'Any-color-on-Earth' pen pulled from Kickstarter, now Tilt

After requests for more detailed information from two crowdfunding platforms, the creators behind the Scribble pen are seeking funding elsewhere.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
3 min read

When it comes to crowdfunding campaigns, it seems my grandmother was right: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

When the Scribble pen launched on Kickstarter in August, it promised to sample any color on Earth and then either print in that color or splash it around on the screen of a tablet (depending on the version). However, two days after the launch, based on some concerns among backers and potential backers, Kickstarter stepped in and asked the makers of Scribble to provide a more detailed video within 24 hours showing exactly how the pen was supposed to work.

The Scribble pen got applause from the crowd, but it won't be getting its funds there. Scribble

Instead of coming up with such a video, the Scribble creators simply took their campaign down from Kickstarter and moved it to Tilt, another crowdfunding platform. On Sunday, I received an email from Tilt explaining that it too has closed down the Scribble campaign because the creators again failed to provide sufficient details. Here's what Tilt said:

"Upon the internal review, we requested additional information from the campaign organizers and provided a defined window of time for them to provide a new video of an actual, working prototype like seen in the video OR an in-person prototype of the pen. Since these conditions were not satisfied, we decided that the best course of action to protect our community -- both contributors and organizers -- was to discontinue the campaign and refund 100% of all payments over the next three days."

So that's twice the Scribble makers failed to provide enough details about their invention. Astonishingly, the pen had raised $227,540 on Tilt before being canceled, despite the fact that many backers were aware of the failed Kickstarter campaign.

I reached out to Scribble to get their reaction to the double takedown. They first directed me to their own blog post about the situation and then responded:

"In an email from Tilt, they confirmed that it was absolutely fine to raise funds on their website even if a project creator has nothing but an idea. Here's the email. However, we have built prototypes of the Scribble pen but the problem with Tilt seems to be that the product is not 100% ready yet. We decided to end the campaign on Tilt and will be taking on external investment to further develop our product and bring it to the masses come 2015."

I then asked Tilt to respond to that email because, indeed, if its policy is simply to have campaign organizers "fake it till they make it," as stated in its response, then the Scribble guys were perfectly within their rights to keep their campaign active.

"That is not our policy and this statement was made by a former employee who was with us for only a brief time. We regret this was said, as it does not in any way represent the ethics of our company or what we demand from creators on Tilt Open," a Tilt spokesperson said.

So there you have it. Scribble was probably right in assuming it could bring its pen to Tilt's platform from Kickstarter, and Tilt was probably right in asking the creators to legitimize their claims.

Sadly, all this back and forth leaves the world without what sounded like a very cool pen indeed. Color me disappointed.