Kickstarter hires journalist over Zano take-off failure

By Kevin Rawlinson
BBC News

Image source, Torquing
Image caption,
More than £2.3m was pledged to the mini-drone project by more than 12,000 people

The crowdfunding site Kickstarter has hired a journalist to investigate the demise of a mini-drone project that failed, despite record funding.

More than £2.3m was pledged to the Zano project by more than 12,000 people, but it never got off the ground.

The freelance journalist Mark Harris will try to enlighten investors and the public about the company's failure.

Torquing, the firm behind the project, shut it down in November without fulfilling its promises.

Mr Harris said he had been commissioned by Kickstarter to investigate the project "from its inception to the present" in order to "help the backers... get the information they are entitled to under their agreement with the project creator".

Zano was Europe's largest project to be funded on Kickstarter - a site on which prospective investors can find companies that require funding.

"The primary audience for the story is the 12,000+ backers of the project, although I will also make the story publicly available once I've completed it, most likely in the middle of January," Mr Harris wrote on his page on blog-publishing platform Medium.

He said that Kickstarter had asked him to look into what happened to the money and investigate the project's progress, as well as looking into any mistakes made by Torquing, which is based in Pembroke Dock in Pembrokeshire, so that future projects could learn from them.

He said he would also be "looking into Kickstarter's role in the project and whether it could have served Zano's creators or backers better throughout".

Mr Harris wrote that he was being paid up front by Kickstarter to write the report. And, while the firm would get sight of it before publication, it would have "no right to make any suggestions or changes to my copy", he said.

He added: "I have no other connection to the company, nor to anyone on the Zano team and have no particular axe to grind."

'Ambitious projects'

Kickstarter confirmed that it had commissioned Mr Harris and that the details on his Medium page were accurate.

A spokesman told the BBC: "It's OK 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 project was known to have been in trouble before Torquing closed it down last month and sought a "creditors' voluntary liquidation" almost exactly one year after launch.

"We are greatly disappointed with the outcome of the Zano project and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us during this difficult period, especially our loyal employees, whose commitment has exceeded all expectations," it told investors.

A petition set up on calling for a "full refund to all investors" was set up shortly before Zano's closure. It has been signed by more than 2,000 people.