Lessons from a $94 paperweight

This is an Akita. It’s an internet appliance that claims to monitor your entire network and block suspicious intruders. It’s the kind of thing that anyone who has interest in adding smart home features should add to their network to keep away prying eyes (or worse).

For me, though, it’s going to be a $94 paperweight, assuming I ever see it at all.

This is the story of how I signed up for a Kickstarter project that allegedly was three months from delivery, and how I’m sitting here 18 months later, having been assured that my appliance is going to arrive Real Soon Now. It’s a tale of destroyed credibility and how a company can raise suspicions they’re up to something nefarious, even if they’re not. It’s also why I’ll avoid product Kickstarters in the future and wait for products to hit the retail channel.

I first heard of the Akita on a couple of tech websites, which wrote about the appliance and how useful something like that would be in the home. The stories were fairly glowing, and I assumed review copies of the product had been sent around. When I checked it out on Kickstarter in January 2018, the manufacturer said it expected to be shipping in April.

Now, you always have to be a little careful on Kickstarter. It’s designed to raise money for startup projects, and even the best-intentioned startup deadlines slip. It also makes a potential platform for people who might be up to no good, but given the publicity around this product, that outcome seemed unlikely. I still thought I might be waiting until, say, July, but I dropped down my $94 for the Akita.

I was far from alone. Others saw the need for this product and liked the price, and it raised over $900,000 on Kickstarter and Indigogo.

It didn’t take long for the bad news to start, though. Akita assured us all in February 2018 that production had started — yet somehow, as the proposed shipping windows started opening up, people weren’t getting their products.

In July 2018, we were informed of a “short shipping delay” necessitated by packing modifications, followed by various “shipping updates” (short version: Most of you aren’t getting your product soon) every few weeks through the end of the year. All of these were put behind a password wall so only backers could read them.

I gave up at that point. Other people weren’t so quiet, and they’ve posted more than 1,900 often angry missives in Akita’s comments section.

But hope springs eternal, and in March and May, Akita put out shipping updates. At the end of May, I got an actual tracking notice, although the product allegedly remains en route from Hong Kong to the USA at this writing, with an uncertain arrival date.

Not that I’ll ever use it for its intended purpose. The creators of this product lost my trust, and this product is all about trust. I’ll keep it as a paperweight, though, just as a reminder of a lesson learned.

Randy

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