Zano Fails, Kickstarter Hires Investigative Journalist
Zano promised the world a mini-drone with a host of bells and whistles, and the world was psyched. Its Kickstarter raised over $3 million and earned its stature as a Kickstarter staff pick. It was even short listed for its best of CES 2015 award and chosen as one of Popular Science’s 100 most amazing innovations of 2015 last October.
Unfortunately, the crew behind Zano just couldn’t deliver on its promises. Its failure sparked intense anger among Kickstarter donors, who accused Zano of scamming them out of their hard-earned donations. Kickstarter took a creative approach to the mounting tension, enlisting an investigative journalist named Mark Harris to determine what factors led to Zano’s disappointing inability to produce.
Based in Seattle, Harris was shown to South Wales, where he spent six weeks conducting interviews and connecting the dots to complete an epic tale of tragedy that was no scam, but a legitimate failure on the part of Zano.
It all started with a business called the Torquing Group, a business led by self-taught engineer Ivan Reedman. Reedman wanted to create a marketable drone that, through clever and misleading marketing, lit Kickstarter on fire and galloped towards its target goal.
Unfortunately, once the money was secured, Reedman and his associates soon discovered that the past to mass producing what would have been an incredible drone was fraught with obstacles; obstacles none of them was equipped to handle.
“Torquing’s director managed their business poorly and spent the Kickstarter money too freely, but I’ve found no evidence that any of them ended up rich on the backs of the crown,” concluded Mark Harris in his 13,000 word write up. He claims that as production problems increased, Touring associates demonstrated “a dangerous lack of self-awareness of the problems the company was making for itself.”
Reedman himself apparently admitted that neither he or any member of his team “possessed the technical or commercial competencies necessary to deliver the Zano as specified in the original campaign.”
And so a humbling lesson was duly learnt by Reedman and the Tourquing group. But what about Kickstarter?
Harris asserted that Kickstarter and other funding websites must “reconsider the way they deal with projects involving complex hardware, massive overfunding, or large sums of money,” advising that they bring in mentors to keep an eye on projects like Zano which suddenly become responsible for opening much more money on many more consumers than originally projected.
Harris also stated that Kickstarter and crowd-funding websites should be much more straight-forward about the risks that backers face; after all, it’s not Kickstarter’s responsibility if a project like Zano ends up tanking.
Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler wasn’t open to much of Harris’s criticisms. He claims that Kickstarter’s rules regarding realistic videos and genuine prototypes are extremely difficult to enforce, and that it is a backer’s responsibility to assess the potential for the creator to successfully create the product.
“If you want 100% success with hardware and new products, I think the only solution is that you just shop on Amazon,” Strickler stated.