Inside A Silicon Valley Startup’s Explosive Demise

By Marisa Kendall
The Mercury News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The story of startup “Kanoa” leaves behind a warning to future founders and consumers alike, highlighting the dangers of crowdfunding and preorder campaigns. As Columnist Marisa Kendall states, “It’s a classic Silicon Valley tale of an inexperienced entrepreneur, a grand vision and a business venture that ended in disaster.”

SAN FRANCISCO

Behind Kanoa’s slick promotional photos and videos, lofty promises to revolutionize music listening, and countless reassurances to customers, the warning signs were there, the startup was in trouble.

The company missed deadline after deadline. Its manufacturer never had plans to make more than about two dozen of Kanoa’s high-tech wireless earphones, far fewer than customers had paid for.

A contractor who helped design the earphones said the founder never let him test a working pair. And one of only two people known to finally get their hands on the headphones said they didn’t come close to working as advertised.

But interviews with people who had business dealings with the company’s founder, Cival Van Der Lubbe, as well as a review of documents he sent customers before going out of business in August, show that even as red flags piled up, the San Francisco-based startup continued to market its product and take customers’ money.

Now thousands of customers who preordered the headphones for $150 or more likely will never receive the product they paid for.

The ruined startup leaves behind a warning to future founders and consumers alike, highlighting the dangers of crowdfunding and preorder campaigns. It’s a classic Silicon Valley tale of an inexperienced entrepreneur, a grand vision and a business venture that ended in disaster.

“Some of these young founders are just way too aggressive in terms of what they commit to the market, and it just sets up false expectations,” said Carlos Rodriguez, an adviser for startups focused on hardware and the internet of things, who was not involved in Kanoa, “and they’ve done it over and over and over again.”

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