I've been playing Elite since early public beta, and I'm impressed generally. I think what I've noticed from that stage was that even then it was obvious they were going to struggle to make it offline. There was too much to be ported across. It's a shame tbh, but so far I'm not experiencing major difficulties with the game.
There have been some annoying bugs, but I expect that. Most games do. It is more technical than the X series, but then X is more tuned to almost arcade style gaming than ED is in design.
Regarding the funding, it's frustrating, but I've been on the otherside of this coin (or similar side).
Working with DBTech to develop mods I've had people purchase the product, download it, then submit a refund claim to PayPal. That get's costly and means a free copy has gone out. I can understand why Frontier have made that stance, though I utterly share your pain in feeling frustrated like this.
I was wondering how many more X players might have given ED a shot... there are a few over on the Frontier forums...
It's been one of the games I wanted to create a section for on the site (along with some other games I'm familiar with) to expand the community a bit.