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The anatomy of a Kickstarter scam, starring Peachy Printer

If as much effort went into actually building this product compared to scamming investors and covering their asses, the Peachy Printer founders might have actually come up with something worthwhile.

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Bad apples spoil the bunch

I always wondered what BS smells like and now I know. The Kickstarter Peachy Printer scam is so unbelievably crooked that I can’t help but wonder if these guys had just put the same amount of effort into actually following through on their promises that they did on siphoning money from investors, something worthwhile may have actually been produced.

This is going to be a wild read, hang on to your butts.

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The short version

Two young entrepreneurs come up with an idea to create a desktop 3D printer that would cost consumers only $100. Dreamy, right?

Impressed Kickstarter investors ponied up $600,000 (Canadian). For reasons that completely escape me, the inventor and his partner do this without having set up a business banking account, so all the money goes into a private checking account where one of the partners’ proceeds to spend most of the funds on a new house!

Said 3D printer never gets made, no one gets arrested, and the whole scam is covered up for more than two years before it goes public.

Note from the Editor: This all feels like an elaborate hoax, but is being reported by even the most credible sources (like BBC), but we’re still holding our breath – filmed confessions that sound like a high school play? We’ll see.

A template for success

Kickstarter has set up a process where entrepreneurs have the potential to find investors so funds can be raised and dreams can be realized. The track record for this is pretty good because Kickstarter seems to be stronger than ever and is extremely vigilant about protecting their community.

Further, Kickstarter tells you (in fine print) that respective products may never see the light of day. Which is why money pledged is considered a donation.

But I digress. The Peachy Printer debacle is a prime example of why the government is getting involved and trying to regulate crowdfunding sites in order to make those receiving funds legally responsible.

The fine print

Always read the fine print. This is from the Kickstarter Website:

“Kickstarter does not guarantee projects or investigate a creator’s ability to complete their project. On Kickstarter, backers ultimately decide the validity and worthiness of a project by whether they decide to fund it.”

What is a creator obligated to do once their project is funded? (Notice it says fundamental and not LEGAL obligation). I’m glad you asked.

“When a project is successfully funded, the creator is responsible for completing the project and fulfilling each reward. Their fundamental obligation to backers is to finish all the work that was promised. Once a creator has done so, they’ve fulfilled their obligation to their backers. At the same time, backers must understand that Kickstarter is not a store. When you back a project, you’re helping to create something new, not ordering something that already exists. There’s a chance something could happen that prevents the creator from being able to finish the project as promised.

If a creator is absolutely unable to complete the project and fulfill rewards, they must make every reasonable effort to find another way of bringing the project to a satisfying conclusion for their backers.”

That is what is SUPPOSED to happen. It doesn’t mean that is what WILL happen.

Integrity is SO overrated

You can see Kickstarter has tried to insert some inherent sense of doing the right thing. All they do is provide a template. They get their percentage and sleep well at night because investors more or less know up front what they are getting into.

As bad as the Peachy Printer project is/was, it’s nothing compared to the recent Zano mini-drone initiative that scorched investors for several million dollars.

In both cases, the project developers apologized and tried to smooth things over by presenting professionally made graphics that explain how the money was spent. I noticed in both cases that no one made the effort to include a pie chart showing expenditures for a new house or a private island in the tropics, but I guess that’s neither here nor there.

Like money in the bank

In the bigger scheme of things how this ultimately ends is anyone’s guess. Regarding Peachy Printer, so far no printers have been made, most likely for the simple reason that one of the partners in the project took the money and built a house with it. Investors are likely pissed off because they got burned.

Will this give investors more pause before investing in crowdfunding sites? Maybe, maybe not.

Lino Rivera tells us, “My overall opinion on crowdfunding is a positive one, but there are no doubt pitfalls at every corner. I’ve had customers come from that space who were wildly successful out of the gate only to lose steam and ‘realign themselves’ a year after. I’ve backed a few projects myself, now that I think about it though, I haven’t received anything yet from those campaigns.”

“The last one I backed was actually from an established company who said crowdfunding sped up the time to market,” Rivera notes. “Really though, I believe it had more to do with market validation, which I think is one of crowdfundings greatest strengths. Before investing in huge amounts of capital, you get to see if it is even something the market wants.”

Will one bad apple spoil the bunch? Probably not, because as Rivera notes, there are other reasons for crowdfunding than the actual dollars. And Peachy Printer is hardly the first to victimize the crowdfunding space, so stay tuned.


All links he mentions are on this site.

#KickstarterScam

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.

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Business News

Too connected: FTC eyes Facebook antitrust lawsuit

(BUSINESS NEWS) Following other antitrust hearings, we’re expecting to hear more about the FTC’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, soon.

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Facebook being crossed out by a stylus on a mobile device.

Facebook might be wishing it had kept the “dislike” button.

On September 15, the Wall Street Journal announced that the Federal Trade Commission was preparing a possible antitrust lawsuit against the social media titan. Although the FTC has not made an official decision on whether to pursue the case, sources familiar with the situation expect a determination will be made on the matter sometime before the end of 2020. Facebook and the FTC both declined to comment when asked about the story.

The news comes following a year-long investigation by the FTC that has looked into anti-competitive practices by the Menlo Park-based company. This past July, the United States House of Representatives held hearings in which they grilled the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook regarding their business practices. In August, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also testified in front of the FTC as part of the department’s antitrust probe into the organization.

The FTC seems to be especially interested in Facebook’s past acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, which they believe may have been done to stifle competition. In internal emails sent between Zuckerberg and Facebook’s former CFO David Ebersman back in 2012, the 36-year-old seemed worried that the apps could eventually pose a threat to the social media conglomerate.

“These businesses are nascent but the networks established, the brands are already meaningful, and if they grow to a large scale the could be very disruptive to us,” Zuckerberg wrote to Ebersman, “Given that we think our own valuation is fairly aggressive and that we’re vulnerable in mobile, I’m curious if we should consider going after one or two of them.”

When Ebersman asked him to clarify the benefits of the acquisitions, Zuckerberg stated the purchases would neutralize a competitor while improving Facebook.

“One way of looking at this is that what we’re really buying is time. Even if some new competitors springs up, buying Instagram, Path, Foursquare, etc. now will give us a year or more to integrate their dynamics before anyone can get close to their scale again.” Zuckerberg said.

This isn’t the first time the FTC has investigated Facebook either. Last year the agency fined the company $5 billion for the mishandling of user’s personal information, the biggest penalty imposed by the federal government against a technology company. As a part of the settlement with the FTC in that case, Facebook also promised more comprehensive oversight of user data.

If the FTC does pursue an antitrust suit against Facebook, it could end up forcing the social media giant to spin off some of the companies it has acquired or place restrictions on how it does business. Considering how long it will take to file the litigation and prove the case in a courtroom, however, it seems that Zuckerberg will once again be “buying time.”

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Business News

What you need to know about the historic TikTok deal (for now)

(BUSINESS NEWS) No one really knows what’s happening, but the TikTok deal’s impact on business, US-China relations, and the open internet could be huge.

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Male black hands holding app opening TikTok app.

So, maybe you’ve heard that Oracle and Walmart are buying TikTok for national security!

Um, not exactly.

Also, Trump banned TikTok!

Sort of? Maybe?

But then he said he approved the Oracle-Walmart-TikTok deal!

We guess?

The terms of the proposal seem to shift daily, if not hourly. The sheer number of contradictory statements from every player suggests no one really knows what’s going on.

Just one example: Trump said the deal included a $5 billion donation to a fund for education for American youth. TikTok parent ByteDance, said, “Say what now?”

Here’s what we think we know (as of this writing):

Oracle and Walmart would get a combined 20 percent stake in a new U.S.-based company called TikTok Global. Combine that with current US investors in China’s ByteDance, TikTok’s parent, that would give American interests 53 percent. European and other investors would have 11 percent. China would retain 36 percent. (On Saturday Trump said China would have no interests at all. But that does not jibe with the reporting on the deal.)

Oracle would host all user data on its cloud, where it is promising “security will be 100 percent” to keep data safe from China’s prying eyes. But reporting has differed on whether Oracle will get full access to TikTok’s code and AI algorithms. Without full control, skeptics say, Oracle could be little more than a hosting service, and potential security issues would remain unaddressed.

Walmart says they’re excited about their “potential investment and commercial agreements,” suggesting they may be exploring e-commerce opportunities in the app.

The US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is overseen by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, still has to approve any deal.

As for the TikTok “ban” – which isn’t really a ban because current users can keep it – the Commerce Department postponed the deadline for kicking TikTok off U.S. app stores to September 27, to give time for the deal to be hammered out. Never mind that it’s still not clear whether the U.S. government has authority to do that. Unsurprisingly, ByteDance says it doesn’t in a lawsuit filed September 18.

Whatever happens with the whiplash of the deal’s particulars, there are bigger issues in play.

According to business news site Quartz, moving data storage to Oracle mirrors what companies like Apple have done in China: Appease the Chinese government by allowing all data hosting to be inside China. A similar move could “mark the US, too, shifting from a more laissez-faire approach to user data, to a more sovereign one,” says China tech reporter Jane Li.

More obvious: Corporate sales and mergers are now part of the parrying between the U.S. and China, which adds a whole new playing field for negotiations among businesses.

In the meantime, TikTokkers keep TikTokking. White suburban moms continue to lip sync to rap songs in their kitchens. Gen Z continues to make fun of the president – and pretty much everything else.

And downloads of the app have skyrocketed.

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Business News

Hobby Lobby increases minimum wage, but how much is just to save face?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Are their efforts to raise their minimum wage to $17/hour sincere, or more about saving face after bungling pandemic concerns?

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Hobby Lobby storefront

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby announced this week that they will be raising their minimum full-time wage to $17/hour starting October 1st. This decision makes them the latest big retailer to raise wages during the pandemic (Target raised their minimum wage to $15/hour about three months ago, and Walmart and Amazon have temporarily raised wages). The current minimum wage for Hobby Lobby employees is $15/hour, which was implemented in 2014.

While a $17 minimum wage is a big statement for the company (even a $15 minimum wage cannot be agreed upon on the federal level) – and it is no doubt a coveted wage for the majority of the working class – it’s difficult to not see this move as an attempt to regain public support of the company.

When the pandemic first began, Hobby Lobby – with more than 900 stores and 43,000 employees nationwide – refused to close their stores despite being deemed a nonessential business (subsequently, a Dallas judge accused the company of endangering public health).

In April, Hobby Lobby furloughed almost all store employees and the majority of corporate and distribution employees without notice. They also ended emergency leave pay and suspended the use of company-provided paid time off benefits for employees during the furloughs – a decision that was widely criticized by the public, although the company claims the reason for this was so that employees would be able to take full advantage of government handouts during their furlough.

However, the furloughs are not Hobby Lobby’s first moment under fire. The Oklahoma-based Christian company won a 2014 Supreme Court case – the same year they initially raised their minimum wage – that granted them the right to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Also, Hobby Lobby settled a federal complaint in 2017 that accused them of purchasing upwards of 5,000 looted ancient Iraqi artifacts, smuggled through the United Arab Emirates and Israel – which is simultaneously strange, exploitative, and highly controversial.

Why does this all matter? While raising their minimum wage to $17 should be regarded as a step in the right direction regarding the overall treatment of employees (and, hopefully, $17 becomes the new standard), Hobby Lobby is not without reason to seek favorable public opinion, especially during a pandemic. Yes, we should be quick to condone the action of increasing minimum wage, but perhaps be a little skeptical when deeming a company “good” or “bad”.

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