer Optik and others, has now officially gone backrupt, and that means the thousands of backers of several Kickstarter campaigns will receive neither their lenses nor refunds. 

The company filed for insolvency in August, despite having raised several million dollars in multiple Kickstarter campaigns for rebooted production runs of classic lenses. The first outward sign of trouble was when it was announced that founder and CEO, Dr. Stefan Immes, had been in a serious car accident and would no longer run the company, although word of internal mismanagement has leaked out since. Nonetheless, with this announcement and the filing for insolvency, where the funds that were raised had gone and if any would make their way back to backers was unclear, but now that the bankruptcy is finalized, it's assured that thousands of backers will receive neither the products they selected nor a refund. I don't really mince words when it comes to how I feel about crowdfunding and photography gear, and I wrote a long piece about how I think it's a bad idea in general last year. It's unfortunate to see that another company's failure has left so many people out serious chunks of cash, but it's a good reminder to understand the risks before you back a crowdfunding campaign. 

Lead image by Pixabay user RJA1988, used under Creative Commons.

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29 Comments

Spy Black's picture

Kickstarter. The scammer's paradise...

David Pavlich's picture

Ouch...my son has a couple Meyer lenses. He's had some reliability issues with them. They take great pictures, but for a pro, I don't know that the lack of reliable performance makes for a good piece of kit.

Rob Davis's picture

Crowdfunding suckers assume all of the risk and share in none of the rewards of successful ventures. Nice work if you can get it. It is arguably in the top 5 of worst things the internet has ever created.

Matthew Saville's picture

I can't imagine giving more than a couple bucks to a Kicstarter campaign. A fool and his money are soon parted. Literally, a Ponzi scheme, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Tony Tumminello's picture

It's only a waste if you jump into it without doing any research. I've only joined a couple myself, but I researched the person and/or company each time before making any decisions. As such, all of them were funded and the rewards were delivered for every single one.

net SE wasn't one I backed as the lenses were expensive, and them asking for funding for multiple new lenses when they hadn't even delivered on the first ones should have been a massive, glowing red flag that screamed, "Don't waste your hard-earned cash." But I guess it takes getting burned for people to truly realize that Kickstarter is not a store.

Jeff McCollough's picture

What about PeakDesign?

Did they start out that way and grow out of it?? I've bought a couple of their straps and love them.

They started out with kickstarter and have had 8 kickstarter campaigns so far, latest one started few months ago. All of those have been very successful. Though I think some of their products haven't been part of any of the campaigns. I've understood that apparently their plan is to keep on using kickstarter in future too for new releases since it works so well for them. Honestly I would probably do the same if I were them, why try to get funding elsewhere if kickstarter is already working for you.

Jeff McCollough's picture

They started there like any other brand and have since grown a ton. They still use Kickstarter.

Spy Black's picture

Putting aside the honestly of the people involved, the technology to create Peak Design products is nowhere near the requirements needed to make lenses, manual focus or not.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Yeah that's true and I understand that but I think the point I was trying to make is that not all companies on Kickstarter are a scam.

Spy Black's picture

Understood, but I wonder what the rate of scammers to legits are. I don't think you're gonna get those numbers from Kickstarter. ;-)

Matthew Saville's picture

Jeff, I love Peak products, and they've been a great example of a company that manages its money right and delivers on its promises, from what I can tell.

HOWEVER, I can say from first-hand experience that I'd /never/ invest in a Kickstarter for a camera bag, of all things, due to the personal comfort issues that simply cannot be determined without putting the backpack on and actually using it.

The fact that their latest backpack was such an incredible success is shocking to me. People are just crazy.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Yeah I like to test out bags too but I never have been able to in my life as no stores near my house have bags.

Wait, beside the Kickstarter scam, I see that net SE is also the editor of ACDsee and Silkypix, two software praised by enthusiast photographers. So I guess they will shut down as well - that's sad...

jacob kerns's picture

Where are you seeing that? ACDsee is an independent company and so is Ichikawa Soft Laboratory aka Silkypix.

My bad, net SE isn't the owner, but the exclusive marketer and distributor for Europe. Not a good news anyway.

I'm always wary of these kinds of things. I think a lot of people on these sites just underestimate how much money they need. they also lack the actual skills needed to make the product they are promising. Backers beware, I guess.

Michael Jin's picture

I think that if you back a crowdfunding project, you have to go into it with the attitude that you'll be ok never seeing that money again. It would be really interesting to see some stats about what percentage of successfully crowfunded projects actually come to fruition and what percentage of those actually happen on schedule.

I won't go so far as to say that it's all a big scam (although this particular company does seem to have had some elements of a Ponzi scheme going on), but many people with great ideas just don't have realistic expectations when it comes to what is required to execute on those ideas.

I would have never backed any of these projects just because of the sheer dollar amounts involved, but if you're thinking about backing something, I would encourage people to think long and hard about what they stand to lose and whether any "early bird discounts" outweigh the risk. A pre-order from a store is one thing, but backing a Kickstarter is not the same as pre-ordering an item.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Never backed a company on Kickstarter and never will.

Jeff McCollough's picture

What about PeakDesign?

Motti Bembaron's picture

No, never bought anything of theirs.

Jeff McCollough's picture

It's a super famous company that started out on Kickstarter.

Motti Bembaron's picture

I heard of them but I have all the bags I will ever need (6 of them :-)).

Rob Davis's picture

No one is saying there aren't success stories, just that there are too many failure stories.

As with any investment, you should know that the potential bottom is always $0.

Chris Poblano's picture

I've been tempted many times to give to kick-starters but decided to hold off. This is just another reminder for me to not do it and just wait for an actual release of product to the public.

The only Kickstarter project I participated in was the new (2016) Moment lenses and bayonet cases. The brand was established and well-regarded among professionals, and the contribution was reasonably modest.

Simon Patterson's picture

I bought Christian Fletcher's "Light" photobook via crowd funding, and it's my favourite photobook.

But that was as close to a sure bet as crowd funding could get - it's the only crowd funded project I've put my hard earned to.