The cooler that chilled ~20k customers

The Coolest cooler that didn’t ship to ~20k Kickstarter backers.

This one’s a wild ride, which is a weird thing to say about a cooler, but few other coolers result in people sending the CEO death threats.

An orange Coolest cooler on a blue background.

Portland-based Coolest launched a cooler on Kickstarter in 2014. It combined your standard cooler with a rechargeable blender, Bluetooth speaker, USB chargers, a bottle opener, and more.

It quickly became one of the platform’s most-funded projects, raising $13m+ across 62.6k+ backers, who paid $200 for this portable party.

But ~20k of them would never receive one.

What happened?

Coolest failed to meet its intense demand in 2015 and 2016, then did several things that made empty-handed backers really mad:

  • With backers still waiting, Coolest began selling coolers on Amazon for ~$500 (which PCMag called overpriced with “mediocre” gadgets.)
  • It offered backers expedited shipping for an additional $97.
  • And finally, in 2019, CEO Ryan Grepper wrote that despite several loans, the company had hit a wall and that ~20k backers were simply SOL — except for a $20 payment as part of a 2017 settlement with the Oregon Department of Justice.

Grepper ultimately blamed it all on high tariffs on Chinese imports that skyrocketed production costs, but backers were still furious.

Employees were doxxed online and received death threats, which seems like the exact opposite behavior one associates with a chill beach day sipping mango margs.

It’s hard to imagine…

any entrepreneur wants to become a Kickstarter hit that doesn’t deliver, but sometimes the hype is too high. As for Kickstarter, it’s long maintained that it isn’t a store and that preorders don’t mean you’ll get what you backed.

Today, Coolest remains Kickstarter’s biggest flop and one that led some angry customers to vow to never back anything again.

For some lighter news, read about the most successful Kickstarter project: a series of fantasy novels.

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