If 2012 was the year crowdfunding went mainstream, 2013 was the year crowdfunding got stupid. How stupid? Really stupid.
Crowdfunding is supposed to be a meritocratic system—a space where great ideas get funded and mediocre ones die lonely and exposed, crushed by the invisible hand of the market. But that’s not really how it works. Terrible ideas get fully funded all the time. And there’s an embarrassment of evidence to choose from. Here are 10 of our favorite clunkers from 2013 that you, The Crowd, should be ashamed of. Entrepreneurs, take note: People appear to love anything really stupid they can wear.
1) SOCKS MADE OF COFFEE
The proprietors behind ATLAS claim to have created a more advanced sock—a comfortable, odorless and pressure-mapped sock—with one key distinction: It’s made of coffee. Why coffee? Easy. “Odor molecules which are largely made of carbon are strongly attracted to the coffee.” Now give us your money.
Number of backers: 3,150
Amount raised: $204,601
2) A WATER BOTTLE THAT TELLS YOU HOW MUCH WATER YOU DRANK—ON YOUR IPHONE!
The BlueFit Bottle performs a neat little trick: The hi-tech water vessel tethers with your iPhone to tell you how much H2O you’ve been drinking over the course of the day. Instead of using your eyeballs and the tiny part of your brain required to simply look at how much water you drank, why not use up energy and add several completely unnecessary steps to the process? It’s called technology.
Number of backers: 764
Amount raised: $74,843
3) HIDEOUS, RETINA-SCARRING T-SHIRTS
I’m no fashion maven, but I’m pretty certain this is some of the ugliest clothing I’ve ever seen. Oh, wait. I’m mistaken. ”This isn’t clothing,” claim the founders of RaveNectar, a T-shirt company born out of the Ultra Music Festival. “It’s an EXPERIENCE.” (No, just kidding, it’s clothing.)
Number of backers: 948
Amount raised: $70,251
4) THE MOST ANNOYING ALARM CLOCK IN THE WORLD
“ME Clock is the Ultimate Digital Life Coach: a personal trainer for your mind that empowers you to become the ME you want to BE.” Basically, it’s a crappy-looking desktop alarm clock that plays weird nature sounds. But according to the very scammy-sounding post, this $19 piece of hardware also “retrains you to use your mind to overcome these negative thought patterns, allowing you to flourish and effortlessly achieve your goals.” Remember how that Thigh Master was going to change your life? Same principle.
Number of backers: 119
Amount raised: $81,200
5) CUSTOM-SCENTED COLOGNE IN “WHISKEY,” “CLOTH,” “WOOL,” “GOLD,” “PAPER”…OH, CHRIST, FORGET IT
“Right now, finding a great fragrance is a complex process,” claim the project creators behind Commodity: Premium Fragrances Tailored to Your Style. Their solution: Fill out an online form, and they’ll ship you a custom musk. Want to smell like an abusive stepfather, but can’t be bothered to do all that drinking? They have a “whiskey” scent. Want to smell like a notebook for some inscrutable reason you can’t explain? Perfect, because they have “paper.” These people are solving serious problems here.
Number of backers: 740
Amount raised: $56,602
6) THE WOODEN BOW TIE THAT’S TWICE AS CLOWNISH AND UNCOMFORTABLE AS A REGULAR BOW TIE WITH THE SPLINTERS YOU JUST CAN’T FIND IN ORDINARY CLOTH NECK PRODUCTS
“We asked ourselves a question,” the creators of the Wooden Bowtie Project say. “How to create a bow tie that is unique, comfortable and out of the ordinary. The answer was wood.” Thankfully, just 31 poor souls agreed.
Number of backers: 31
Amount raised: $1,659
7) ENERGY MACE
Drinking a small bottle of liquid or even a medium-size cup of caffeine can be so time consuming. That’s why the purveyors of this Binaca-like contraption have figured out a way to let the caffeine enter your bloodstream directly through your skin. If only they could do this with mayonnaise! Even better, now you can pep up your employees or loved ones with a few gentle squirts of energy mist, because IT PAYS ATTENTION OR IT GETS THE SPRAY. (OK, fine, we’d definitely take a free bottle of this stuff.)
Number of backers: 3,042
Amount raised: $169,891
8) SOME SORT OF “FASHION” BASEBALL CAP WITH AN LED DISPLAY
The Lumativ Snapback employs a “lightweight rechargeable electrical system that’s literally fused within the hat itself.” It’s the latest thing in fashion. You didn’t know that? Of course you didn’t. And you never will. But as the pictures in the campaign suggest, Travis Barker—the drummer from Blink 182—was recently in close proximity to three women wearing the hat, so clear the catwalks, Milan.
Number of backers: 263
Amount raised: $55,119
9) AIRCRAFTS TO TEACH FLYING BIRDS HOW TO FLY
Apparently, the whooping crane has forgotten how to migrate, so this guy wants your money for three aircrafts to teach them how to fly south again. Perhaps we should have just let natural selection run its course—for the birds and for this campaign.
Number of backers: 302
Amount raised: $67,445
10) A SPECIAL SHOELACE THING THAT ELIMINATES THE NEED TO TIE YOUR SHOES BECAUSE THAT’S JUST WAY TOO FUCKING HARD
“Are you tired of your shoelaces?” asks the founder behind Lace Anchors 2.0. “Not really” is the correct answer. And yet, here it is. A little contraption that clips onto your shoes and gives terrorists one more reason to hate us.
Number of backers: 9,565
Amount raised: $146,288
BONUS: CURING BAD DOG BREATH ONCE AND FOR ALL!
OK, we’re cheating on this one from 2012, but we couldn’t resist.
Number of backers: 2,816
Amount raised: $62,572