Let me start by saying that I am extremely excited about the prospect of my Glowforge and I really hope the delays result in the best product possible. I’ve also worked with enough start-ups to know that a company can very easily spend $31 million in venture capital before a commercial product even sees the light of day, particularly if they are still struggling to develop a reliable product and burning through $1 million a month. This should give us all pause over the viability of this project.
I also realize that the delays may be causing tangible financial damage to some customers beyond the purchase price, but they are continuing to believe in the project due to the temptation of the advertised Glowforge features and the stream of reassurances from Dan and other Glowforge insiders. Unfortunately, some of the reassurances have resulted in seemingly contradictory statements. The videos and marketing material of the original 30-day promotion suggested a product ready for market with the first email from Dan stating that “the first units would ship in December 2015”, and not crowdsourced vaporware. Then the February announcement, promising shipments in June 2016. The next delay announcement in April, according to Dan, was due to failures in the power supplies, but in the December 1st video (nearly 8 months later) by Adam Savage’s “Tested” indicated the Glowforge was missing key advertised features such as the center camera functionality that controls the auto-focus and ability to etch curved surfaces. Now we’re being told there are a large number of failed units in the office due to unspecified reasons. I can imagine the discrepancies and lack of complete transparency are giving people further pause in the viability of this project.
Luckily for the Glowforge customers, we are simply that - customers. We are not investors that have taken on a risk for future dividends in company profits. We have given Glowforge money with the promise of receiving the advertised product, and as such, we fall under consumer protection laws. Although incorporated in Delaware, Glowforge operates out of Washington and falls under the jurisdiction of the Washington State Attorney General’s consumer protection team: http://www.atg.wa.gov/consumer-protection. I’m certain Glowforge would welcome any inquiry by the Attorney General to alleviate fears that the product we’ve purchase will be delivered and that our money is safely protected. If anything, perhaps the Attorney General could help Glowforge setup a trust to insure our money is protected until shipment?
I would strongly encourage any customers with doubts to reach out to Washington’s Attorney General’s Office and let them know your concerns. Calling would be best, but you can file a complaint online here and discuss the repeated delays and apparent lack of features in the publicly presented units: https://fortress.wa.gov/atg/formhandler/ago/ComplaintForm.aspx. I would recommend discussing the following items:
- Glowforge has raised $31 million in venture capital and as of September 2016, they have sold $45 million worth of units but have not shipped any products since the first sales in September 2015.
- If you feel the initial 30-day campaign didn’t clearly state the product wasn’t ready for market, you need to let the AGO know
- Supply copies of the emails indicating shipping dates starting in December 2015, the April email indicating the shipping date of December 2016, and the latest delay email with the statement “Depending on your order date, your Glowforge will arrive between March and July” .
- Let the AGO know that the unit shown on Adam Savage’s Tested video as of 12/1/2016, lacked the advertised features from September 2015.
- You should also make it clear that Glowforge is offering funds to customers that wish to lose the promotional pricing offered in their original purchase.
Many of us simply want the product we purchased with the features that we were advertised. Steps like involving the Attorney General will also help protect individuals that are trying to continue supporting the company and minimize the risk if financial backing leaves the company en masse.
Although I’m sure the leadership at Glowforge are excellent, this product is their “baby”, and it may be difficult for them to see the forest through the trees. The current leadership simply may not be in a position to make the hard decisions that will bring a working Glowforge v1.0 to the marketplace. That by no means indicates they should step down, but it might be worth pointing out to the venture capital behind the project that they need help to make the March-July 2017 dates a reality. I realize many smart people work in the VC’s involved, but with 30 years in high tech, I’ve seen even the most promising companies implode and the VC’s simply write it off. It may be worth your time to reach out to the various backers and let them know your concerns regarding the recent developments in the Glowforge. You can contact them here:
- Foundry Group - http://www.foundrygroup.com/team/
- True Ventures - https://trueventures.com/contact/
- Bre Pettis - http://brepettis.com/
- Jenny Lawton - https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenny-lawton-09278410
Once again, I’m really hoping that my Glowforge will finally be delivered in the next few months with all the amazing they’ve promised, but I also feel a little more comfortable about initiating oversight on this process myself.