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Guy tries to sell chinese watch Z3 as his own work (kickstarter.com)
154 points by guardian5x on Dec 6, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 113 comments

Summary of events if you don't want to read the entire comment thread just to discover what the heck the title of this post is talking about:

1. Kickstarter campaign for a new high-tech smart-watch launches. The creator, "Vak", responds to a few questions on the watch about specs and hardware in a noncommital, generic way that doesn't reveal a lot of details.

2. Skepticism increases when one customer claims that the watch is apparently identical to a Z3, a watch with similar specs, which they already own. They provide pictures and proof that indicate that the Vak may literally be using the Z3 itself in all the photos and just switching out the wristbands. [0]

3. A minor firestorm erupts in the comments; people accuse Vak of scamming them. [1]

4. Vak asks for time to construct a Kickstarter update, saying that the deluge of comments makes it impossible to respond individually.

5. A few days later, Vak responds to the points raised in the original accusation. [2]

6. ... and keeps responding with the same message, dozens of times. He (or someone using his account) repeatedly posts the same message, over and over and over, to the Kickstarter thread, in response to any skeptical questions.

7. Vak says "it wasn't me!" [3] Pretty much no one believes him.

8. Article gets posted to HN.

[0] http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/253126792/rocktm-first-q...

[1] http://i.imgur.com/8IyxKTC.png

[2] http://i.imgur.com/Fa2101J.png

[3] http://i.imgur.com/Sy7BfL9.png

The PCB they show (https://s3.amazonaws.com/ksr/assets/000/935/465/b197830112a2...)

… has the model number (S2122B) of the SmartQ Z3 watch, too. http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2501598

According to this guy's LinkedIn profile, www.linkedin.com/in/vaksambath, he is the CTO/CPO of Deka which recently ran an unsuccessful indiegogo campaign, http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/deka-the-most-customizable.... Interestingly, Michael Sawitz of FastStart.studio who has been mentioned on this thread, commented on the indiegogo campaign! I must admit, this is all very interesting and I am intrigued. Also, I cannot believe someone would seek $100000 for developing Bluetooth headset (as in indiegogo campaign), but just $50000 for a smartwatch development (as in kickstarter), especially someone who claims to have spent $500000 already for R&D!

Also it is very interesting how the story keeps changing. First version was that they developed the watch from scratch and a Chinese company stole their IP. Now the story is that they never developed any hardware, but only worked on the software. However they cannot even show any software properly working on a prototype.

I fail to understand how kickstarter has still left it open. Now the guy is saying that since kickstarter is allowing him to go on, his is a valid project.

LOL this guy is a fraud all around let's start with his linkedin profile:

You know someone is full of shit when their linkedin profile looks like this...

So he jumped from R&D Engineer | Marketing Dept SMC Networks TO: Founder/CEO MedMania Inc

CEO/Founder Campusbug.com (lol at this site)

Principal Partner WebNative

Co-Founder Pageable.com ( lol co-founded a site that isn't even up)

Chief Product Zen Officer Pivot HQ ( look he is the CPO of this lovely company http://pivothq.webs.com/)

General Partner/Co-Founder Bullear Partners (googled this and there isn't even a firm by this name)

Cofounder/Principal Managing Director Techzulu.com (legit news site for socal but don't see his name anywhere on the website as founder?)

Principal Managing Director Crushspot.com (is this his attempt to find a girlfriend)

Mentor and Advisor FastStart.studio(I don't see him on this site anywhere as mentor?)

Founder Rockfield Labs (who the fuck lists themselves as a founder of a meetup group? you organized a meetup group that has had 4 meetups in the last 2 years and you are some sort of founder?)

Startup Fanboy/Founder Duocampus (This looks like a damn furniture store... co-work space? really? only thing correct in this whole resume is "startup fanboy" looks like he tries to make fake companies or ride the coat tails of real entrepreneurs)

Head of Technology Concert BC (sorry but who ever is getting consultating from this company is getting ripped off if this guy can't even answer simple questions about specs on a product he supposedly made. http://www.concertbc.com/portfolio/vak-sambath-head-technolo...)

CTO/CPO Deka (lol this guy is a joke look for him at 1:15 in the video... so he was the CTO/CPO of a failed indiegogo campaign)

President Rock™ Smartwatch (let's see how this train wreck ends)

What an impressive resume huh? more like what a load of shit.

Googled him further: Supposedly he has a 500,000 fund? "- Money. That’s right—I have partnered with a $500K fund, through Anonymous Angels, that is focused on mobile apps & games. The sole requirement is that you have been a current member of BLANKSPACES for a month. Thanks Vak Sambath!" reference: http://www.blankspaces.com/blog/02/21/blankspaces-returns-to...

LMAO at this joke http://www.vaksambath.com/ ... save yourself time and scroll to the bottom and read that load of shit... with someone with many failed companies he tries to "crush others dreams" can we ban this guy from anything Tech or just in life general

This guy is pathetic "When asked what’s next for the app, Vak mentioned that they are developing RodeDog to work with various mobile providers. “We are building out the app for Google’s Android and Windows mobile and we hope to get the app in iTunes in spite of Apple’s restrictions.”" LOOK AT 0:31 on this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5Lt5U_pVCA He is the spokes person for ClipRoadie and then all of the sudden he is on the other team that conveniently won? Wait so did he win or did the 12 year old girl win... or are they the same person... maybe he is the 12 year old girl?

LOL maybe we should just give him a call... it only cost $1/min https://clarity.fm/vaksambath or we could socialcam him https://socialcam.com/u/Fk6y66Ob

I wonder what 103 domain names he owes lmao http://reversewhois.domaintools.com/vak-sambath

I should be a private investigator but I couldn't help but find more about this guy after reading this post.

Can someone from Orange County please go pay him a visit at one of his many offices or his cowork space.

Go have a meal with him lmao... this is quoted from his website vaksambath.com "Let Me Crush Your Dreams Or Not...over a meal. Please :) If you're why is any one of these, then let's do lunch. I love free meals. Not sure what's better though: eating the actual meal or the idea? Hehe. Jk. I'll be gentle."

> Can someone from Orange County please go pay him a visit at one of his many offices or his cowork space.

This isn't /b/. I'm pretty sure that kind of suggestion is frowned on in these parts.

I am actually a student/entrepreneur in residence at fastStart.Studio... I am emailing Michael Sawitz (the founder) right now...

This doesn't even look like the kind of standard hipster kickstarter page you'd see, it looks far more like quite literal spam you'd find on ebay auctions or something, crappy image tables, schizo bolded text..

It amazes me that spam style works

Totally lol.

The funniest thing is the chart of comparisons... so many of the rows are just random things that give this watch extra checkmarks.

Ha, so I'm not the only one who has noticed that most of those "let's compare our product to other similar products" tables are full of superfluous stuff that's obviously just there to pad them with checkmarks?

i think it's fair to refer to that technique as "The Microsoft"

Ha, first thing I noticed too. Those corporate smartwatch bastards don't have the Rockin' 12 app or Rock Micro Tracker & App! What kind of an idiot do they think I am! They're essential!

I also like how only this watch has the Qi battery (and separate associated checkboxes for all the charging accessories as if you'd get one without the other), but all the others seem to have a "Qi battery life"

is called "rock" |rock (the watch) > check | rock (the actor) > check| samsung galaxy gear > x| ...

That reminds me of that argument that scammers purposefully introduce spelling mistakes and other types of obvious red flags because it filters out the smart recipients and only leaves people who are likely to be gullible enough to take the bait and not investigate too much. I wonder if there isn't something similar at play here, with the unprofessional-looking style actually just being a case of tailoring your communication to your market...

Not effective then - the guys at Kickstarter are not dumb.

Kickstarter is not the one who needs the convincing at this stage, it's the potential backers. Case in point, this post does not link to an official Kickstarter investigation, but to a spontaneous one made by a random commenter.

Ok, so 'Kickstarter backers are not dumb'. Either way the project gets caught at an early stage and cancelled.

Citation needed.

1/ There are gullible (not necessarily dumb, by the way) people everywhere, why would Kickstarter's user base be exempt from that? Besides, Kickstarter is fairly mainstream now, so there's no reason to think it's only frequented by well-informed technology enthousiasts. The point is that they're trying to target the most gullible fraction of the website's user base, not that all of it consists of naive people.

2/ You claim it's not effective. However, it looks like they're close to reaching their goal with 300+ backers and almost 40k in pledges, so it seems to me like it works.

3/ "Either way the project gets caught at an early stage and cancelled." This doesn't seem true. This project hasn't been taken down so far, and it looks like they were only discovered today after having run for long enough to collect 40k in pledges. Had these (alledged) scammers been more modest (40k goal, earlier deadline) they would have gotten away with it. Besides, Kickstarter has had several cases of fraud and scam recently, so it looks like their Trust&Safety procedure has not fully matured yet (which is normal since they've recently grown big enough that this is enough of a concern to create a dedicated department). This is a concern big crowdsourcing platforms are starting to face, and for working in the fraud detection space and often discussing these matters with other tech companies I can say it's still something fairly new to them.

4/ All this discussion is completely besides the original point I was trying to make. Whether this particular instance is going to go through or not, my point was that there is something interesting about scammers in that they seem to (consciously or not) have their own culture and implicit codes, one of which being this very specific type of communication that seems egregious to most of us but could drive better conversion among their target population. I thought this was an interesting/amusing thought, but you're free to disagree.

You're missing the point, because what you'd need to claim is "there are no dumb backers on kickstarter." Even if kickstarter backers are smart on average, the point of the spelling mistakes, etc., is to find only the dumb ones.

I think I got that point. But if there are ANY smart backers in the very-public Kickstarter community, then the project (should be) cancelled before any harm is done. Kickstarter is an acutely bad place to put scams of this sort, if the community effectively serves to quash them.

I've seen some research on internet scams that talk about how a lot of the point of the initial BS is to weed out the skeptical people, because that's not the target audience. Their target audience is the gullible.

As with any population, Kickstarter backers definitely also contain the gullible target audience that spammers want. Why do you think that it's special? Maybe it was in the early days, but now it's just as mass-market as the audience watching TV 'special sales'.

Spammers use it because it converts really well. Ugly as sin, but it converts.

Yup. There's a reason for that. Spammers are trying to target idiots specifically. Normal intelligent people who would otherwise get tricked tend to be the type with the wherewithall to follow up with authorities. Idiots tend not to be.

Interesting theory, but I'm not sure the data backs it up. As with all things, though, do your own A/B tests.

I think we are talking about two different things. It may be that spammer are telegraphing that they are probably a scam to catch people too dumb to know what a scam is, but...

I've also personally seen how "boring" and "ugly" web pages with lots of bold and italics and even underlines convert better than a trendier, "prettier" version. For non-spam, non-scam products.

It amazes me that the A/B tests work. Is it just that they catch people who have never seen a scam before? How can people who consistently fall for this crap have any money left for rent?

"converts really well"

I don't understand- converts to what? Another language?

Don't forget copious misuse of shitty clipart.

I love the fake "we can't show the name or number of our patents because of IP concerns" excuse.

a.) If the patent is easy to work around then it's not worth the paper it's written on b.) You can't be saying you don't want anyone to know the details because you're not going to defend the patent by taking legal action against infringers, because you've already published how the idea works c.) If you're patenting it in order to stop someone else claiming the IP, then why care if everyone knows what the idea is ? Why not publish the idea online as a freely downloadable paper ?

Also, won't they have to mark the finished product with the patent numbers anyway if they want the patents to remain valid?


Patents are kept in force by paying the renewal fees.

Adding patent numbers could mean that extra punitive damages are able to be sought as if copying can be proven it can also be shown that the infringer knew of the patents. Jurisdiction dependent.

this really annoyed me with my latest iphone. so many patents engraved on the the thing that the screen was illegible except for a small space top right corner.

If a person is an assignee for a patent then you can look it up in the USPTO or other regional database.

What if the project is actually honest.

They are using a generic watch manufactured by some Chinese company, which means almost visually identical watches already exist on the market. They value they are adding are the custom operating system, apps and connectivity.

EDIT: I encourage anyone to comment.

They have a lot of shots of hardware design and testing that at most charitable strongly imply they built the hardware from the bottom up. Having done so and then being intentionally vague about any of the hardware is offsetting.

That's not to mention the fact that the ONLY stretch goals are about making more apps for the watch. If you're serious about building a smartwatch you better offer people a damn good reason to buy it, not sit on your ass waiting for people to pay you to make the thing useful.

If they said that, fine. It's not what's said though.

They make claims to be the hardware developer, with lots of pictures of circuitry and apparent prototyping.

It smells like a scam.

I don't recall the name of the product but there's this little bluetooth bracelet you can buy that got big on kickstarter. Turns out that its almost identical to one at alibaba.com. The guy running the kickstarter said that they more or less copied the physical design but modified the internals a bit for better BT connectivity and to a newer version of BT.

This could be going on here with the Z3 watch. Instead, we have an out of control witchhunt. I think it makes a lot more financial sense to modify a proven design than to start from scratch. If you're on kick starter, you probably don't have deep pockets and an engineering department to begin with. Not to mention that hardware is kinda a commodity now. Good software is the hard nut to crack. Think CM vs Touchwiz on the same phone.

>> This could be going on here with the Z3 watch. Instead, we have an out of control witchhunt. I think it makes a lot more financial sense to modify a proven design than to start from scratch.

Right, except in this case the guy claims never to have heard of it and to be making stuff from scratch, has lots of pictures of prototyping and implies it was all developed in-house, spammed his own comments section repeatedly for hours and hours with a bunch of non-answers to questions people had raised then claimed he'd been hacked and that wasn't him (but still didn't answer any questions)...

Basically acting very shady. I sure as hell wouldn't be giving him any money.

Probably he wanted to distance himself away from similar products. It certainly didn't help him to never mention that the watch housing is not(probably, why would he then make the same design) manufactured in-house. As for being hacked, maybe he was hacked( internet can become very vengeful for almost no reason )and that person/competitor succeeded discrediting the project.

See this comment - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6862280

It appears that the PCB is even the same one as in the other watch.

I'd have no issue whatsoever with a KS that said "we found a pretty cool watch and we want to make it more awesome with some hardware tweaks and our own ultra-cool software stack!" But that doesn't seem to be what's happening here.

>> maybe he was hacked( internet can become very vengeful for almost no reason )and that person/competitor succeeded discrediting the project.

It's certainly possible, though it seems that the communication in the repeatedly spammed (and then denied) message was similar in style and content to the guy's previous comms and even if you ignore that he hasn't given any answers to his backers' questions.

>>All this power is packed into our compact smartwatch without sacrificing power consumption. It’s a beautiful balance between the power processing and the power management of our dual processor architectural design.<<

That is pretty misleading. I will set this to remind me in march or so and we will see the resolution( in case it's backed ).

I could entirely believe that to be the case, but the creator's alleged responses on the comments page would seem to cast doubt on him at least telling the truth about that.

Ugly trying-to-be-slick graphics and pictures, page upon page of content-free typo-ridden copy full to the brim with marketing bullshit, and meaningless tech specs (ooh, an embedded microcontroller with a low power mode...never seen those before). This wasn't even a well-done scam.

EDIT: Also, Android on a Cortex-M3 (according to their video). Yeah, sure, whatever you say.

The bottom line with Kickstarter is that it's a great idea, but 1. It's vulnerable to gaming, and 2. There are financial rewards for gaming Kickstarter.

I conjecture that 3. It will become overrun with flim-flam projects if it does not change to correct 1 and/or 2. The stories are few and far between today, but inexorably there will be more and more scams. Why not? It's relatively cheap to put a scam project together, and the upside is tremendous.

We can argue about whether Kickstarter is or isn't a store until we've consumed all the oxygen in the room, but the real question is this: Are things going to get better? Stay about the same? Or get worse?

I say thing will get much, much worse unless they make changes of some kind.

I know Indiegogo is hard at work towards building automated scam/fraud detection systems. I work in this space (I build such systems for Eventbrite) and from my conversation with them it seems they're new to these problems but are making them a priority. Now Indiegogo has a slightly different model (campaigns can be created by anyone and are not curated) than Kickstarter that makes it more of a priority for them, but hopefully with the recent cases of fraud on Kickstarter they're putting more work into prevention as well.

All in all, I don't think it's an inescapable problem. It is perfectly possible to build scam-detection systems (we do so at Eventbrite, to prevent people pretending to be selling tickets for an event they're not actually organizers of), and although it's not easy as these crowd-sourcing grow larger they'll hopefully have more resources to put behind it.

[1] Like this guy: http://www.onthemedia.org/story/new-kind-kickstarter-scam-ba...

I've been paying mild attention to Kickstarter for a while now.

I still don't get the "it's not a store" argument (well, I understand their positioning on it). I figured the SEC would step in by now.

You give some money, and you get some (generally speaking) 1-time tangible thing back. You don't get future profits, earnings, votes, etc. in the company that created the project. Sure, you can call the funds a "pledge", a "a donation", whatever. But you're not giving money to non-profit organizations, and you're generally giving the "pledge" expecting a specific thing in return for your pledge. This is very different than dropping $100 in a Salvation Army donation box (at least to me).

Kickstarter is not a store the way PayPal is not a bank, it's just that Kickstarter hasn't yet fully caught up to PayPal's level of anti-customer business.

> Sure, you can call the funds a "pledge"

It is a pledge. You are pledging to give money, but not actually giving it. If they are successfully pledged enough money at the end of the time, everyone is charged. However, that doesn't mean everyone is successfully charged. It's well established that there are people who pledge but don't pay. You could meet your pledge requirements, but still have less in funding that you needed (discounting the known cut KS and CC companies take).

Point is, it's a pledge.

> I still don't get the "it's not a store" argument.

What don't you get?

> You give some money, and you get some (generally speaking) 1-time tangible thing back.

Ahh. You are missing some parts. What you really mean to say is this:

"You pledge to give them some money in the hopes other people pledge as well so that they meat some minimum requirement. If enough is pledged, the company can then continue working on whatever project they were trying to fund. Things can and will change. You may eventually get something back. You may not. It make take years longer. It may be different from what you originally pledged for. It's not always a 1-time tangible thing back."

If that's your idea of a store...

Yes, I fully realize that Kickstarter is not directly a store. You're not pledging money towards immediately available products. They've added some unique factors to it. Otherwise, we would have never heard of them in the first place.

But calling it a pledge just because there are caveats attached still does not (IMO) change what people SEE Kickstarter as... I haven't heard from too many people that "pledged" money into a successfully funded project that never delivered walk away saying "Oh well, no big deal".

Kickstarter is basically leading people to believe they are going to get something very specific in return for their money. The projects even list higher-valued items for higher pledge amounts. This is much more "store"-like than it is not.

It's not really very store-like but you're absolutely correct that a lot of people view it that way. One doesn't have to look very far to find threads filled with all sorts of vitriol and threats over some kickstarter project which, despite what one assumes were the best of intentions, simply wasn't delivered as promised.

Of course, the fact that "Kickstarter's Terms of Use require creators to fulfill all rewards of their project or refund any backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill" also reinforces the idea that getting what's promised is guaranteed. But that doesn't help if the money is just gone.

> Kickstarter is basically leading people to believe they are going to get something very specific in return for their money.

No, they don't. They've done nothing to suggest otherwise, and they continue to try and make it clear that it's not a story, you aren't buying something like in a store. They've been consistent in this manner, and have even taken steps to ensure this point is made, such as making it so you can't pledge for more than one of the items.

> But calling it a pledge just because there are caveats attached still does not (IMO) change what people SEE Kickstarter as...

If that was all they did, you might have a point. But that's so far from the truth, it's insulting.

> I haven't heard from too many people that "pledged" money into a successfully funded project that never delivered walk away saying "Oh well, no big deal".

I haven't heard from too many people that "invested" money into a successfully funded startup that never delivered walk away saying "Oh well, no big deal".

At the end of the day, the only people thinking they are "buying" something at KS are those people that don't actually read what they are "buying". At some point, you have to put the blame on the user.

"No, they don't. They've done nothing to suggest otherwise, and they continue to try and make it clear that it's not a story, you aren't buying something like in a store."

So you think this page:https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/253126792/rocktm-first-...

which lists "pledge" amounts, and "rewards" does not lead people to think they are getting something in return for their money? It lists descriptions of the products, and also gives indications of limited quantities in some cases. Something that would likely not be a concern if a person had no reason to expect a physical object back from their pledge. If you have no right to expect something, why would available quantities be an issue?

"At the end of the day, the only people thinking they are "buying" something at KS are those people that don't actually read what they are "buying"."

On this we mostly agree. I just went through the pledge process on KS for this (up to the point of actually pledging). There is a whole lot more text describing the item you receive with a pledge amount than there is warning you about the caveats (one small text box that gives of an ebayish "we're just a middleman" warning), other caveats are behind links, which we all know are rarely clicked.

From the perspective of the average consumer, KS looks much more like a store/daily deal/discount style website than anything else.

> So you think

Yeah, I do.

And yes, to answer your question, I think that page, which is not the first page one would visit for a project, is quite clear. I'm sorry, but KickStarter is clear as clear can be. I'm sorry, but anyone that expects something different is dumb, and I have no sympathy for them at this point.

> (one small text box that gives of an ebayish "we're just a middleman" warning)

There is a whole section called Risks and challenges on the project's main page.

There is a box clearly labeled on the pledge page that says:

"Kickstarter does not guarantee projects or investigate a creator's ability to complete their project."

Everything talks about "Estimated delivery" dates.

Not sure what KickStarter is?

At the top of the main page, right next to the name!

What is KickStarter? http://www.kickstarter.com/hello?ref=nav

> other caveats are behind links, which we all know are rarely clicked.

I'm sorry, but there is more than enough text explaining what's going on.

> From the perspective of the average consumer, KS looks much more like a store/daily deal/discount style website than anything else.

No. Only from the perspective of the below-average consumer. I'm normally tolerant of people not understanding things, but at this point, I couldn't care less. If someone is stupid enough to blindly ignore all the clear notices and wording saying exactly what they are doing and saying exactly what is really being promised, it's their own damn fault.

I've backed 20 projects and haven't had a bad experience. Things haven't always gone as planned, but I've never had an issue. I'm sorry, but if the someone can't use KickStarter like an adult, maybe it will prevent them from falling for a Nigerian scam they would have inevitably fell for.

It's a store with an assurance contract model, like Groupon. You wouldn't say that people "pledge" to get their Groupon.

No, because there is a distinct difference in the result of Groupon and KS. KS makes it clear at many, many levels what your pledge means. Groupon makes it clear how your purchase works.

Legally and practically speaking, it's not a store because it is instead a marketplace. If we were talking about a flea market, Kickstarter would be the company that rents out spots, not the guy selling you a shady DVD.

It might be possible to set up something like a store using Kickstarter, and then to defraud people who participate. If I promise to try to build you a smartwatch and I was always planning to send you a brick wrapped in tinfoil, I've probably committed civil and criminal fraud. The court won't much care whether it's a "store," only whether I lied to get the money. But that's on me, not on Kickstarter -- federal law says that online marketplaces aren't (necessarily) liable for fraud. See the unsuccessful lawsuits against eBay, Google AdSense, and Orbitz: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_230_of_the_Communicati...

It's certainly possible for an online marketplace to become party to fraud if it's sufficiently involved, and I have no idea where that line is drawn. I am not your lawyer and this is not legal advice. That citation above could be totally wrong and those cases were probably made up by rogue Wikipedia editors. Your intuitions will be closer, though, if you think of Kickstarter as the marketplace rather than the store.

(As a side note, let me repeat that the law doesn't care whether it's a "store"; the question is whether people are being misled about the relevant facts when they decide to put money down. When people say "Kickstarter is a store," the legal argument would probably be "projects hosted on Kickstarter tend to mislead people who contribute money about the nature of the transaction, and the website's design encourages that." I know legal definitions aren't everything, but good ones tend to be handy even in non-legal settings, because they strip away hard-to-define words like "store" and replace them with easy-to-define words like "transaction" and "website".)

I see no reason why backing a project requires any benefits or ownership and why the benefactors cannot turn a profit with that project. If you don't like it, don't back it. Federal regulation isn't at all necessary because the deal is clearly spelled out. You aren't buying a product, you're backing a project which you may be rewarded for.

Except in the case where the Kickstart is funded, the money is taken, and then the project never delivers. That's of course the risk, but if the project never really intended to deliver (i.e. a scam or fraud) Kickstarter can potentially lean back and say that it's not a store so you can't reasonably expect any return. The problem with that position is that CHARITY fraud is also a real thing and there's a whole host of agencies that care about it (FTC, FBI, IRS).

I guess my point is that whether or not you expect a tangible reward, the outcome of a Kickstart is unchanged: your contribution is expected to create something new in the world. If Kickstarter systematically ignores fraudulent projects and "inventors" then the problem is deeper than simply not supporting what you don't like, inasmuch as saying "if a Ponzi scheme doesn't sound good, then don't invest in it" doesn't actually make Ponzi schemes legal.

Sorry, maybe my post wasn't clear. In the sense of giving money over to someone else for the achievement of a goal, I would see 3 basic categories:

1) A donation, however phrased. In this sense, you are effectively giving money away with no expectations of any future returns of any sort. It would be for the most part "anonymous", or at the very least trackable only for the purpose of eventually allowing the recipient to say "thanks".

2) A pre-paid product purchase. In this case you're effectively combining the elements of the "group buy" concept that at least at one time was semi-popular on Internet forums (8 years ago a group of F-150 enthusiasts all got together to purchase Gaylord brand fiberglass bed covers. Standard price was $1600, IIRC, but by committing to purchase 25 units all at once, we were able to purchase them for $1200 shipped). In this case you realize that the product delivery will occur at some future date, and that you get your money back/don't have to pay if the goal is not reached. If this goal IS reached, you fully expect to receive the advertised product within a reasonable timeframe.

3) An investment. In this case you are not looking for a product, per se, but you believe the corporation has the potential to make money. Your investment buys you a share of the company, and therefore a share of future value as well. Investments carry risk, and your investment could also become worthless, or worth less than the investment amount.

Kickstarter seems to mostly attract people looking for #2 above, and most projects have some very low tier to accommodate people who only want #1 above. I'm not saying the project owner can't or shouldn't turn a profit, I was just saying that the project backers don't ever receive any part of that profit, so they are not "investors" (a term which Kickstarter seems to purposefully avoid".

I would say investment is the closest of your 3 categories to describe Kickstarter. Although not by your definition of investment which is quite narrow, in that it only involves investing in companies for a share of ownership.

You give them money which has a potential return (the reward). They anticipate the return to be as described, frequently a slight discount to a good on a certain date. This return is very rarely estimated accurately as with most returns. Usually it is at least incorrect in the date estimate, sometimes the retail price price winds up being lower than the kickstarter price, and sometimes it exceeds the estimate and you get something like a free sticker too.

You are assuming risk with your money for that potential gain, that is the trade, like an investment just your money is a tiny amount, your risk somewhat mitigated, and your gain tiny.

Interesting perspective, I hadn't thought about it that way, but I like your logic.

>I was just saying that the project backers don't ever receive any part of that profit, so they are not "investors"

Of course, I don't think anyone is mistaken to think backing a kickstarter project is an investment. What you are buying with a project backing isn't the product, but a good-faith effort to complete the project. One might think kickstarter is a store, but it isn't and doesn't claim to be. Backed projects come with rewards, but they also come with an implicit and obvious 'if successful' caveat with the clear implied risk of failure.

> you get some _(generally speaking)_ 1-time tangible thing back.

I think this is the part where it is not a store. A store brings you something for you money. Kickstarter can cover the non "generally speaking" part where you can pledge money for nothing (you just want to push the project. i.e. $1 pledges are usually without any tangible return). I remember the Penny Arcade kickstater, where a lot of people pledge below the first tangible return, just because they liked the idea.

That's also what happens if you back an open source project, the tangible return might be highly subjective.

Well at least if you get ripped it's only for 100-200$ or so. Which is better than http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wjsteele/ultra-bot-3d-pr... where people lose >1000$, and kickstarter does not do anything at all about it.

Remember that kickstarter is not a store. When you give somebody money on kickstarter you're not buying a product, you're supporting the producer. Businesses can fail, even when funded.

See also http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/kickstarter-is-not-a-store

That's begging the question.

Why shouldn't Kickstarter be considered to be a store and be bound by store-like rules?

Alternately, what if Walmart decided they weren't a store either?

In Seven things to know about kickstarter it is stated pretty clearly that A. you fund creative projects, B. you are supporting someones dream and C. a project might take longer than expected. That all signals 'risk!' to me. The guidelines for projects are pretty slim. Again a hint that 'anything' goes on a site like this.

All very different from your regular store where the basis of your contract is, usually via terms of service, "pay X to receive good Y within period Z".

Because Kickstarter fulfills a different function. In a store, I can buy things that exist, are produced currently and that I can take home more or less immediately. Kickstarter allows me to pledge money towards products that I would like to see produced. I'm supporting something that has not been produced before, that may actually not be viable. That's the risk I'm taking and I take it voluntarily, but that's not the risk I want to take when buying toilet paper.

Because kickstarter is not a store. Stores have products on shelves. Kickstarter introduces you to people who want to create a product.

Because that would be a store. We already have stores, they're something different. Walmart on the other hand is a store.

I imagine that people would do a lot less shopping at Walmart. Hopefully for Walmart that would fit with their new model.

kickstarter does not do anything at all about it.

I don't know anything about that particular case, but in general, what do you think Kickstarter can/should do about it?

That's a good question, i.e. hard to answer :] I know KS is merely hosting things, but for the amounts they receive I feel they should at least offer some legal advice or so about what you can do in a case like this. And maybe keep a better eye on what can be fake and what not or what could cause problems, and interrupt the process if they see somthing fishy goes on.

The creator has been extremely silent the last few months except for claiming bankruptcy - yet that claim hasn't even been verified and the backers basically have no clue about what to do know. It would be nice if KS could jump in and help them investigating this or tell them how/where they should go to court?

Events like this will just gradually erode Kickstarter's reputation until its business dwindles as more and more people start to regard the whole idea as too risky.

Kickstarter doesn't need to act to protect backers, it needs to act to protect its own position. Hopefully, though, the same solutions will serve both ends.

Or, even worse, kickstarter could actually become more risky if more people use it to scam people out of money.

It's really sad. I'm sure there are also people on Kickstarter who aren't scammers, just ordinary folks who don't appreciate the full extent of their commitment. You run into a few obstacles, or your mom gets sick, and suddenly you're on the hook for $50,000 and can't deliver what you promised.

On the other hand, you hear stories about projects who offer too much ("I'll paint a portrait of anyone who donates $7!"), and all their money goes to servicing those rewards.

I don't mean to excuse anyone. Obviously, not everyone is capable of running a business, and Kickstarter makes it really easy for those people to get themselves into hot water.

What happened with ultra bot?

The project creator is claiming that he is filing for bankruptcy: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wjsteele/ultra-bot-3d-pr...

Which is precisely the right thing when this happens.

So what?

Well the problem seems to be it's just a claim

  This morning I received a return phone call from the Indiana Southern Bankruptcy Court regarding my inquiry about Mr. Steele's bankruptcy claim. They have searched all the courts in the US and could not find any bankruptcy filings
moreover if you read the comments it's obvious the creator hasn't been honest, and possibly took his IP to some other company. Possibly, cause it's again hard to verify.

Which all previous posters expected me to extract from a wall of text that runs from here to Dubai :).

Thanks for clarifying!

Credit card charge-back? It used to work.

I've seen this happen several times on Kickstarter with various products. Every time I've seen it though the project gets called out before the end of the funding period. I'm sure the Kickstarter people are aware of the problem, but at the end of the day caveat emptor.

A lot of backers for Kickstarter still don't understand that, years on. With the exception of some artistic projects, anyway, but even they are not immune (see any StarCraft doco for example). It's more like an investment in an idea, and people should treat it as such, but I think it's in KickStarter's interest to keep that confusion around...

To be fair, the maker of the Z3 watch does brand themselves as an OEM...

Too bad the Kickstarter guy wasn't just a little more upfront about what clearly seems to be a rebranded watch...

They never are, none of those projects for Android stick computers said it was the same lowend generic stuff the Chinese sell for forty bucks.

This guy is now using the same excuse that he used on day 1 (the team are on holiday so I can't make specific replies). It's just a joke. 4GB of ROM and 4GB of RAM? The iPhone 5S has 1GB of RAM, what the hell would you need with the rest?

At least he's removed some of his claims (it is waterproof, oops now it's not; the screen is 1080p - with a 250 x 250 screen? WTF?). His last update focuses on the money going to software development (basically, the watch is the cheap Chinese Z3 watch that we bought in bulk from alibaba.com, but the apps are different).

He is just full of shit and avoids all the questions that he knows the answers to (the ones that he doesn't want to reveal publicly).

From the 'my account was hacked' spamming to the bullshit on his own website (want to make a quick buck? I'll show you how) his is a scam, 100%.

I've never liked Kickstarter. It's a nice idea and all, but there is so much room for failure and scam.

I'm sure they're motivated as hell to bring great products and on kickstarters site, they're motivated too to support those projects. But more often than not, there are people, without any knowledge on how to develop products, that i'm way to scared to give them any money.

Oh, and since a few big projects, it's only one piece of the marketing bullshit-bubble. Everyone tries to use Kickstarter as a marketing channel and people that want to solve real problems aren't mentioned anywhere.

I mean, why the fuck to rich people need to use kickstarter? There are enough examples, where people with huge piles of money try to finance their projects on kickstarter. Use your own money, damn it.

> I've never liked Kickstarter. It's a nice idea and all, but there is so much room for failure and scam.

It depends how you use it. If you use it as a store, yes (though the risk can be minimized by due diligence).

> and people that want to solve real problems aren't mentioned anywhere.

What are real problems? For me a real problem was (or rather will hopefully) be solved by the Hot Smartwatch.

> why the fuck to rich people need to use kickstarter?

It's a great tool to test the waters. If you don't get funded, you probably would have thrown your money down the drain. Also I don't see a problem with using KS as a marketing tool, though the extra attention KS gets in media will probably die down in another year or two (It's already not as effective as it was at the beginning).

Can't you sell shares in the company to achieve the same thing?

I'd split the thing into Kickstarter for art, and Kickstarter for products for a start

I'd imagine selling shares would be way more complicated.

Plus, you completely lose the gauge consumer interest part. Buying shares you have to think about if other people want it. Right now you only have to think about if YOU want it.

This was a project I supported - http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/796177777/tony. He's a talented, established artist so I trusted him from the get-go. $25 and I got a signed DVD and CD. I thought this was a fun way to produce a product that connects the artist to the fan and vice versa.

Have you actually tried it? I've discovered a number of cool products on it, Flint & Tinder for example that I've ordered from multiple times since.

The funny thing about the whole thing is that people are actually pledging to the project just for commenting in the Kickstarter project thread...

The intro video already has a few red flags to show that he doesn't know what he's talking about (or he's not being honest):

- He considers the 240x240 display an HD display

- He claims the watch has 4GB of RAM

His Kickstarter page is so full of BS materials that anyone with just a little bit of common sense and technical knowledge about smartphones should be able to tell this is not a legitimate project.

This guy, uses, a lot of commas, when he speaks. He's kind of, got, a Christopher Walken, thing, going on.

Thanks-now, I'm reading, everything-aaaahhhh,this way

If we don't, get, to fifty thouSAND, in about, thirty days, then, the whole, y'know, project goes, unfunded.

The comments are interesting. I suppose it's a "internet justice" thing: expose the scammer, so others don't make the mistake of backing them, and you get to attack someone you don't know. Win win? /shrugs, I would've just posted a comment saying that with the info that's come to light I can no longer back this, and pull my money out and move on. To each their own, I always find how people deal with things like this on the net really interesting.

Again. This happened before and a lot of blogs even promoted the product that time.

“The Rock – The World’s Most Complete Smartest Lifestyle Smartwatch” .. please tell me it's a joke, that people actually gave him 37K!!

The project has finally been suspended by Kickstarter. Now this guy is removing all his pictures and bio links from the project page!

It looks like the "jeitinho brasileiro" (aka Brazilian Lifestyle) is wildspreading across the world.

Your translation is wrong. This expression (jeitinho brazileiro) is Portuguese for "Brazilian arrangement" - like in "officer, I know I was above the speed limit, but can we make an arrangement?".

It is related to bribery, not to scams. If you are not Brazilian, it is a racist statement, if you are it is a shameful display of low self esteem.

Are you sure that's realated only to bribery? The "Brazilian arrangement" goes beyond that.

Also, if you are not Brazilian, come visit Rio or Sao Paulo and ask for a taxi. The taxi driver will give you a "jeitinho" (a way) to steal your money putting you in a wrong route.

And take a look at the Fifa world cup stadiums built. Someone did a "jeitinho" (or a way) to elevate their final cost or in other words, stealing public resources (money came by taxes, paid by people).

I can give you a ton of examples, but nevermind, even with my low self esteem....

But if you are Brazilian, please open your eyes and get out of your bubble.

Kudos for a simple-minded comment.

Small Business Evangelist | Serial Technologist | E-Commerce Platform Idealogist


Very difficult to parse that headline.

Can we send this guy to jail or do something to him?

There are times when all of us are jerks, or morons, or both. We should certainly shun such behavior, but I don't get this knee-jerk reaction to sent the sucker to jail. Which law did he violate, and which government has jurisdiction over it, and in what way are you a victim? Answer all three and yes, you can actually send him to jail.

For what, rebranding?

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