In a development that will surprise absolutely no one who has been following our coverage, Moscow-based Healbe’s Indiegogo scampaign for a calorie-counting wristband has finally crossed $ 1m in doomed donations. A few minutes later, an anonymous comment was posted on the GoBe’s comment page congratulating the company on its achievement…
Still, even close observers might be shocked to learn the source of the undisclosed donation which pushed Healbe into seven figures. It came from Indiegogo’s “hardware lead” Kate Drane.
Drane’s financial support of Healbe allows Indiegogo to boast of another million dollar success, but is also another nail in the coffin for the crowdfunding company’s attempts to present itself as a mere platform, with no legal or moral responsibility for the products promoted on it.
In an interview with TechCrunch yesterday “unnamed Indiegogo sources” told reporter Matt Burns that, as a platform, Indiegogo has no responsibility for whether Healbe is a scam. They simply act as a disinterested, non-judgmental go-between, connecting inventors and would-be backers.
This is a standard argument used by “disruptive” companies looking to dodge legal responsibility: we heard it used in the early days of Airbnb and we hear it today from companies like Uber and and Lyft — although it’s worth noting that all three of those companies now insure users of its services against bad behavior by service providers. By contrast, Indiegogo recently deleted its anti-fraud guarantee, apparently in response to concerns over Healbe.
In fact, Pando has discovered, Indiegogo is far from a disinterested tool for hardware projects: it plays an active, ongoing role in recruiting inventors to fund their products through its platform, and then providing advice and support even after a campaign closes. As we’ve seen today, that support even includes throwing in its own cash to push campaigns over important milestones.
Drane in particular has a history of personally recruiting hardware developers to raise money through Indiegogo. Nomad’s Brian Hahn said that after his company had had a bad experience on Kickstarter, he met Drane at an event, who invited his team to Indiegogo’s San Francisco office to talk them through the campaign process and advise them about crowdfunding.
Rick Johnson, founder of augmented reality company Technical Illusions, which eventually listed its campaign with Kickstarter, told Pando, “Indiegogo wooed us pretty heavily and they were nice and professional to deal with and offered tons of support.”
Drane’s public show of support for Healbe comes after weeks of critical coverage of the campaign. Pando has spoken to Healbe backers who flagged Healbe’s campaign to Indiegogo as a possible fraud as far back as March 11. Our own coverage began shortly after than and has since been followed up by multiple news outlets, and even hit the front page of Reddit twice.
Indiegogo did not return a request for comment today about what message might be sent by a well-timed, public donation from a key member of the company, and how that message conflicts with its abdication of responsibility for the campaign. However, in a previously unpublished CES interview with Pando’s Carmel DeAmicis, Drane boasted: “My goal is to educate and empower people. Because we have this commitment to hardware… We want people to succeed, we don’t make judgments about [whether] this is right or not right.”
No judgements, just strategic and financial support, even for the scammiest of scampaigns.
See here for the latest updates on this story.
Additional reporting by Carmel DeAmicis.