KickStarter – Tech-Sync Power System Scam

On August 17, 2011 the Tech-Sync Power System project was shutdown. At the time hundreds of people had pledged money, and Steven Washington was looking to pull in over $27,637 from 419 backers.

Early backers were skeptical about the credibility of the project. These first backers commented asking for pictures or videos of the prototypes in action. On August 3, I posted why I thought the project was a hoax, Tech Sync Power System, Too Good to be True? Most Likely a Scam. I received some decent traffic to my post, indicating that I was not alone in my suspicions. On August 11, 2011 zenocon, a kickstarter member, posted a link to my blog post and traffic soared. Steven Washington himself, or someone else from Chesapeake, Virginia visited this blog. Within a day there was a flurry of conversation in the Kickstart project comments about the validity of the project. People wanted to believe that the project was real, but the evidence to the contrary was hard to ignore. Soon after, my blog began to receive visits with referrals to Kickstarter’s internal Zendesk help desk software. Someone had evidently reported the project to Kickstarter. On August 16 around noon eastern time I received another visit with a similar referral. Twelve hours later, the project was canceled, and Steven Washington’s Kickstarter account was deleted.

Fortunately, for the 419 backers of this project, enough people came together to get this shut down. Interestingly, Kickstarter had no obligation to cancel the project. According to their own policies they are not liable for projects that do not live up to their promises. Backers beware!

 

* It isn’t clear whether Kickstarter or Steven Washington canceled the project.

Tech Sync Power System, Too Good To Be True? Most Likely a Scam.

The Tech Sync Power System is a Kickstarter project that promises an endless list of possibilities for a small pledge of $20 and unfortunately is also likely to be a scam. For a twenty dollar donation you are promised a power outlet receptacle with the following features:

  • Full programmable control of the receptacle
  • 802.11 g/n Wi-Fi connectivity with full support for WEP/WAP/WAP2
  • Each device acts as a Wi-Fi extender
  • Awesome antenna design giving loss of +/- 8% over 5500 square feet (what does this even mean?)
  • Remote access over the internet to control your receptacle
  • Your choice of iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, or Linux remote control software
  • Self configuration, just swap your normal receptacle with your own and it will auto-configure itself!
  • Outlet dimming, not just on/off
  • UL listed
  • Software distribution on DVD
  • Available in White, Black, Grey and Sand
  • Automatically cuts power to the outlets when not in use eliminating ‘Vampire’ power usage, while not consuming any power itself!
  • For $500 they will travel to your house, anywhere in the US, outfit it with their device, and even make you dinner!

The person (or people) behind this project is either a) extremely intelligent and has found a way to significantly reduce the component costs, b) extremely naive about the complexity and cost of their project, or c) a scammer who is going to be pocketing over $10k in a few weeks. Considering that the project is packed with features with little to no technical descriptions or pictures of actual development effort I am leaning towards c.

Simply reading the reward levels should make any potential backer wary of supporting the project. For a $500 donation this guy will travel to your house, install up to 25 devices in your house, and make you dinner. Let’s assume that his total travel expenses are $300, this leaves $200 to cover the material cost of the product, or $8 per device. How is he supposed to be paying for all of his expenses?

 

I made a similar, although much less capable, device which ended up costing about $50 per controlled outlet. If I were to make thousands of them I could reduce the cost to perhaps $20 dollars, the same cost that this KickStarter project is advertising. Of course this wouldn’t include any labor costs, profit, or Kickstarter’s cut. In order to add all of the features that my project doesn’t have to bring it on par with this KickStarter project the price would probably triple.

Based on the material presented at kickstarter.com on this project, it is my opinion that this guy is going to pocket the money and run. There is no way that he can deliver what he has promised to the, as of today, 184 backers that all together have pledged $12,537 to him. I may be wrong, they may be geniuses and able to pull it off.