Skip to main content

Read the searing story of the Kickstarter drone that went down in flames

Read the searing story of the Kickstarter drone that went down in flames


13,000 words on the demise of the Zano drone

Share this story

Kickstarter surprised everyone last month when it hired technology journalist Mark Harris to look into how one of the most funded projects in the platform's history, the palm-sized Zano drone, combusted after less than a year. The result of Harris' work, sent first to backers and then published on Medium, is proof Kickstarter got its money's worth. Harris' investigation totals 13,000 words and describes in excruciating detail how the team behind the Zano, Torquing Group, ended up collapsing under the weight of its campaign's success.

Torquing raised more than £2.3 million ($3.6 million) in November 2014 to produce 15,363 finished Zano drones within just six months' time. By October 2015, the company had shipped only 600 units to preorder customers and four to Kickstarter backers. All of the drones were missing critical functions advertised in the original campaign's stretch goals. In December, Torquing voluntarily liquidated the operation with little hope for refunds.

Torquing only produced around 600 Zano drones before imploding

Harris' article highlights Torquing's most damning mistake: deciding to launch into full production before the product was ready to meet its overly ambitious deadline. "I was very strongly opposed to going down the avenue of committing so much to stock so early," former CEO Ivan Reedman told Harris. "I made my opinion known, but ultimately, what happened happened. I understand the reasons why the operations team felt they needed to do that, because that would genuinely keep to the June shipping date." Reedman, who resigned a week before the shutdown, was the only member of Torquing who would speak to Harris on the record. But anonymous employees said the company failed to readjust expectations after the campaign exploded in popularity.

Kickstarter actively encouraged Harris to interview and include its own executives, and CEO Yancey Strickler offered up his condolences to backers who felt they were scammed. "I feel Kickstarter shares in the risks, absolutely," Strickler told Harris. "It’s our reputation on the line every time. The only reason that Zano was able to raise this amount of money is because we have done such a good job administering this platform and working with trusted creators over the last six years. And when something like Zano happens, that burns."

"When something like Zano happens, that burns."

Kickstarter says it updated its terms of use before the Zano campaign launched explicitly to hold creators responsible for explaining what happened in a failed campaign and how the money was used. At the end of the day, however, Kickstarter isn't responsible and won't aide backers in taking legal action against a campaign creator.

It's a good reminder that, despite Kickstarter's success in helping creators raise more than $2 billion since 2009, it's still a platform eager to take your money in exchange for a promise and nothing more. Make sure to read Harris' full piece here for the complete story on the Zano's demise.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 24 Striking out

External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.

A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.