How Zano Raised Millions on Kickstarter and Left Most Backers with Nothing

Mark Harris
Jan 18, 2016 · 53 min read
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One of only four Zanos ever to make it to a Kickstarter backer / Mark Harris


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Ivan Reedman (left) and Reece Crowther (right) / Torquing Group

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The Bridge Innovation Centre on the Pembrokeshire Science & Technology Park / Mark Harris

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A still from Zano’s promotional video on Kickstarter / Torquing Group


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Zano with both flavours of propeller / Mark Harris

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One of Torquing’s leased vehicles outside its units at the Technology Park, and packaging for Apple products shot through the window / Mark Harris

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A still from Zano’s promotional video on Kickstarter / Torquing Group

Footage from a backer who describes the Zano as “a continual nightmare of mega-underperformance.”

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First and only annual profit and loss statement of Torquing Robotics Ltd / Mark Harris

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Craig Holloway’s Zano attempting to connect to Torquing’s server via smartphone app / Mark Harris

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A still from Zano’s promotional video on Kickstarter / Torquing Group

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A still from Zano’s promotional video on Kickstarter / Torquing Group

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Graphics for a Zano card game, to be packaged in Zano clamshells / Alex Mühlhölzl

Way too long; didn’t read

I can only apologise for the extreme length of this report. While no magazine or newspaper would have allowed me go into so much detail, I think Zano’s backers deserve the fullest possible picture of events. I hope that it remains readable and interesting, and that the minutiae of propeller plastics and inter-company loans were not too tedious.

  • Torquing’s previous drone development work, a military surveillance quadcopter, was not completed to the satisfaction of its client. The drone never flew properly and did not enter production.
  • In the spring 2014, Reedman received private investment of around £150,000 to develop a palm-sized consumer drone called the Zano.
  • There is convincing evidence that the Kickstarter campaign video, released in November 2014, was misleading as to the existing capabilities and readiness level of the Zano.
  • The reason that the Zano was not shown flying at the CES trade show in January 2015 is that it was not capable of performing adequately.
  • The massive success of the Kickstarter campaign (20 times Torquing’s target) caused enormous difficulties for the Zano team, obliging them to develop additional features, as well as scale up communications and production by an order of magnitude.
  • Torquing directors may have awarded themselves higher salaries than necessary and spent money on superfluous items like cars, but there is no sign of sustained extravagance or criminal fraud.
  • Torquing did mount a serious, well-intentioned attempt to develop, manufacture, and deliver an intelligent autonomous consumer drone along the lines of their promises in the Kickstarter campaign. A seemingly dedicated staff couldn’t, in any case, meet the over-ambitious deadlines and specifications.
  • Torquing directors made a series of serious errors in committing the business to extremely high levels of stock in the absence of proven production models, or even fully functional prototypes.
  • Communications from the project creators to backers were, on the whole, regular and fairly honest. However, they were also incomplete, overconfident, and reflected a dangerous lack of self-awareness of the problems the company was making for itself.
  • Financial pressures led the creators to ship Zano units that they knew were not ready, and additionally to favour pre-order customers in the hope of receiving additional revenues.
  • The resignation of Ivan Reedman was the immediate cause of the directors of Torquing seeking liquidation, but the business was already on its last legs, with a shortfall of over £1m.
  • The liquidation is proceeding in a professional manner, but is unlikely to result in any refund, however small, to any Kickstarter backer.
  • Personally, I do not believe that the creators possessed the technical or commercial competencies necessary to deliver the Zano as specified in the original campaign.
  • Kickstarter, and other crowdfunding platforms, should reconsider the way that they deal with projects involving complex hardware, massive overfunding, or large sums of money. There should be better mechanisms to identify weak projects before they fund, as well as new processes to provide mentorship, support and expert advice to newly-funded projects.

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