Ukrainian Company Air Metal Detector raises $76k on Kickstarter, fails to supply products. What’s going on
In March 2019, the fundraising campaign for the smart metal detector Air Metal Detector ended on Kickstarter. The Ukrainian company managed to raise $76,000 from almost 300 backers from all over the world. The first shipments were supposed to start in November 2019, but the backers still have not received the product.
One of the backers who has supported the project on Kickstarter contacted the editorial of AIN.UA and told us that he considers it to be a fraud. We have talked to other backers and authors of the campaign to find out what is going on with Air Metal Detector and whether Kickstarter users will ever get their devices.
About the project
Air Metal Detector is a device for metal detection, which connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth through the application. The device was invented and developed in Ukraine under the leadership of Oleksii Samkov.
Oleksii is a well-known figure among Ukrainian treasure hunters. He has his own specialized store, Kamrad, in Kyiv. He also develops a community of metal detectorists in Ukraine and conducts festivals and events regularly. Oleksii travels a lot. He has repeatedly appeared in reports on Ukrainian TV channels giving comments or interviews. He has over 33,000 followers on Instagram.
According to the description on Kickstarter, the idea to create the smart detector came to the team in 2014. The first prototype was assembled in 2018 and presented at the CES Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. After that, they launched a crowdfunding campaign.
The minimum price for the detector on Kickstarter was $200. It was planned that the devices would retail in the US for $299 per device. The company is focused on the US and Western European markets.
Something (everything) went wrong
One of the backers of Air Metal Detector, Alex A. (name changed), wrote to the editorial team of AIN.UA in August 2020. He said that the founders of the project haven’t been in touch on the official pages for months. This makes users, who paid for their pre-orders through Kickstarter, nervous. In the comments on the website, the backers demand refunds and accuse the developers of fraud. Some of them are even trying to initiate a class-action lawsuit.
Commentators on Facebook are also running out of patience. Most of the reactions to the last update of March 5 are skeptical and negative.
It should be noted that updates on the project are very irregular. For the last six months, the team only publishes news on Facebook (the page on Kickstarter has not been updated since November 2020) and no more than once a month. Sometimes there are no updates for several months.
In the updates, the management writes about the problems that led to another postponement of supplies, but users do not believe them.
“They always have fake excuses. They are constantly making excuses about this or that: the virus has spoiled everything, or they’ve already done everything and brought it to people, but lost it on the road. In general, it looks like people were stupidly duped for money,” comments Yakov S. (name changed).
Yakov has invested $400 in Air Metal Detector – for two detectors. The other backers, with whom the AIN.UA editor spoke, invested between $200 and $300 in the campaign.
“I ordered a detector from them in 2019. Now it’s March 2021, time is passing, and nothing happens – just excuses. I think it’s a scam. The way they keep putting excuses out stops, or they think it stops, us wanting our money back. I think that’s how scammers work,” Kevin Frost, a UK backer, told AIN.UA.
What the company says
The editor of AIN.UA talked to a representative of the company, Konstantin Tymonkin. He assured that Air Metal Detector does not refuse its obligations and hopes to start the first shipments by the end of March.
The company explained a delay of nearly two years by a series of force majeure events caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Supply disruptions and communication problems with the factory resulted in many processes being significantly delayed. Moreover, the team had to raise additional investments, as only 30% of the project was funded with the help of Kickstarter.
According to Konstantin, the first batch of 50 detectors was already ready in October – the team was preparing to send them to backers after the final testing. Five detectors from that batch were brought to Ukraine (also not without adventures – according to the developers, FedEx lost them and found them only three weeks later), but the testing process revealed a noise that was not supposed to be there
As it turned out, the Chinese manufacturer had replaced the circuit board without consulting the developers. That led to a noticeable deterioration in the quality of the detector. So, it was decided to redo the batch. But at that moment, the Chinese New Year began, and in February, the whole country shut down for almost a month. This caused another downtime.
“Now they have printed new circuit boards and are starting testing. If all goes well, the first batch will go to the backers by the end of March,” said the representative of Air Metal Detector.
According to him, those who previously pledged to the project on Kickstarter will be the first to receive the product. Konstantin explained the lack of updates by the absence of an SMM specialist.
“Now we are hiring an SMM specialist who will do regular publications. While the company was in limbo, it wasn’t rational to have such a specialist – we didn’t want to spend the backers’ money on that,” Tymonkin explained.
According to Tymonkin, Air Metal Detector in Kyiv has several test samples that work perfectly. The company is ready to demonstrate them to Ukraine’s backers at any time. But they are not good for the shipment because they don’t look very marketable.
“It is not a scam. If it were a scam, it would be easier just to disappear. There would be no need to write updates every month since we wouldn’t get any more money out of it,” he said.
AIN.UA is monitoring the situation. The article will be updated.