Vybe abuses crowd funding to become middle men and charge backers twice what they’d pay elsewhere

By

vybechef

CREATOR RESPONSE

Link to Crowdtilt campaign

Oh boy! Another wrist-mounted gadget!  What’s this one do?

A Reminder on Your Wrist

Vybe claims to be a small plastic Bluetooth device that slides into a rubber sleeve and sits comfortably on your wrist.  After it’s configured with your phone, Vybe will start to …Vybrate whenever you receive a phone call or text message or your phone falls out of Bluetooth range (you leave it behind).  This phone-finder feature appears to be pretty popular among crowd funded campaigns.

The Vybe product video describes a bunch of scenarios where this gadget may come in handy, and I can personally see myself using a device like this.  I often miss phone calls, and I found that in my single day of evaluating a Casio Bluetooth Watch, I never missed a message.  Sure, it’d be nice to have some kind of display or time telling features on Vybe, but the vibrate feature by itself still helps. Especially for just $39.

In fact…I distinctly remember having some kind of Bluetooth wrist band like this at some point in the past. I’m pretty sure it was this one.  That was like…four years ago. I wonder why Vybe is being treated like such an innovative invention. Presumably, there must be dozens of similar devices out there if I found a similar product four years ago produced by some no-name electronics manufacturer.

“Innovation”

I originally stumbled upon this campaign on Reddit where user XtReMe98 pointed out that Vybe is just a rebranded device from a brandless manufacturer.  Take a look at this “Buzz Band“.  Look familiar?

buzzband page

 

Let’s compare:

buzz3

Buzz Band

vybe3

Vybe

buzz2

Buzz Band

vybe2

Vybe

buzz1

Buzz Band

vybe1

Vybe

I can’t quite place it.  There’s something uncanny about these two devices.

They’re the same device!

Even the specs line up.  Vybe claims “about 4 days” of battery life while Buzz Band claims “90 hours”.  The only part that doesn’t match up is the claim that Vybe requires Bluetooth 4.0 while Buzz Band only needs Bluetooth 2.0.  Bluetooth 4.0 is able to use a much smaller amount of energy to communicate (the aforementioned Casio watch can get years of battery life off a single coin cell) and is perfect for this kind of application.  However, considering Vybe still only gets 4 days use out of a charge, I’m guessing it’s actually using 2.0, and they’ve either intentionally fudged that number to make it sound cooler, or they just have no idea what they’re talking about.

It looks like the folks at Vybe are just taking some off the shelf wrist band that normally retails for $18.91, attaching some fancy marketing materials, and trying to fence it for a $39 pre-order.  Sounds like a great deal.

A New Business Model?

I can’t tell if I’m a upset by this scam or a little impressed by its brilliance.

The purpose of crowd funding sites is to build buzz around a product and raise capitol that can be used to bring that project to fruition.  There has been a lot of controversy around this subject recently as some major players are using services like Kickstarter to raise funds and build buzz around a project that they could probably fund out-of-pocket without distributing the risk to a bunch of internet strangers.

I think these Vybe guys are taking this one step further.  Even if they were paying out-of-pocket, they’re still not taking on any risk because they’re not even creating anything new.  My guess is that they’re trying to invoke Barnum’s Law to turn themselves into a retail outlet that doesn’t have to worry about carrying unsold stock.

Think of it this way: you contact a contract manufacturer who already makes a fancy gadget and get a quote for a certain size order that you find compelling enough to resell for a profit (we found Buzz Bands as cheap as $15.89 if you buy 100+ units), spend maybe $2-3,000 up front to make a fancy marketing video, and then try to raise $45,000 using standard methods of viral marketing.

If you succeed, congrats! you just sold $45,000 worth of product right off the bat.  If you fail, you don’t have $20-30k of sunk cost tied up in unsold wristbands sitting in a warehouse.  You eat the $3k you spent on the video and website and look for another product to sell.

If you’re interested in trying a scam like Vybe, it’s easy! You don’t even need to finagle a special relationship with a manufacturer.  Just look around a little…

Announcing Upcoming Products from Drop-Tek

  • Heart-Kicker Health monitoring wristwatch – $129
  • Drop-Dapter Multi-function USB cable adapter -$25
  • Bass-Droppr High fidelity Bluetooth speaker – $59
  • Drop-Clicker Ultra-slimline durable metal USB mouse – $39
  • Dust-Kicker Convenient microfiber cleaning cloth – $4.99
  • Drive-Slapper Life Organizing USB data storage device on convenient slap bracelet – $39

We’ll be accepting preorders starting tomorrow.  Products expected to ship in Winter 2013/14.

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{ 11 comments to read ... please submit one more! }

  1. I would totally crowd fund a dust kicker to get a couple more of those bad boys at cost. Got one ages ago at an event as a give away. LOVED it, can’t see myself spending $130 though and I have no clue what I’d do with 100 of them.

  2. Francisco Hernandez

    You do know that this is how the majority of US business works, right? Take a look at Dollar Shave Club. They just resell razors you can buy in bulk for less than half the price. But, they aren’t selling you a product, they are selling you a service. Every month, you get new razors for $1.00, $6.00 or $9.00, depending on what level you choose. I joined, and have been really happy since. I don’t really care that it’s rebranded, just that it’s one less thing I have to do.

    Have you been to a mall in Hong Kong or Shanghai? Have you seen all of the crazy little gadgets there? Some are ridiculous and pointless, of course, but some are awesome enough to find their way back to the states by way of tourists bringing home neat gifts. (I’ve been the recipient of many of these, and I’ve often wished I could get these things here). If someone wants to take something, make it appealing to US buyers, upgrade it with more features, spend the cash to market it, and offer a warranty on it as well as customer support, that’s not “abuse”, that’s capitalism. Crowdfunding isn’t just meant for the genesis of new ideas, but to bring anything to a new market that might appreciate it. Stating otherwise just seems kinda petty and oddly fixated, IMO.

    • I actually have been to exactly one of those markets you mention. I wrote about it here.

      I have no problem with upgrading and selling a Chinese product in the US. The problem here is that Vybe hasn’t made it clear that they’ve upgraded much of anything from the original yet they’re selling it at a 100% markup.

  3. Hey Choof…sounds like you think Vybe should sell their wristband at wholesale. Ever been in business !!! 100% markup is not out of line. What backer would want to buy 10 units?

    You state Vybe is a middle man–as if most OEM gadget marketers don’t outsource/offshore production.

    You state the Vybe campaign abuses crowdfunding but you apparently didn’t read the Crowdtilt tag line: “Group Fund Anything”. Crowdtilt’s API Crowdhoster encourages people to set up stores to sell stuff by taking pre-orders. There’s no requirement at Crowdtilt that a campaign be devoted to new product development.

    How about retracting this BS review or at least re-title it as: DropKicker Apologizes!

    • There is a difference between buying a product wholesale and reselling it for a markup and buying a product at retail rates and reselling it for a markup. If you want a BuzzBand, you can get one on Amazon for $20 with $5 shipping.

    • I don’t think anyone is questioning the mark up as much as they’re questioning why this will take that long to deliver and why they’re marketing it as something brand new they’ve developed.

      The whole campaign seems to imply this is a brand new product they’re developing which is a load. They’re not developing anything, they’re remarketing an existing product they are going to purchase at wholesale. That is deceptive and using crowd funding to do it is deceptive.

      That’s the gist of the article above and a few complaints by others, the deception not the price. Because as the article points out and others you can buy a Buzzband, aka a Vybe band right now for $25 immediately shipped. Vybe is offering absolutely no reason for someone to buy from them. The product isn’t better, or changed, its merely branded with a new name.

      • With all respect, Ransim, I read their Crowdtilt page and don’t see any claim that they were developing a brand new product. The only place where I saw the slightest ambiguity in this regard was in the FAQ:

        “Q: What will the Crowdtilt funds be used for? A: The very first Vybe manufacturing and production run!”

        Looking at the bands,which might be photoshopped for the pre-orders I admit, I see the embossed Vybe logo which would indeed require a separate manufacturing tweak (new mould insert) and production run. They also claim it communicates via BT 4.0 vs. 2.0 and I haven’t seen their more interesting band colors in any other adverts. Toss in a one-year manufacturing defects warranty (missing elsewhere) and its hard to say it’s not an upgrade and a change from the BuzzBand offering.

        I also checked out other call-vibrating wrist bands and saw them priced up to $42. With the useless mini-wrist-brick Galaxy Gear going for $299, I think drop-kicker should cut some slack on this critique. When I go to the grocery I buy the store brand ketchup but don’t think Heinz is ripping people off for a $1 more. Choice rules!

        I also think Choof needs to discriminate between new product crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo versus the “we fund anything” philosophy of Crowdtilt. They are different venues and Choof’s reviews should judge products based on what a CF platform permits.

        I agree with your statement that they are offering no rational economic reason for buying from them

  4. Yeah???? And what is that difference, Choof? Do you want to legislate that people can’t price a product as high as they’d like? Remember that old saying, “Willing buyer, willing seller”? I guess you believe Apple shouldn’t set a price point well above its competitors for similar devices, either? FYI, branding is a critical piece of the pricing equation.

    I don’t see Vybe holding a gun to anyone’s head to make them buy. And I bet that everyone of their pre-order customers has a Google search box in their browser where they could look for competitive product on the Net.

    Looks to me like the the $20 versions are sold by Asian manufacturers dumping product because they don’t know how to market. More power to Vybe for getting what many people apparently believe is a fair value at $40.

    • Is what they’re doing technically illegal or a violation of the ToS? No. Is it arguably an “abuse of crowd funding” and a bit dishonest? Yeah, absolutely. We can argue about what it should cost and what other things run on Amazon all day long but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a pretty dishonest campaign, and I think that’s the point being made here. Anyway, dropkicker criticism aside, why are you so concerned about defending the Vybe thing? Just ship it and as you said people will buy it if they want to. You don’t have to jump on every instance of criticism on the Internet and it won’t change the main point.

  5. Sounds like Jack Corry might be along the lines of NYChipster…

  6. Holy shit. I honestly can’t believe the number of people who are defending this garbage.

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