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Europe's biggest Kickstarter has gone bust after raising $3.6 million

Europe's biggest Kickstarter has gone bust after raising $3.6 million

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After launching its crowdfunding campaign last November and raising more than £2.3 million ($3.6 million), Europe's biggest Kickstarter campaign has told backers it's shutting down. The Torquing Group originally billed its Zano drone as an "ultra-portable, personal aerial photography and HD video platform," that fit in a user's hand and beamed straight images back to their smartphone. But following multiple delays and the resignation of the company's CEO last week for "personal health issues and irreconcilable differences," the Zano looks dead for good.

pursuing voluntary liquidation

In a statement sent to the project's backers and republished by Ars Technica, the company said it had "made the difficult decision to pursue a creditors' voluntary liquidation." It noted: "We are greatly disappointed with the outcome of the Zano project and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us during this difficult period, especially our loyal employees whose commitment has exceeded all expectations."

The original pitch video for the Zano.

Of the 15,363 drones sold to the project's 12,000-plus backers, the company claimed to have shipped "over 600 Zanos" as of October 13th. However, a report from BBC News on the first drones off the assembly line noted that they fell far short of the company's promises. The aircraft had poor battery life, low picture quality, and lacked the autonomous features — including commands such as "follow me" and "hold position" — that were prominent in the company's campaign materials.

backers are unlikely to get their money back

Frustrated and disappointed backers have been complaining on Facebook and Twitter, calling the project a "fraud" and the company's employees "scammers." Many individuals who preordered the drone are demanding their money back, but it's extremely unlikely this will happen. As Kickstarter often notes in the wake of failed projects, backers are not shoppers, and they are taking a risk even when they give their money to a fully-funded campaign. One of Zano's backers was so disappointed that they made a parody video of the drone (the "Fano Flying Box") as a reminder "not to invest in future in crowdfunded schemes based on slick video presentations."

A backer of the project, Louis-Philippe Loncke, told The Verge that he felt deceived, as the Zano had been presented as a nearly-finished product, needing only money to go into full-scale production. "If the drone was already, let's say, 70 percent functional," says Loncke, "Then why do the people who receive their Zano complain that it doesn't really fly?" He adds that he thinks Kickstarter is partly to blame for not properly vetting projects, and suggests the company could use the money it made from the campaign (it takes a 5 percent fee on successfully funded projects) to audit the Torquing Group.

Unfortunately for crowdfunding fans, this isn't even the first Kickstarter disappointment of the week. The creators of the Coolest Cooler campaign recently started selling their product on Amazon rather than shipping it to backers, just in order, the company said, to "keep the lights on." As ever with crowdfunding campaigns, backers need skepticism as well as optimism when putting their money behind non-existent products. At the time of writing, the Torquing Group had not responded to The Verge's request for comment.

Updated November 19th, 10.15AM ET: Added additional comments from Louis-Philippe Loncke.