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Kickstarter investigates project that raised millions, gave backers nothing

(TECH NEWS) After years of successfully helping startups raise capital, the biggest Kickstarter biggest bust to date has entrepreneurs wondering if consumers will lose faith in crowd-sourcing.

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These aren’t the drones you’re looking for

After years of successfully helping startups raise capital, Kickstarter’s biggest bust to date has entrepreneurs wondering if consumers will lose faith in crowd-sourcing.

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The Welsh start-up, Torquing Group, received a lot of positive media attention and several large investments towards its project of creating a handheld consumer drone. The Zano drone was set to make a huge splash. Consumers were promised a drone that could be controlled remotely by following the motions of your smartphone, that would avoid obstacles, and that would shoot excellent aerial footage, including selfies.

“Supply chain is 100% ready to go”

After receiving backing from a major investor, Torquing started a Kickstarter campaign to raise £125,000 (about $190,000) to build Zano drones. The Kickstarter page promised reward drones to donors, ensuring them that Torquing’s “supply chain is 100% ready to go, from vital components that make Zano fly, to the very boxes that Zano is packaged in.”

Torquing’s Kickstart page also had a video demonstrating Zano in flight, and the project was even listed prominently as a Kickstarter Staff Pick.

Zano was shortlisted for a Best of CES (the International Consumer Electronics Showcase) Award. Besides promising reward drones for Kickstarter donors, Torquing also collected 3,000 pre-orders. Torquing seemed poised for success.

And in fact, the company exceeded their goals significantly. Using Kickstarter, they met their initial fundraising goal within ten days, and continued to raise funds until they finally ended their campaign last January, with 12,000 backers pledging £2.5 million (about $3.5 million), becoming Europe’s most successful Kickstarter campaign to date.

Pre-orders were lemons

Donors were promised their reward drones by June 2015, but as summer rolled around, it was clear that there would be delays. In September, about 600 Zano drones were delivered to customers who had put in pre-orders, which seriously hacked off the Kickstarter donors, who felt that their reward drones should have been delivered first and foremost. But what was worse – the customers who received Zanos complained that they barely worked. Zano turned out to be a lemon who could barely get off the ground, much less avoid obstacles and take selfies.

In October of this year, Torquing announced that reward drones would be delivered by February 2016, but the next month, the company used their Kickstarter page to announce that they were liquidating.

The company has closed, the staff has been laid off, and assets will be sold to pay outstanding bills.

Apparently the company blew through the £2.5 million pounds collected on Kickstarter, and also racked up an additional £1 million in debt.

Scam or bad luck?

Production for Zanos was halted, and only four reward Zanos were ever delivered to Kickstarter donors. Those who did receive pre-order drones found their Zanos permanently grounded, because the drones relied on Torquing’s supercomputer, which was shut down after the liquidation.

The company has vanished from Kickstarter, and has refused to answer to the demands of either donors or the site itself. Concerned that this epic failure would besmirch its reputation, Kickstarter asked journalist Mark Harris to investigate what went wrong. Was Torquing running a scam all along? Or did they just have terrible luck? And to what extend it Kickstarter accountable for the mistake?

Read the whole story of what happened on the inside at Torquing.

#KickstarterScam

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Business News

Bose is closing their retail stores, but we haven’t heard the last of them

(BUSINESS NEWS) Over the last 30 years Bose has become so well understood by consumers that they don’t even need retail stores anymore. We hear them just fine.

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bose closing retail stores

Over the next few months, Bose plans to close all of their retail stores in North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia. The company made the announcement last week. With 119 stores closing, presumably hundreds of Bose employees will be laid off, but the company has not revealed exact numbers.

However, this shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the maker of audio equipment is struggling to stay afloat. Rather, the move marks a major change in how consumers purchase tech gear.

When the Framingham, Massachusetts-based company opened its first U.S. retail store in 1993, it was making home entertainment systems for watching DVDs and listening to CDs. According to Colette Burke, Bose’s vice president of global sales, these first brick-and-mortar locations “gave people a way to experience, test, and talk to us” about Bose products. “At the time, it was a radical idea,” she says, “but we focused on what our customers needed and where they needed it – and we’re doing the same thing now.”

When a lot of this equipment was new, consumers may have had more questions and a need to see the products in action before purchasing. Nowadays, we all know what noise-canceling headphones are; we all know what a Bluetooth speaker is. We’re happy to read about the details online before adding products to our virtual shopping cart. The ability for Bose to close its retail stores is probably also an indicator that Bose has earned strong brand recognition and a reputation as a reliable maker of audio equipment.

In other words, consumers are less and less inclined to need to check out equipment in person before they buy it. For those who do, Bose products can still be purchased at stores like Best Buy, Target, and Apple. But overall, Bose can’t ignore the fact that their products “are increasingly purchased through e-commerce,” such as on Amazon or directly from their website.

In a statement, Bose also said that it has become a “larger multi-national company, with a localized mix of channels tailored for the country or region.” While Bose is shutting down its retail stores in several continents, it will continue to operate stores in China, the United Arab Emirates, India, Southeast Asia, and South Korea.

Burke said the decision to close so many retail stores was “difficult” because it “impacts some of our amazing store teams who make us proud every day.” Bose is offering “outplacement assistance and severance to employees that are being laid off.”

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Business News

Finally the American workforce is now mostly women!

(BUSINESS NEWS) Women officially make up more than half the workforce, but that doesn’t mean total equality. So what does this tipping of the scale mean?

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women workforce

Equality for women has finally been achieved: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now make up more than half of the workforce! That’s it, that’s the article.

Kidding. Just because women are currently in the majority doesn’t mean all their problems are solved.

First, it’s worth noting that although women currently make up more than half of employees on payroll, that number is slight (50.04% to be exact). Not to mention, women are very likely to fall back in the minority once construction – a male dominated profession – picks back up in the spring.

Still, the number of women in the workforce has been growing over the last decade. While jobs in manufacturing – another male dominated field – are dwindling, jobs in education and healthcare are growing. When it comes to K-12 teaching, for example, women are more likely to fill teaching roles. Women also dominate in nursing.

Not to mention, women are earning more degrees than men!

That said, despite this progress, women as a whole are still getting paid less than men. Part of the reason lies in the types of careers that women end up in. Those female-dominated fields we mentioned earlier? They don’t typically pay well. Plus, there’s that pesky glass ceiling that still exists in some fields. Remember, there are more CEOs named John than female CEOs.

It’s also worth noting that the information collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics only covered people on a payroll. That means the growing number of freelancers aren’t being accounted for in the report. Freelancing has become a great way for individuals, often women, to stay home and care for their family while also earning money. It would be interesting to know how freelancers shift the balance, both in employment and income.

Finally, there’s the invisible labor that women often contribute to society. According to the UN, women account for 75% of all unpaid labor – which includes things like childcare, meal prep and cleaning. This is vital labor that is not accounted for by studies like that of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and sheds light into another reason why women might still have lower pay than men, on average.

So, yes, the fact that women make up over half the workforce is something to be celebrated! That said, we’ve still got work to do on the equality front.

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Business News

Interview escape plan 101: Because you definitely need one

(BUSINESS NEWS) A job interview should be a place to ask about qualifications but it seems more people are asked about their personal life. How do you escape this problem?

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interview from hell

“So, why did you move from Utah to Austin?” the interviewer asked over the phone.

The question felt a little out of place in the job interview, but I gave my standard answer about wanting a fresh scene. I’d just graduated college and was looking to break into the Austin market. But the interviewer wasn’t done.

“But why Austin?” he insisted, “There can’t be that many Mormons here.”

My stomach curled. This was a job interview – I’d expected to discuss my qualifications for the position and express my interest in the company. Instead, I began to answer more and more invasive questions about my personal life and religion. The whole ordeal left me very uncomfortable, but because I was young and desperate, I put up with it. In fact, I even went back for a second interview!

At the time, I thought I had to put up with that sort of treatment. Only recently have I realized that the interview was extremely unprofessional and it wasn’t something I should have felt obligated to endure.

And I’m not the only one with a bad interview story. Recently, Slate ran an article sharing others’ terrible experiences, which ranged from having their purse inspected to being trapped in a 45 minute presentation! No doubt, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mistreatment by potential employers.

So, why do we put up with it?

Well, sometimes people just don’t know better. Maybe, like I was, they’re young or inexperienced. In these cases, these sorts of situations seem like they could just be the norm. There’s also the obvious power dynamic: you might need a job, but the potential employers probably don’t need you.

While there might be times you have to grit your teeth and bear it, it’s also worth remembering that a bad interview scenario often means bad working conditions later on down the line. After all, if your employers don’t respect you during the interview stage, it’s likely the disrespect will continue when you’re hired.

Once you’ve identified an interview is bad news, though, how do you walk out? Politely. As tempting as it is to make a scene, you probably don’t want to go burning bridges. Instead, excuse yourself by thanking your interviewers, wishing them well and asserting that you have realized the business wouldn’t be a good fit.

Your time, as well as your comfort, are important! If your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. It isn’t easy, but if a job interview is crossing the line, you’re well within your rights to leave. Better to cut your losses early.

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