Kickstarter Digs Deep Into Case of Doomed Drone

Was Europe's largest Kickstarter ever a scam?
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2016 12:03 PM CST
Kickstarter Digs Deep Into Case of Doomed Drone
The Zano mini-drone by Torquing.   (Kickstarter)

It had all the makings of fraud, or at least some level of incompetence: a Kickstarter product that raised a ton of cash, didn't ship on time to backers, didn't work properly, and sent the manufacturer into bankruptcy. Not only that—it was the largest project out of Europe ever taken on by the crowdfunding site, per Consumerist. To get to the bottom of the whispering, Kickstarter hired its own investigative reporter to find out what went wrong with the Zano mini-drone. Mark Harris calls his task a most "unusual commission." He noted in a Dec. 8 Medium post that he wasn't affiliated with the Welsh company behind the drone in any way and had "no particular axe to grind." The creator, Torquing Group, raised almost $3.3 million on its original $175,000 goal, but seemed plagued by trouble from the get-go.

To start with, when it came time for product to ship, pre-order customers got their drones first instead of the 12,000-plus backers who had plunked down money, Consumerist notes. Then, when customers got their drones, the devices often didn't perform. Finally, Torquing was forced to declare the European equivalent of Chapter 11 because of a litany of errors, miscalculations, and a "dangerous lack of self-awareness." But was it a scam? In a nutshell, no, though Consumerist notes "early videos may have been misleading, and no one ever saw the drones flying as promised in a demonstration … because they never did." (The longer, more fascinating answer can be found in Harris' exhaustive take on Medium.) Harris' conclusion: "Kickstarter, and other crowdfunding platforms, should reconsider the way that they deal with projects involving complex hardware, massive overfunding, or large sums of money." (Other Kickstarters that failed miserably.)

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