When Coolest Cooler launched its Kickstarter campaign back in 2014 it was an overnight sensation. Who didn't want to get their hands on a cooler that was also a blender, USB charger and a Bluetooth speaker on wheels?
Individuals clamored to pay $200 to back the project and eventually own what was being hyped as the coolest cooler to ever emerge.
Coolest Cooler raised $13 million
Coolest Cooler went on to become Kickstarter's biggest campaign, raising $13 million and even making an appearance on Good Morning America, the popular morning news and talk show. It had amassed about 60,000 backers and was the subject of countless news articles and profiles as crowdfunding took off.
Fast forward to the end of 2019 and the company is now shutting down, failing to meet demand. In an email to the company's Kickstarter backers, CEO Ryan Grepper blamed the trade war between the U.S. and China for its demise.
"As you may know, late last year the U.S. government imposed 10% tariffs on many products imported from China. Like many small businesses dramatically affected by this situation, we viewed this as a short term situation where, hopefully, calmer heads would soon prevail. However, as of early summer, the “trade war” continued, and the tariff was increased to 25% which affected our entire Coolest product line," wrote Grepper. "Today, I’m sad to report this has proved to be an insurmountable challenge for Coolest and we are forced to close down operations."
All backers get is maybe $20
Grepper went on to apologize to the backers who have not received a Coolest cooler, pointing again to the tariffs for the reason it can't fulfill orders. He acknowledged people will be angry and upset that they didn't receive the product they backed on Kickstarter even if its a risk they take and said the company tried to do everything they could to meet the demand.
"We are especially sorry that, after all this effort and time tackling what felt like an insurmountable list of problem-after-problem, we were driven out of business as just another a trade war casualty. Please know we did all we could," wrote Grepper.
Of the roughly 20,000 backers who never received the coolers, Grepper said they could be eligible for a $20 payment due to a 2017 settlement with the Oregon Department of Justice. Backers can register for the claim here. That still leaves a lot of people out $180. That wasn't sitting well with some who express anger about the outcome.
@Coolest_Cooler so let me get this straight....Ryan Grepper has to pay me $20 because he’s a crappy businessman & didn’t fulfill his obligations to customers, but where is the rest of my $180??— amanda s bridgers (@amandasbridgers) December 7, 2019
Almost 2,000 days ago I spent $200 backing the @Coolest_Cooler and now the company has closed down - 20,000 backers haven't received a product.— ᴍᴀᴛᴛ ᴅᴏɴᴅᴇʀs (@mattdonders) December 7, 2019
I know the risks of Kickstarter, but this one really sucks considering the promise of the product.
Ya win some, ya lose some I guess.
Not my problem
Kickstarter isn't taking any blame for what went down with the Coolest Cooker, telling The Oregonian there's always a risk when backing a project on Kickstarter.
“In this case, unfortunately, 1/3 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.”