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Kickstarter hires journalist to investigate Europe’s biggest crowdfunding failure


The Zano nano-drone

Crowdfunding is a miracle of the modern age, but it’s not always sunshine and roses.

Kickstarter has hired an investigative journalist to dig into why one of its biggest projects failed.

Reporter Mark Harris has been commissioned to write a piece about the mysterious collapse of the Zano drone project, Kickstarter’s highest-funded campaign in Europe.

The company wants to help the backers of this failed project get the information they are entitled to under their agreement with the project creator,” writes Harris.

“They would like to uncover the story of Zano,” he continues, “from its inception to the present, and decided that the best way to do that was to hire a journalist.”

Harris says that the main audience for the story are the 12,000-plus backers of the Zano project, who collectively forked out over £2.3 million.

The reporter says he will be seeking interviews with those involved with the project in the weeks ahead, and aims to have the piece ready by January.

“I will also be looking into Kickstarter’s role in the project, and whether it could have served Zano’s creators or backers better throughout,” he explains.

Harris adds: “I have no connection to the company, nor to anyone on the Zano team, and have no particular axe to grind.”

Kickstarter provided TrustedReviews with the following statement:

"It's okay for Kickstarter creators to take on big ideas and fail, but we expect transparency and honesty along the way. The backers of the Zano project deserve a full account of what happened, so we've hired Mark to produce an independent report. His work should also be helpful to our wider community, especially hardware creators tackling ambitious projects. Transparency around the ups and downs of the creative process helps us all build a more creative world."

The company also pointed out to us that 9% of all Kickstarter projects fail to deliver rewards.

Related: DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone review

According to the journalist, Kickstarter is paying for the story upfront, and will be able to see it before it is sent to backers, or published online. However, he maintains that Kickstarter “has no right” to make suggests or changes to the copy.

For disclosure purposes, Harris revealed that he has pledged to projects on Kickstarter previously, but he was never a Zano backer.

If you’re a Zano backer, creator, or employee, Harris says you can get in touch with him at zano@meharris.com.

Tom Carter

December 11, 2015, 11:44 am

I was a backer - It will be interesting to read, but not really any step towards getting a refund although I suspected once the meltdown was announced that I was never going to get a refund.

Its a shame really, I very much like to concept of backing projects in this way but I hope moving ahead that more stringent support processes are put in place, particularly some kind of insurance support for projects so that at the very least there is some recompense for when a project folds as currently the way kickstarters/indigogo's work it seems like all the risk is on the backers, not the founders or kickstarter/indigogo

Bjorn O. Sigurdsson

December 11, 2015, 12:56 pm

I have always seen these projects as a kind of mix of venture capitalism and early adopter/tech fanboy, first-in-line for exciting tech, kind of thing. So I do not feel it is unjust for backers to share in the losses. However they are entitled to clear answers and rigorous vetting and oversight standards to minimize risk, after all we are talking about normal folks, not professional investment bankers.


December 11, 2015, 2:23 pm

I'm a bit skeptical about some of these projects, I mean, how do we know if some projects were just a development exercise funded with backers money then will potentially be sold off to bigger companies with a tidy profit. I certainly hope it isn't the case but £2.3m is a lot of funding with no useful result to the layman.


February 28, 2016, 8:52 pm

There's an even bigger failure happening right now. It's the Coolest Cooler, which was THE highest funded project (60,000+ backers, 13+ Million $$) on Kickstarter back in 2014. It's 2016 now.

The product was developed, shipped to some of the backers. The product is on sale on Amazon, but MANY of the backers have yet to receive anything and the natives are getting VERY restless. Just check out some of the comments on the discussion board.


When comments include the phrase "class action lawsuit", you know things are bad.

Kickstarter needs to step up and take some ownership for these larger funded projects. It's not sufficient to take their 5% and tell the backers "hey, we don't police the projects, that's your responsibility".

For larger funded projects, there should be some form of oversight, possibly with tranching of the funded amount -- e.g. 25% upfront and then subsequent 25% amounts based on some set criteria. At minimum, it will force some accountability on the project owners, and will reduce the amount of good money thrown after bad. This is how VCs work, and while KS is not a VC, the "platform" has to take some responsibility when large sums of money are taken and backers are not provided with the results/awards that were promised.

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