Ubuntu’s push to gather about $32 million to manufacture and deliver 40,000 slightly geek-centric dual-boot smartphones at first seemed bizarre. But when it quickly accumulated $2 million in eight hours–a record for crowdfunding–it started to seem simply incredible.
But the campaign seems to have lost momentum. While about 10% of the ultimate goal was reached inside the first 24 hours, the take-up rate for pledges has slowed significantly, and total funding is around $4 million now. In order to attract more customers, Ubuntu has adjusted its avant-garde pricing structure.
Initially the first 5,000 pledgers were promised a single unit of the phone for about $600, and then the price spiked up to about $800 for all other pledges. That structure, while evidently successful at driving the Indiegogo project into the public’s vision, is most likely why the pledge rate has slowed. To achieve its target, Ubuntu must attract about $1 million a day, and to do so, it added new pledge points at $625, $675, and $725, with only 1,250 units available at each level.
The move will certainly attract some new buyers, but it means that Ubuntu is dramatically eating into its potential profit margin on making what is effectively a boutique, limited-run device. The issue also demonstrates some of the subtle difficulties in running a large-scale crowdfunding project. Given the trajectory for ever-more dramatic funding targets for things from smartwatches to computer games, we’ll be seeing much more of this in the news.