How the Coolest Cooler went from one the most successful Kickstarters ever to the site's 'biggest disaster'

Coolest Cooler kickstarter

Kickstarter/screenshot

Backers of the Coolest Cooler were expecting a "portable party ." Instead what they got was a lesson in how crowdfunding really works.

The Coolest Cooler had a promising start on Kickstarter five years ago, but things have been rocky since.

Though it was once the most-funded project on Kickstarter, it went on to become somewhat infamous for failure to deliver and constant updates from the creator about pushing back shipping dates. The Verge calls Coolest Cooler "the biggest disaster on Kickstarter." 

To date, there have been 56 updates posted on the page.

Here's how the project went from $13 million in funding to shutting down 5 years later, with one-third of customers never receiving the cooler they were promised.

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The Coolest Cooler launched on Kickstarter in 2014 with the idea of a "portable party" disguised as a cooler.

The Coolest Cooler launched on Kickstarter in 2014 with the idea of a "portable party" disguised as a cooler.

Source: Kickstarter

It had everything you needed to bring your party to the beach, backyard, or wherever else. It had bottle openers, USB ports...

It had everything you needed to bring your party to the beach, backyard, or wherever else. It had bottle openers, USB ports...

...waterproof Bluetooth speakers...

...waterproof Bluetooth speakers...

...and a battery-powered blender.

...and a battery-powered blender.

The project, with its splashy introduction video, was received well. At one point, it was even the most-funded project on Kickstarter, although it has since been surpassed.

The project, with its splashy introduction video, was received well. At one point, it was even the most-funded project on Kickstarter, although it has since been surpassed.

Kickstarter backers were supposed to receive coolers in February 2015, CEO Ryan Grepper wrote a letter to backers pushing the date back to July because he said the company was adding new features at no cost to backers.

Kickstarter backers were supposed to receive coolers in February 2015, CEO Ryan Grepper wrote a letter to backers pushing the date back to July because he said the company was adding new features at no cost to backers.

Source: Kickstarter

Then, Coolest started selling the product on Amazon for $499, which Grepper said was to "keep the lights on." The date for backers was pushed to 2016. Grepper said that the price for backers closer to $200 was much too low.

Then, Coolest started selling the product on Amazon for $499, which Grepper said was to "keep the lights on." The date for backers was pushed to 2016. Grepper said that the price for backers closer to $200 was much too low.

Source: The Verge

In April 2016, Kickstarter supporters still had not received coolers. Coolest then reportedly considered giving backers the option to pay an additional $97 for "expedited shipping," to receive the product that they had already waited over a year for.

In April 2016, Kickstarter supporters still had not received coolers. Coolest then reportedly considered giving backers the option to pay an additional $97 for "expedited shipping," to receive the product that they had already waited over a year for.

Source: Motherboard

The fallout escalated, with Grepper and Coolest employees doxxed, and their personal details spread online. They even received death threats as a result of the bungled rollout.

The fallout escalated, with Grepper and Coolest employees doxxed, and their personal details spread online. They even received death threats as a result of the bungled rollout.

Source: Motherboard

In 2017, Coolest reached a settlement with the Oregon Department of Justice requiring it to pay $20 to every backer who never received a cooler — nearly 20,000 people — although if the company is out of funds backers might not get anything.

In 2017, Coolest reached a settlement with the Oregon Department of Justice requiring it to pay $20 to every backer who never received a cooler — nearly 20,000 people — although if the company is out of funds backers might not get anything.

Source: The Verge

Last week, backers got an update from Coolest that the company is officially shutting down. In the message to supporters, Coolest says that tariffs on Chinese imports are to blame. Kickstarter said in a statement that one-third of backers did not end up with the cooler they were promised.

"There's always a risk in creating something new, and some projects won't end up working out," Kickstarter said in a written statement to the Verge. "In this case, unfortunately, one-third of the backers won't receive the [product] they were promised. We've worked hard to make it clear that Kickstarter is not a store."

I just got the announcement email from @Coolest_Cooler that they are closing their business due to the trade war. I was an original backer but never received my cooler.

Win some. Lose some. pic.twitter.com/IyCTigHiPG

— Chris Sistrunk (@chrissistrunk) December 7, 2019
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