Interviewing CEO Ryan Grepper – Tempers Sizzle over Coolest Cooler, but an Answer Could be in Sight.
Tempers sizzle over Coolest Cooler, but CEO Ryan Grepper is trying to provide answers. In 2014, the Coolest Cooler Kickstarter Crowdfunding campaign cleared a record breaking $13 million. The company, headed by Ryan Grepper immediately buckled down and started setting up the post-prototype engineering and manufacturing of the Coolest. However, it was soon apparent that the project was not going as well as hoped. By the end of 2015, the Coolest was being sold through Amazon, but many backers had not yet received their Coolest.
At the same time Grepper appeared to be out of compliance with FTC regulations on overseas shipping because he had not issued refunds to disappointed backers who requested them. That issue, however, was addressed through clearing up misconceptions about how crowdfunding actually works. Crowdfunding contributions are considered more like backing than preorders.
Ryan Grepper restating his commitment to contributors on the Coolest Cooler Kickstarter Crowdfunding campaign.
On March 2nd, 2016, Ryan Grepper held a Google Hangout for contributors, explaining what some of the holdup had been and restating his commitment to getting Coolest Coolers to every person who invested in the project. Here are a few of the questions and answers from that session:
Why not just sell copies of the original cooler? The coolest cooler shown in the Kickstarter was a prototype that cost about $15,000 to construct. Part of the manufacturing challenge was to create a quality model that didn’t cost quite as much to create. A lot of the money raised through the Kickstarter was used in engineering costs.
Why are there copies of the Coolest on sale through Amazon for $500 each when backers have not received their Coolest coolers? The Coolests that are on sale on Amazon are from an order placed by Amazon Launchpad. No funds from the campaign were used to fund manufacturing them. However, funds derived from this order have facilitated speeding up making coolers for the backers. Unfortunately, the Launchpad payment was not enough to bridge the gap between the ideal and the actual funds needed to get everything delivered.
The first shipments of Coolest went out July 17, 2015. But soon the process began to bog down. Among other problems, workers in the factory that produced motors went on strike, and different source had to be found. This created a problem with meeting the release date for the Coolest.
Grepper is opening up equity crowdfunding options to meet his need.
About 30,000 Coolests have shipped, but $15 million dollars are still needed to make the remaining 36,000 coolers. To meet this need, Grepper has appealed to capital investors and is also opening up equity crowdfunding options through the equity crowdfunding platform, Circleup. While this is somewhat good news, some of the original backers are a little disappointed. Equity crowdfunding follows stringent rules, including requiring that investors must be accredited. This means that many of the original backers, some of whom would be willing to invest additional funds in what they see as being a good product, will not meet SEC (Security and Exchange Commission) standards for investors. However, backers who can meet the regulations will then have a stake in the company, and will be able to participate in years to come.
The other good news is that the backers who have received the cooler give it rave reviews. Ryan Grepper stands firm on his intention to deliver a Coolest Cooler to each individual who sent in their money. Moreover, he intends for every cooler sent out to be a quality product.