Phew, it’s been a pretty crazy week for Drop Kicker, but fortunately the dust has settled, and we have a chance to clarify some of the misinformation that has been flying around the Vybe campaign.
I received two emails this week regarding Vybe. The first is from the owner of the NYChipster account.
Hey Ch00f — sorry, I just saw the Reddit PM you sent! Guessing your message came after seeing my comment on this thread: <link>
I am indeed an actual Crowdtilt employee, not a PR shill and /u/marek12886 is one of my coworkers, who also works on these campaigns with me.
Thanks so much for making the effort to clear up the record here. I can definitely understand the conclusion you came to, and it makes sense.
Let me know if you have any questions,
So it looks like James misspoke when he told me that the reddit account that we suspected of shilling was associated with his PR company. NYChipster works for Crowdtilt, so it follows that a lot of the content he has submitted is stuff that he has come across while working there. Some of the people on reddit still claim that this counts as “shilling”, but given the organic nature of his submissions and comments, I’m inclined to disagree. He seems to be just one of the lucky few who is legitimately interested in his job.
The second email I received was from “Engelo”, one of the creators of Vybe:
First of all, we’d like to apologize for anything thus far that has seemed disingenuous – Friday was a very confusing day for all of us, with a lot of different parties taking a number of different stances both for and against Vybe. We understand that we didn’t give a great first impression and want to make things right by being open and honest about Vybe, Vybe’s origins as they relate to the Buzz Band and our crowdfunding campaign.
In our research with regards to developing Vybe, we came across a number of similar products, but nothing was perfect. The Buzz Band, however, seemed to be the closest to what we were hoping to ultimately achieve, so we ordered a few to try them out. Predictably, the product that we received was of low quality and barely functioned. We did like the form factor, and the board was a good size, so we took it to another manufacturer to reverse engineer the board and improve upon it. We used a very similar band and a similar housing so that we could keep costs lower and focus on the actual functionality.
The internal workings of Vybe are 100% superior to any similar product – Vybe offers text message notifications, it works on Bluetooth 4.0 and it has a 50 foot separation radius. As has already been pointed out on Reddit, these stats are much better than most of the other products on the market. We also have some attractive colors to choose from and a cool little accessory to allow Vybe to be worn on your ankle.
We’re also offering two things that have never been offered before in a campaign: a guaranteed delivery date and a 100% money back guarantee AT ANY TIME if you’re not happy with your pre-order or your Vybe. According to this article, more than 75% of crowdfunding projects fail to meet their deadline. We are so confident in our manufacturing process that we’re offering that guarantee.
Once we have Vybe in production, the differences will become clear. We’ve completely innovated an existing product and are offering that to our potential backers. Although it may look like we’re simply copying an available product, we’re not – we’ve made it better in every way. Now that we’ve hit our funding goal, we’re very happy to show everyone how superior Vybe is to other products – we know that everyone will be pleased with the results.
We highly value our customer service. If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me personally at email@example.com and you will receive a timely response.
I want to make it clear that this is precisely the email I asked James to write when he called me on the phone. As stated in our About the Blog page, our goal is always to pressure crowd-funded campaigns to be more transparent and delve into the details that a more informed consumer might want to know about.
We can see now that Vybe is in fact not a rebranding of an off-the-shelf product but has instead used that product as a starting point to further development. This is a very common business practice, and we see nothing wrong with it from a legal nor ethical standpoint. Many of the factories in China trying to sell products in foreign markets have issues with marketing and quality control that a team like Vybe can help improve greatly. If the product they ship is as superior as they’re stating, a higher price is appropriate and deserved.
While we fully endorse this business strategy, I think their PR can use some work. Anyone starting out in the electronics world with a crowdfunding campaign should be ready to handle negative press with more grace and transparency. Attempting to quietly silence a journalist (especially one that gets only 100 or so pageviews a day) is no way to improve the image of your product, and publicly addressing negative criticism does not inherently validate it. Had they sent this email before they chose to call me, Vybe could have avoided a lot of negative attention.