If you love beer and are contemplating backing a crowdfunded home brew machine — don’t. This free advice is brought to you by more than a year of covering Kickstarted beer campaigns, most of which have taken the public’s money, only to shut down before shipping any product.
Following in the steps of Brewbot and HOPii, it now looks like iGulu is the latest automated home brewing appliance to fold. The following update was posted to Indiegogo and Kickstarter on April 4:
We regret to announce that we have to put our project in ‘hibernation’ and pause our regular update. For the past few weeks we have experienced some of the hardest challenges for our company and the project. Our funds were exhausted and we experienced a significant team downsizing due to the financial constraints.
While I still maintain great working relationships with all of our key team members, I couldn’t keep them as employees before I secure new funds from the investor. We have been talking with several prospects since last year, but the financial markets are unfavorable to start-ups like ours recently so I haven’t had any luck yet.
I’m still trying but I cannot at present give any specific timeline for recovery of this project. I will share any further updates whenever we have tangible progress that we are able to report. I deeply apologize again. We have shipped the first machine to one Australian backer. We will continue to fix existing bugs, optimize our product, ship 2nd, 3rd and more machines. Please believe us. We won’t give up.
This development isn’t actually that surprising for anyone who backed or followed the project. iGulu met its funding goal in May of 2016, and after a litany of production and manufacturing delays, the CEO publicly apologized to backers in December of 2017 and said the company had secured an undisclosed amount of funding from three Chinese VC firms to supplement the $1.1 million it had raised via crowdfunding. At that time, the company was expecting to ship its product in July 2018.
This projected ship date obviously came and went with no (well, one?) iGulus brewing up frosty mugs of beer for the backers who ponied up at least $489 a pop to get one. And though the latest update seems to offer those who funded the project a ray of hope, history shows its unlikely that all of the 1,000+ backers will ever get their iGulus.
We’ve reached out to iGulu for comment and will update if we hear back.
At this point, we sound like a broken record, but there’s a HUGE caveat emptor when backing hardware projects from untested companies on crowdfunding platforms. Designing a one-off prototype is relatively easy. Manufacturing that same device at scale in China brings up a host of unforeseen and expensive issues (see: Rite Press, Cinder).
Some home beer brewers have come out of crowdfunding unscathed — Picobrew and BrewArt, for example. I am also optimistic about BEERMKR because that was built by an existing company that had previous experience with beer-related hardware.
It doesn’t look, however, like iGulu has got what it takes to succeed. Appliance giant LG is getting into the home brew appliance business; maybe it can do what Desora did with Cinder and buy up iGulu’s assets for cheap.
Oh, and if that lone Australian who received their device is reading, please drop us a line to let us know how it works.
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