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Kickstarter hires investigative journalist to dig into one of its biggest failures

Mark Harris will try and find out why the Zano drone went bust

In November, the company behind Europe's biggest ever Kickstarter project told its backers it was shutting down. The Torquing Group had raised more than £2.3 million ($3.6 million) to fund its palm-sized Zano drone, but after delivering only around 600 of the 15,363 units paid for, the company went into liquidation. Now, with frustrated backers still smarting from their loss, Kickstarter wants to find out what went wrong. The company has hired technology journalist Mark Harris "to write a story about the collapse of the Zano drone project on Kickstarter."

In a blog post on Medium announcing the news, Harris writes: "[Kickstarter] wants to help the backers of this failed project get the information they are entitled to under their agreement with the project creator. They would like to uncover the story of Zano, from its inception to the present, and decided that the best way to do that was to hire a journalist." Harris says his "primary audience" is the Zano's original backers, and that he will try to publish the story "in the middle of January."

"I have no other connection to [Kickstarter], nor to anyone on the Zano team."

Harris says Kickstarter is paying him upfront for the work, and that he will also investigate the crowdfunding firm's own involvement ("whether it could have served Zano’s creators or backers better throughout") as well as the decisions of the Torquing Group. "I have no other connection to [Kickstarter], nor to anyone on the Zano team, and have no particular axe to grind," says Harris, adding that he did not back the Zano project himself.

It's an unexpected moved from Kickstarter, which has so far dealt with the fallout from the Zano project in its usual fashion, reminding the public that backers are not shoppers and that they're taking a risk when they put their money behind a project. But if Kickstarter is worried that some of the shine is wearing off the crowfunding dream, then it's in its interests to investigate projects like the Zano, which has attracted a lot of attention given the amount of money it raised. At the very least, an honest answer to the question "what went wrong?" may soothe some of Zano's disappointed backers.