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Coolest Cooler shuts down, blaming rising tariffs for its demise

Five years after launch, many of the startup's backers have reportedly not received their promised cooler.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil
2 min read

Coolest Cooler is going out of business.

Coolest Cooler

Coolest Cooler , the cooler on wheels with a built-in blender, is going out of business, blaming tariffs from the ongoing trade war with China for its failure. The startup, once the most successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign ever, angered many backers for failing to supply some promised rewards.

"Today, I'm sad to report (the trade war) has proved to be an insurmountable challenge for Coolest and we are forced to close down operations," Coolest Cooler founder Ryan Grepper wrote in an email to backers, saying that tariffs on imported goods raised the company's costs to unsustainable levels.

"It was devastating to our business, and I know it was felt by many of you in one way or another as consumers and thousands of small businesses everywhere," he wrote.

Coolest, the company behind the coolers, first made waves when it launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for the Coolest Cooler in 2014. More than 62,600 people pledged nearly $13.3 million toward the creation of cooler that would include a blender, a Bluetooth speaker , a USB charger and other accessories designed to make the product the center of outdoor gatherings. People who pledged $185 or more were supposed to receive a Coolest Cooler as a reward.

But Coolest's problems became as notable as the cooler itself. There were delays in the cooler production that the company attributed in part to underestimating how much it would cost to make. Early supporters who still hadn't received their units became upset in December 2015 when Coolest began selling its product on Amazon. At one point, the company asked backers for an additional $97 to help fulfill orders and sought contributions from investors. 

Four years after Coolest's Kickstarter debut, in December 2018, a third of the original backers still hadn't received their cooler, Grepper said. Those roughly 20,000 backers who never received their coolers can register for a $20 payment under terms of a 2017 settlement with the Oregon Department of Justice, Gepper said in his email.

Watch this: 12 coolers tested: Which ones are worth the cash?