Hybra’s Kickstarter Backers File Complaints, Allege Fraud—And Wait
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way ahead of its time and is now “driving the industry.”
So, what exactly is the reason Hybra has not been able to deliver? Component procurement, mostly, Thiel said. “Now, it’s just a matter of ramping up. We have a purchase order in with [a local electronics manufacturer] to build 10,000 units, which we’ll do in 400 unit runs until we deliver to all the backers. I expect backers to get their units by the end of 2016—no doubt about that. We’re really close.” (This plan to do multiple-unit runs is exactly what Thiel forecasted when I spoke to him last July, but he said then that they’d be delivered to backers by the end of 2015.)
As for the FTC complaints, Thiel said Hybra is aware of five and has responded to all of them. “We just give [the FTC] all the data we have to show the claims being made are false. I get why people are upset, but there has been nothing done that was fraudulent,” he said.
Thiel said he’s too busy operating a startup to spend time on backer updates. “I can send an update every week, but I don’t find that to be very valuable from a time management perspective,” he said. “Backers want to hear they’re getting their units. I think it’s better to spend the time and energy on pushing forward.”
There is yet another twist to the Sound Band saga. After going dark and displaying an “under construction” message on its website for the better part of two years, Hybra turned the lights on again a few months ago. According to the website’s revamped text and mission statement, Hybra is now positioning itself as a consultant that can help other companies get new technology to market. It now claims to offer a range of services, including design, engineering, prototyping, ideation, marketing, packaging, and production.
Thiel said the changes to the website represent the long-term vision of what he wants the company to be. “We want to help people with the same pathway we created,” he said. “We’ve faced a lot of adversity and spent a lot of time and energy to push forward and complete the Sound Band project. We’re not a case of fraud, we’re young entrepreneurs without a lot of experience that learned and grew. I do hope state and federal government agencies keep cracking down on crowdfunding projects that take money and don’t deliver.”
Under the Production tab, the company’s website now says: “Hybra can produce pilot production runs very quickly, sometimes going from rough concept to hundreds of samples in under a month. Our speed and flexibility enable our clients to initiate acceptance or performance testing at early project stages.” In the Marketing section, the website offers this morsel of word salad: “The paths you see before you are symbolic as to where you might be with your marketing endeavors. Each one looks well traveled, but gives no clue where it leads or what lies ahead. We’ve been down just about every road there is to get to Success and can take you there, too. … No roadblocks or traffic jams.”