Is Glowforge the next Lily Robotics?


#1

“Despite taking all of these prepaid orders, Lily Robotics has continued to delay shipment of the Lilys. When defendant began accepting preorders in May 2015, it told customers that the Lily Camera would ship in February 2016 or May 2016, depending on when the preorder was made. Then, in December 2015, Lily Robotics delayed all shipments to “Summer 2016.” It delayed shipments again in August 2016; according to its notice, US customers would get their Lily Cameras in “December 2016 to January 2017,” while its non-US customers would get them sometime “later in 2017.” As of the writing of this Complaint, not a single unit has been shipped.”

My heart sank when I read this article. It reads very similar to our experience with Glowforge.

Here’s the full court filing…

What do you think?


#2

I admit the closing of Pebble and this can give me pause but on the other hand when I see that a family was killed in their car coming home from the beach doesn’t make me swear off getting into a car. It just makes me evaluate the risks. I have almost never seen a crowd funded item to ship when they first promised. Everyone, even honest hard working people almost always think they can deliver sooner than they can.

Now the lily, I’m not sure if they were just wildly optimistic or out and out fraud.


#3

#4

Let’s not forget the Tested crew and who knows how many are staying under the radar. I’d guesstimate that there are ten or more in the wild. But yes, not the first keeper has shipped but I just can’t see anything non catastrophic keeping the GF from shipping the first keepers by April or May.


#5

Without bothering to read all of that, I would not assume that the situations are the same at all.

Glowforge is venture capitalist funded, and offers our full money back at any time before shipping.

No idea if Lily was using Pre-order money to build the product or not…ours is not being touched until they actually build the unit for us.

And since a full refund is available to the Glowforge customers at any time, they haven’t got a complaint that they can legitimately take to court, and have some city sue the startup right out of business. (Thus destroying their chances of ever getting anything out of the deal at all.)

So no…totally different situation.

But if you’re really afraid at this point, after seeing all of the things that the Betas and Pre-Releasers are doing now with the early units, go ahead and get your money back. You still can.

The only thing not guaranteed in any way is the date we will receive it by. (It never was, despite the fact that a lot of people interpreted it that way.)

Nope, I’m not worried. Not even a little bit. I get more excited every day. A couple of years to bring a new product to market is about how long it takes under normal circumstances.


#6

We have had a few topics about the also rans in crowdfunding. The peachy printer and the Zano drone.

I looked at the Glowforge staff as they hired. Never looked back. Not even in same league.

This article helped me understand the difference.


#7

I really appreciate you taking the time to bring this up for discussion.

The Lily case, like anything, is complicated. We know some of the same folks they did, and have been told about some of their challenges in confidence. Their bottom line, though, was that to get to market, they needed to raise a second major round of funding (“Series B”), and they couldn’t get any investors to invest. They simply ran out of money. (You can see their funding rounds here).

Ultimately, there are only three outcomes for a hardware company: giving up, running out of money, or shipping. If you’re not feeling confident about our ability to ship you a great product, we understand - let us know and we’ll cancel your Glowforge right away.

Otherwise, we look forward to getting you your Glowforge later this year!


#8

$34 million in preorders and $16 million in venture capital and ran out of money before shipping a single drone. Hardware is hard and founders are even more optimistic than hopeful consumers. Oof.

Clearly Glowforge has been dramatically over optimistic about their ability to deliver at least twice. Probably still since that optimism is probably necessary to start a company.

Here’s hoping we get Glowforges instead of a heartfelt sorry letter explaining how hardware is harder than we thought. I’d still rather have a laser than a refund (or a sorry note).


#9

Indeed extremely similar. And you’ll find it similar to a ton of other startups, dare I say most. But there are huge differences between the 2 companies.

Glowforge has actual investors (as opposed to our purchases being used to fund the company). Glowforge, while still only pre-release and not fully functional, has actually shipped units.

These are significant differences that really, in my mind, make comparison between the two company’s situations come to a swift halt.

That’s not to say the Glowforge team can’t learn from Lily Robotics’ failure. There’s always something to be learned from failure. But comparing startup-to-startup here, to me, doesn’t seem worth the effort.

  • Tom

#10

There are a lot of similarities; large pre-orders, venture funding backing ($15mil), slick marketing video. It does state they never shipped one unit, and there are probably 2 dozen or so total shipments so far on the GF.

That the beta and pre-releases out there are a significant number - its a drop in the ocean compared to the total orders, but the challenges on ramping up to a significant volume are numerous. Without knowing the specifics of funding available and spent to overcome any manufacturing challenges, its hard to say, but I still have a high level of confidence that eventually we’ll get the GF.


#11

Looks like the article stated they had $15mil in investment from venture capital.


#12

Yes. I believe the pre-orders were also used to fund though. And in the end, as Dan stated, they didn’t get the Series B they needed from investors.


#13

Not that another round of investment should have ever been needed - I don’t know how much it was communicated either. At the end of the day, the expectation isn’t that after you pay for the item, that your delivery would be contingent on them asking for more money (either through investors or increasing the price of what you had agreed to pay already).


#14

Having worked for startups before I have to slightly disagree with that. The company’s business plan will likely specify what milestones they’ll reach and when they’ll need the next series of financing. Some reasons they won’t get the money are possibly because the initial investors don’t want to fund that round or because the company wasn’t otherwise able to secure new investors for that round or because they didn’t reach their milestones so there’s no faith in the company. But just because they need the next round of financing, even if known up front, doesn’t mean they’ll get it.


#15

You might disagree with it, but as a company that is selling a product, me as a customer does not expect that to happen. If you think the expectation should be there that there would be a second ask for more money to ship what you both had agreed to (in price and functionality), then it should be disclosed up front.

There should be no expectation that after you purchase something from a company, and they take your payment, that you should have to pay extra to get what was agreed to.


#16

I must have missed that in your earlier posts. I was talking about VC financing series, not purchase price.


#17

I’m often curious what response original posters are seeking with these types of topics. Guessing that most are not seeking reassurance. This particular one is not over the top negative, but the topic title bothers me. Absolutely nothing wrong with the overall discussion and it’s one that is useful.

If I want to damage the company I might publicly ask “Is Company X the next failure waiting to happen?”. If I want customers to cut and run, I compare it to another failed project.

But if I want to simply inform people of risks, I would ask the same questions, but completely differently. Large investors want a return on investment. And that is dependent on a steady stream of future customers. If you want a Glowforge, this particular approach seems self defeating to me.


#18

I would have to admit the initial impression of Lily Robotics situation did get me thinking of Glowforge similarities.

Having seen beta_users’ projects, pre-production videos and pictures and non-forum user reviews, does strengthen my confidence.

I find that @dan being involved in the forums and willing to share details (that most primaries in a business won’t reveal) plus his track record with other projects and the specific investors who are involved as board members and/or advisers to Glowforge make a much different environment and business than Lily Robotics.

A big issue I saw with Lily Robotics was that the product was targeting a market for low to mid range price range “fad” consumer/purchasers. The drone market is having to determine what people are willing to pay verses features and quality that can go into the product. Just look at the myriad number of drones that are available to purchase.

There are a lot more people willing to spend several $100s on a “selfie” device (look a phones, “go-pro” type cameras, and such) versus a durable good (like a washer or refrigerator) in house type electronic device (as the Glowforge). There are laser units out there for several $100’s, but the quality units are in the $1000’s and people who are looking to purchase are different type of consumer/purchaser.

Since Glowforge had their initial fundraising, look at the price drop the same class of quality laser products.

One last note. As with any governmental organization, they pile on typically after the problem has been identified and addressed (look at the Samsung Note 7 where the FAA posted weeks after Samsung issued a recall and those in Congress tried to look like they were attempting “protect the public” after the recall).

False advertising penalty of $2500 per order??!!??? People are getting their money back.


#19

Isn’t the usual answer to dark and troubling headlines “no”?:confused: Weird that we get two posts that bring up doubt about the Glowforge in one day.


#20

Startups, some intentionally fraudulent and others just optimistic, have been making headlines like this since the start of the Industrial Revolution. In the 19th century railroads were particularly notorious for failing. Nothing has changed but the product. You have to consider the situation and act accordingly.

There are two questions you need to ask about a startup. Do they have the technical capabilities to accomplish what they want to do and Can they obtain enough funding. Between what has been posted from the beta and pre-release users it would appear that they have the technical prowess. On the funding side they have been funded twice by investors. That of course guarantees nothing without any idea about their burn rate. So you have to ask would another series of funding be likely if things behind the curtain aren’t going so well?

Lily was competing in a crowded drone market. While they may have been promising the best drone out there, unless they had some key piece of technology tied up tightly with patents, they would be very susceptible to competition. Investors are looking at barriers to entry. I haven’t studied the drone market, but it looks like new competition is entering all the time as well as existing competition upgrading their offerings. Laser cutters have been around for decades and are a little more settled. There are companies at the top that have a model of selling to businesses with machines designed to capture the manufacturer’s cost savings and that count on sales and service contracts. There are also companies at the bottom selling DIY and what are essentially assembled DIY kits. Both categories of machines are reported to use unfriendly software and from what the laser cutter owners on this forum as well as other forums report: all existing laser cutters need their settings dialed in to produce consistent results with materials. Glowforge is essentially a prosumer laser cutter that has invested a lot in a friendlier software interface and a proprietary line of materials that eliminates the dialing in of settings (although you are free to dial in and use whatever materials you want.) Both of these require huge investments of time and money, result in some worthwhile patents and thereby setup some barriers to competitors. The Muse would appear to be an option, but they aren’t advertising their version of proofgrade materials. As an investor I would look at the bottom and see that they don’t have the money to upgrade their offerings (the Muse being a possible exception) and while the top end may have the money and expertise the history of established businesses changing their business model to a consumer-orientated one is abysmal. So while there is definitely risk, as far as startups go, from the outside, Glowforge isn’t looking so bad.

To someone who has pre-ordered what you have to consider is your personal appetite for risk:
Option A: Get a refund now and wait until thousands of units have been shipped and appear to be working as advertised and then buy one or,
Option B: Wait.
What you have to lose with option A is the date your unit arrives and any difference in price from your pre-order to the price being charged when you buy again. What you have to lose with option B is the money you have given to Glowforge if events go south.