A group of HAXLR8R graduates say that their modular electric vehicle development kit, FlexPV, will be able to turn almost anything into a motor vehicle.
The Kickstarter campaign for FlexPV is replete with crisp graphics and slickly produced videos that show users clamping motor, battery, and control modules to a scooter, a bicycle, and even a grocery cart before riding away to an upbeat indie rock soundtrack. What it doesn’t mention is that in 2013, the same team raised more than half a million dollars for a copter that received almost universally negative feedback from backers who say they never received a product, that it was missing parts, or that it just didn’t work.
“The entire project is just a con,” wrote backer Federico Hernandez of the copter, which was called Hex. “I am really disappointed by Kickstarter letting them continue and not helping the funders.”
Another backer wrote that though he’d received his reward of five units, only two of them flew, and quickly stopped working. Others complain that messages to the team have gone unanswered.
That history hasn’t stopped users from backing FlexPV, the team’s newest project. At press time, 42 backers have contributed over $8,000 out of a $20,000 goal, with 42 days left. Comments warning about the team’s history have started to trickle into the comments section.
The FlexPV team’s amnesia about their prior failure raises specters that have long haunted crowdfunding platforms. High-profile failures like Triggertrap and myIDkey have demonstrated that just because an ambitious project meets its funding goal doesn’t mean that the people behind it have the expertise to actually bring it to market.
FlexPV’s Kickstarter campaign makes much of their affiliation with HAXLR8R, a celebrated hardware accelerator they graduated from in 2013. HAXLR8R founder Cyril Ebersweiler defended the FlexPV team, though he confirmed that the product they developed at HAXLR8R, which predated both Hex and FlexPV, still hasn’t gone to market.
“Those guys are really awesome and it doesn’t get more ‘Makery’ than them,” Ebersweiler said. “They’ve worked hard to deliver.”
Ebersweiler said that in his opinion, it’s okay to fail the first time, and that when he backs a crowdfunded project it makes him feel like he’s part of an uncertain adventure. FlexPV has also received balmy coverage from the tech press, none of which has so far mentioned the poorly-received Hex copter.
I asked FlexPV representative Angelo Yu what steps the team is taking to make sure that their new project doesn’t fall into the same traps that the last one did. He said that they’d learned a lot from their previous project, and that this time they were providing themselves with significantly more time to deliver, that they’ve already started working with an industrial design firm, and that they were taking steps to foster a development community that he hopes will bring the project to fruition.
Yu, who lives in China, seems like a committed and optimistic hardware entrepreneur. Still, his attempts to defend Hex make it difficult to believe that we’re reading the same comment section.
I posed a question to Yu: If he wasn’t affiliated with FlexPV, and he read about the team’s struggles to deliver on their last campaign, would he still back the project?
“If I’m really interested in this project, I will try to dig more,” Yu said. “If the team is honest and reliable, I would trust them, because a team plays an important role in a project. If not, then I won’t.”