Backed or Whacked: Kick the Cook

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Editor’s note: This weekend we’re running a new column called Backed or Whacked by Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, focusing on consumer technologies, and writer for Engadget. Every week he’ll address two crowdsourced projects from the view of an investor, analyst, and gadget fiend. He’ll look at what made one a success and the other, well, a whack. 

Companies keep trying to affix touchscreens to our refrigerators and develop more infomercial-friendly variations of the blender, but the kitchen still remains a relatively low-tech sanctuary. Even as we hurtle toward a Wall-E-era existence of complete automation and leisure, the simple joys of preparing a meal in one’s own kitchen can be invigorating. And while Kickstarter has begun to contribute to the endless array of convenience products aimed at simplifying our food preparation and serving experience, some haven’t survived the chopping block.

Backed: Flow cutting board. A nice steak salad might be a good way to start the meal, but slicing through ingredients can be so messy with all those precious juices going to waste. Fortunately, coming to save us from these unkind cuts is SimpleWare with its Flow cutting board in which a perforated top filters the mess down into a catch tray where it can be reclaimed for soups, sauces, dressings and unforetold hair care products. After selling out the first 200 at $20, Flow flowed to backers starting at $25 a pop, which helped it to slip through the perforated surface standing between it and its $25,000 goal.

Backed: Ultimate Spatula. Sometimes you get the sense that people back a product simply because the idea of innovating in that space is simply surreal. The humble spatula is such a nondescript item that “Spatula City”, a store focused on selling them, was a parody advertiser in the 1989 Weird Al comedy vehicle UHF. You might expect the Ultimate Spatula to let you spatulate at twice the speed of your afterthought from Bed, Bath and Bespattered. But, no, all this nylon-reinforced unibody slice of slicone does is prevent melting in the pan while staying cool to the touch at the handle. That said, it looks good while remaining nigh indestructable. Rest easy knowing that many tomatoes died to bring you this spatula, which survived over seven hours of testing in a simmering pot of tomato sauce.

And that’s been good enough for design house Get It Right to nearly double its funding goal of $15,000 with more than 15 days left to go in the campaign. That means there’s still plenty of time to get yours in your choice of 11 spatulactacular colors in exchange for Andrew Jackson’s portrait.

Whacked: OMNI Trivet. You’ve sliced and whisked your ingredients into a formidable feast and are now ready to serve it to your guests in all manner of oddly shaped serving dishes. But today’s trivets sadly come in a variety of such unhelpful shapes as square and round. Wouldst that you could combine them to create curvaceous designs such as the outline of a fish or chalice. That is the goal of OMNI trivet, a set of modular trivets that can nest together to create a megatrivet large enough to support a bathtub of broth.

Alas, with half the campaign time gone, designer Louis Lara has attracted only about 10 percent of the relatively modest $13,500 he seeks. Although the starting reward price for a set of four comes down to only $7.50 per trivet, Kickstarter has afforded him no protective barrier between the heat of desire to share his creation with the world and the easily marred surface of the table of crowdfunding dreams. And speaking of surfaces, perhaps the trivets would have had more appeal if Lara had taken a cue from a certain imminent Windows RT-based tablet and keyboard accessory, enabling the components to just click.

Ross Rubin is principal analyst at Reticle Research, a research and advisory firm focusing on consumer technology adoption. He shares commentary at Techspressive and on Twitter at@rossrubin.