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Are the promises of crowd-funded products too good to be true?

Medicine shows once toured the country as pitchmen hawked the latest “miracle cure” patented medicine that could cure everything from common ailments to serious diseases. That is, when the magical medicinal was not smoothing wrinkles and removing stains.

To attract their early 20th century audiences, they had acrobats, musclemen and other performers hold their attention while the faux “doctor” worked his magic.

Promoting products that do not deliver is nothing new to customers enticed by convincing pitches. Almost an entire century later, modern-day “snake oil” salesmen have taken to a different medium to hawk their wares.


Unfortunately, it is their customers that hurried, hurried and stepped right up who are finding themselves without their promised “elixirs.”

A year ago, Skully, a San Francisco-startup fueled by crowd-funding that collapsed before they could deliver cutting-edge motorcycle helmets to 3,000 customers paying $1,500 apiece. As 2017 dawned, devotees of Lilly Robotics’ camera drones suffered the same fate, although there may be a sliver of hope for a refund.

Kanoa is another in the growing line of Silicon Valley flops. Their form of crowd-funding featured a pre-order campaign where customers purchased their soon-to-be delivered, cutting-edge headphones priced between $150 and $300. According to the company, music lovers would be able to control the ambient sound levels and enjoy a musically synchronized workout.

After many waited a year for continually delayed deliveries, Kanoa sent out an email that they were shuttering their operations. According to a link to the announcement, they did not predict the quick turn of events and wanted customers to know how hard they tried.

A scathing YouTube video review may have served as a final nail in Kanoa’s coffin. The reviewer referred to the product as trash and the company as something that no one should deal with.

Four days later, Kanoa packed up their medicine show. The company fired all their employees and shut down their customer service and social media channels. They claim to be negotiating with other investors to help fund what to date seems to be their high-tech “snake oil.”

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Robert Kaufman has been selected as a 2013 Top Rated Lawyer in ‘Commercial Litigation’ as will be published in the May issue of The American Lawyer & Corporate Counsel magazine.Alex Kaufman has been selected as a 2013 Top Rated Lawyer in ‘Commercial Litigation’ as will be published in the December issue of The American Lawyer & Corporate Counsel magazine.

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