I have written in this space previously about the dangers of crowd-funding, with a focus on audio products. Since then, many more crowd-funded audio products have not been delivered, or delivery has been substantially delayed, sometimes by up to two years.
The most recent crowd-funded venture to fail to deliver is Kanoa, which took audiophiles’ money ($149 each) for a pair of wireless in-ears. At the time of writing, the company’s position was outlined on its website as: ‘At this time, we are in negotiations with investors for funding … without that investment, we do not have enough capital to stay operational … as a backer you have played an integral role in the development of the Kanoa product and company …which makes it even more difficult to say that without the capital to fund production, we will not be fulfilling any more pre-orders.’
What made Kanoa unusual was that it actually shipped some product to backers and also exhibited at CES 2016, but unfortunately for it, it also asked Cody Crouch, who makes YouTube unboxing videos under the name iTw4kz, to review a pair. He wasn’t happy with the quality or performance—or the manual!—of the earphones Kanoa loaned him for review, and told them so. According to Crouch, he says that rather than fix the product, Kanoa offered him $US500 to post a good review on YouTube. Crouch ended up posting the worst review of a product I have ever seen and four days after the review went live, the company effectively shut itself down, as detailed above. Needless to say, with exposure like this, the likelihood of Kanoa getting any new backers is now zero. If you don’t want to watch the entire 27 minute 35 seconds of Crouch’s review, try starting at 23:38 which is about the point he says: ‘This is trash. You don’t want to have these. This is not a company that you want to deal with.’
Kanoa didn’t use a crowd-funding website, it instead crowd-funded using its own website, offering that anyone who ordered and paid in advance could get the in-ears for half price: (which was $149, as the company said they would be retailing at $300). So whereas crowd-funding sites put hurdles in the way to try to stop rip-offs, Kanoa was free to apply its own rules… or lack of rules to its fund-raising activities. It didn’t help audiophiles that the well-known US magazine audioXpress promoted the Kanoa company in its publication in 2015, or that Xiomara Blanco of C|Net commented favourably about the Kanoa wireless in-ears favourably after trying an advance model at CES 2016.
Why didn’t Blanco experience the same problems as Crouch when she used the Kanoas at CES? That’s anyone’s guess, but I know of several instances where companies have exhibited audio products at CES that have been ‘tricked-up’ internally with superior components that were never intended to be included in the actual production models. Well-known audio companies don’t try this type of trickery, because they have hard-earned reputations to protect. Start-ups, on the other hand, have absolutely nothing to lose. # greg borrowman