Panono continues to be a shining example of everything that can go wrong with crowdfunding. After raising $1.25 million, going bankrupt, and failing to deliver its product to most backers, supporters of the campaign are now being offered a second chance to receive the 360-degree camera they already paid $500 for — by paying another $1,100 more.
Last we heard from Panono, its assets had been scooped up by an investment company named the Bryanston Group and put inside a holding company named Professional360. At the time, the Bryanston Group said it felt “morally obliged” to do something for the Panono backers who never received their camera, which made it sound like the company might make and ship units out or offer refunds.
But it turns out, the answer is neither: Bryanston is offering backers a chance to buy the puzzlingly expensive Panono camera at a discount.
Backers of the Panono have already paid at least $500 to receive a camera. Having done that, they’re now being offered the opportunity to buy a camera bundle at what Professional360 claims is production cost — or half off its retail cost. Backers have the option between two different bundles, which, discount included, range from a little over $1,120 to $1,240.
To be really clear, this is a horrible deal. Backers have been without their money for almost four years, and they’re now being given the chance to buy the camera at a not particularly substantial discount when you include the money they’ve already paid.
On top of that, 360-degree cameras have advanced significantly in the four years since Panono’s crowdfunding campaign. Backers thought they were buying a slightly expensive and fairly inventive toy. But at this point, you can buy something that replicates the functions of the Panono for under $100. (It won’t have the resolution of the 36-lens Panono, but the quality probably won’t be all that far off.)
Professional360 is also giving Indiegogo backers who buy the camera free and unlimited use of Panono’s paid cloud features, but those features are a joke. Panono offers free storage of 360-degree photos in the cloud for all users as it is, which is nice. But it charges €9.90 (about $11.70) per month for access to editing features, and it charges another €19.90 (about $23.50) to remove a Panono watermark that gets put on the images.
The frustrating part for backers is that they don’t have any recourse here. The Bryanston Group didn’t buy all of Panono — it only bought the company’s assets, trademarks, and patents — so it can make new Panono cameras, but it doesn’t hold any of the liabilities that came with the company. That includes owing anything to the 2,000 or so backers who paid money and never received their cameras.
To make all of this more complicated, Professional360 says it will only sell 50 discounted cameras per month to backers (and each backer is limited to only one camera). While the company says it’s making an exception this month and will sell beyond the 50-camera limit, that still means it could take years for backers to get their cameras (though it’s hard to imagine most still want them at this point).
Professional360 has emailed backers with the offer and claims that most replies are “very positive” and that it received more than 50 orders in just the first hour after reaching out. “We think this is a fair offer, as we do not earn any margin on the camera and [backers] would still be paying — in total — significantly less than any of our regular customers,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “We are glad to finally end the Indiegogo supporters’ years of waiting and uncertainty. We are closing a chapter in Panono’s history and look forward to what lies ahead.”
But the company’s offer is far from what backers signed up for when they set down $500 four years ago. This is a very good reminder that, particularly when it comes to complicated tech products, it’s often a good idea to wait to see if a crowdfunding project actually ships instead of giving the campaign money up front, even if it means losing out on a discount.