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

mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com (Mary Meisenzahl)
Coolest Cooler kickstarter

Kickstarter/screenshot

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.

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

Coolest Cooler

Coolest/ Kickstarter

Source: Kickstarter

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

coolest cooler

Kickstarter/Screenshot...waterproof Bluetooth speakers...

coolest cooler

Kickstarter/Screenshot...and a battery-powered blender.

coolest cooler

AmazonThe 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.

coolest cooler kickstarter

Kickstarter/ScreenshotKickstarter 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.

coolest cooler

Kickstarter/Screenshot

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.

Coolest Cooler

Coolest Cooler

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.

4 Coolest Cool 399.99

Coolest Cooler

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.

ryanGrepper

Ryan Grepper

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.

Coolest Cooler

Coolest Cooler

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. "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."

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