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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

Beware: The biohacking obsession is attracting scammers

(NEWS) Biohacking is finding ways to gain a competitive advantage, while excluding the medical world. It’s great to increase your output, but be cautious when picking your poison…

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biohacking tea

Wanna live better or longer? [Insert biohack here] will solve all those pesky problems. In all fairness, it’s human nature to seek improvement, especially in our jobs or academics — you know, the things that demand a constant, high performance.

Of course our ears will prick up at the slightest mention of attaining that elusive edge. Remember Aderall in college?

Biohacking isn’t a new topic. The term refers to a wide range of activities to affect the body’s biological systems.

The objective is to optimize health, well-being, and focus. If we are able to effectively manage what we put into our body, our output can increase. It’s not inherently evil.

But social media influencers are key in promoting the latest products/diets/supplements/oils, often doing so for money, not to improve others’ lives. And, there’s a darker side of drug use, both prescription and illegal, leading to potentially dangerous and abusive situations.

The misleading aspect of biohacking is that every body is different.

Regardless of social media promises, people should be wary of ingesting additional products.

Despite the fancy names one can give it, biohacking has the same objective of medicine, but product development typically excludes medical practitioners.

Legitimate medical practices take huge amounts of funding and research to figure out and insure safety, and they’re heavily regulated by the federal government.

A random word of mouth promise about some obscure herbal supplement is not the same thing.

There are no shortcuts to improving one’s health.

And biohacking doesn’t necessarily mean making life more complex. It’s important to start with the basics before jumping to elaborate diet regimens, powders, pills, etc. Simple steps like routine exercise, 7-8 hours of sleep, and healthier meal choices may help get you on track.

It’s amazing to realize what you can change about yourself before joining some random Thought Cult you found on Instagram. And in the case that your health needs a modern, helping hand, do the proper research before falling into the dark internet hole.

Or better yet, consult your doctor.

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Business News

Did Ohio *really* just accidentally legalize marijuana?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Should cannabusiness investors rush to Ohio, or are the headlines about legalized marijuana in the state misleading? The situation is pretty complex.

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hemp marijuana

Hemp growers and pot smokers alike may benefit from a recently passed Ohio law intended to legalize hemp, but which has also made prosecuting marijuana charges significantly more difficult, if not impossible.

Although many news sources are blasting the headline that Ohio has “accidentally legalized weed,” the truth is slightly more complicated.

On July 30, Ohio legislators signed into law a bill that legalizes the growth and sale of hemp, but not marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are the same species of plant, but while hemp is mostly used for its super strong fibers, marijuana is cultivated to contain high levels of the psychoactive compound THC.

It’s not easy to detect the difference between hemp and marijuana with the naked eye. Connoisseurs might argue that if the bud looks dry, green, and hairless, it’s probably hemp.

But there’s no way to prove it definitively during a police stop or search. Sure, an officer could take a toke and see if it makes him feel funny, but that would hardly be appropriate; the typical protocol is to test the plant material in a lab to determine the percentage of THC.

Green with less than 0.3 percent THC is considered hemp; more than that is considered marijuana.

The problem is that none of Ohio’s city or state level crime labs have the technology to make this determination. The current lab equipment available can detect the presence of THC but can’t tell the amount.

Louis Tobin, the executive director for Ohio’s Prosecuting Attorney Association, calls this recent law “the de facto legalization of marijuana,” not because the bill explicitly make marijuana legal, but because “there’s no way for law enforcement to tell what’s legal and what’s not legal.”

Apparently Tobin and other prosecutors had raised this concern while the bill was being debated, to no avail.

Now police officers and prosecutors are getting mixed signals about how to proceed.

Says Tobin, “There are statues on the books that say you should enforce marijuana possession but another law takes away your tools to do it.”

Ohio’s Attorney General, Dave Yost, sent a letter to prosecutors encouraging them to postpone marijuana indictments. The Office of the Attorney General in Ohio’s capitol city of Columbus announced that they will temporarily cease prosecuting marijuana misdemeanors and will drop all pending cases.

Meanwhile, in Hamilton County, prosecutor Joe Deter is encouraging police officers to go ahead and investigate marijuana-related crimes, and to confiscate anything that looks like it could be either hemp or marijuana. The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation has already been allotted funds to purchase and set up the testing equipment needed to measure percentages of THC. Prosecutors who wish to follow up on marijuana crime cases will just have to cross their fingers and hope that the equipment becomes available before the statute of limitations kicks in.

Even when the right testing equipment gets set up, some suspect that the recent legal change could have a long-lasting effect on how the city prosecutes marijuana misdemeanors. It may prove to be inefficient and costly to prosecute small-time dealers and individuals possessing small amounts of the drug.

Nonetheless, it’s probably too soon for cannabusiness to start investing heavily in Ohio – but it’s a state worth keeping an eye on.

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Business News

The easiest ways to keep remote workers engaged & connected

(BUSINESS NEWS) Do you manage remote employees or an entirely mixed team? These tips will keep you on the right track to avoid communication breakdown.

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remote workers

Not every workplace has all its employees in the same place. Different office locations, business trips, and freelancers mean your workforce may be geographically scattered. So how do you effectively communicate from home base if your team is remote and widespread?

First things first – invest in the best virtual meeting platform technology you can work into your budget. If you can’t all be in one place, the next best thing is regularly scheduled virtual meetings. Everyone should have a camera so employees get a chance to know who they’re talking to and put names to faces.

Sure, you may not want to see yourself on camera, but your coworkers will appreciate seeing who they’ve been collaborating with and emailing.

If video conferences aren’t relevant to your business, make sure employees at least have some way to get in touch with each other, like Slack, Skype, or even a private Facebook group. Have at least one platform where employees can engage, communicate, and share information with each other.

Foster connection among employees, allowing them to engage and build work relationships. Provide opportunities for non-work related connections to show your employees you know they’re people, not just workers.

If possible, organize small group outings for those in the same city. Even if that’s not feasible, you can still be the connector that brings people together remotely.

Create “water cooler” moments by calling out important events, like birthdays, marriages, or someone completing an important goal. Get to know your employees, and engage in small talk whenever possible to get to know them. This shows your employees you value them and care about their lives.

Sending care packages can go a long way to show your employees you want them to feel included. Is your next meeting being catered at the main office? Order something for your remote employees too. Everyone deserves bagels.

Make sure you also set clear communication expectations about when you can and can’t be reached. Virtual employees need to know when they can expect a response from you and their colleagues since informal interactions are hard to come by remotely.

When managing remote employees, strive for inclusiveness. Be a connector who promotes engagement by knowing your employees, giving them an avenue to communicate with you and each other.

Take time to get to know your employees on at least a semi- personal level, and ensure everyone feels welcomed even if they’re working remotely. This will lead to better coworker relationships, employee retention, and performance.

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