Titan Note Continues Trying To Sell Its Questionable Device; Its Own Actions Keep Raising More Questions

from the sketchy dept

A few weeks back, I wrote about IndieGogo shutting down a crowdfunding project for a small notetaking/speaker device called Titan Note. As I pointed out at the time, there were a lot of alarm bells about the product, but I had still backed it just to see if it might actually work. IndieGogo shutting it down actually had me relieved because the more I thought about it, the less sure I was the project was legit. Making things even more bizarre -- and leading to my post about it -- was the news that the guy behind Titan Note had sent a bogus DMCA takedown notice to the Verge over its skeptical take on the product. The DMCA notice targeted the use of Titan Note's promotional images -- which are clearly fair use for news publications.

A few days after that all went down, I went to see if the guy behind Titan Note had anything to say about it. There was a post on Facebook claiming that it was all IndieGogo's fault and promising it would be on another "more trusted" platform soon:

As you have noticed, your orders on Indiegogo have been refunded. We got into a dispute with Indiegogo and we decided to use another platform instead. Indiegogo doesn't have your best interest in mind and we decided to find a better solution for both you and ourselves.

This seemed... sketchy for a variety of reasons. What kind of "dispute" could they have gotten into? A number of people asked in the comments, and the Titan Note guy (it's unclear if it's more than just one guy), just started pasting the same boilerplate response over and over again, insisting that there was a "dispute" over "payment and fees."

The dispute was regarding the payment and the fees. Moreover, Indiegogo has a history of not taking responsibility for the users on its platform. Many are dissatisfied with the Indiegogo platform. It was a wrong move from our side to take orders on the Indiegogo platform in the first place and we truly apologize about that. We promise that we will make it up to you when we relaunch Titan Note on a more trusted platform next week. Please let us know if you have any other questions.

More people began to question this, and then he started insisting he couldn't talk any more about it, because he was going to sue IndieGogo.

We are in the process of pursuing legal action against Indiegogo for their misconduct. Because of this, neither we or them can go into more specific details. We appreciate your understanding and we apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you.

Somewhere around this time, I decided to ask some questions on the Facebook page as well, noting that the boilerplate claims didn't make much sense. There's no reason to expect a dispute about "fees" since IndieGogo is pretty damn clear on the fee breakdown. I pointed out that there's simply no reason that he can't explain more of what the problem was, even if a lawsuit was in process -- and furthermore, suggested that it might make sense to delay a new crowdfunding campaign until after such a lawsuit was filed, so that backers could better understand the details. Separately, I asked about why they sent the DMCA notice.

A few hours later, I noticed that my question about the DMCA was deleted. I saw someone else asked a similar question -- and that was deleted. After a few more people asked, he finally posted another boilerplate answer, responding to a bunch of users:

About the DMCA: We sent the DMCA notice to the verge because they used our copyrighted images without our permission. No reputable publication would do that. They stole our property and we had to take action.

I responded to that, noting that this explanation made no sense at all. First of all, the images were promotional images, released for the press. Second, the Verge's use was clearly fair use. And, finally, I pointed out that this explanation was clearly not true, and the reason for the DMCA notice was obviously the skeptical nature of the Verge's article because none of the other news articles that were hyping up the Titan Note -- and which the company proudly linked to -- appeared to have DMCA notices over their use of the very same images.

And that's when I got blocked from commenting on the Titan Note Facebook page and all my remaining comments were deleted (he had already deleted my DMCA questions earlier).

So that confirmed just how sketchy this whole project was to me. The DMCA notice was bad. The nonsensical explanations were worse. And deleting some fairly straightforward questions about all of that (and then blocking me from commenting any more)? That's not a trustworthy project.

At almost the exact same time that I got blocked, Titan Note "relaunched" on a supposedly more trustworthy platform, an Australian site called Pozible. The project quickly got to nearly $100,000 in backing. I emailed Pozible to ask if they did any checking on projects, and pointed out that IndieGogo had taken the same project down. Almost immediately I got an email response from someone at Pozible, telling me that their own system had "flagged" the project and they were suspending the project until the creator provided more information.

I similarly reached out to IndieGogo to find out if the "fee dispute" claim was legit. Not so, the company told me. While they would not go into the full reasons for the project being suspended, they did say that "a lengthy investigation" by the trust and safety team determined that the company was violating IndieGogo's terms and services, and made it clear "this was not a dispute about fees, but a violation on their end." IndieGogo's terms involve lots of things, but one line that stands out:

Campaign Owners are not permitted to create a Campaign to raise funds for illegal activities, to cause harm to people or property, or to scam others. If the Campaign is claiming to do the impossible or it's just plain phony, don't post it.

Not surprisingly, after Pozible shut down the campaign after just a few hours, a bunch of people went back to Facebook to ask questions and note that this was now two crowdfunding platforms that had shut down the campaign entirely, and demanding answers. A few joked that "boilerplate" answers would be coming soon. It actually took a few days, but eventually...

To clarify, Neither of those platforms have seen our product. The outcome is not a reflection of Titan Note's quality and again, they have not seen our product. We have had competitors that have posted slanderous information to the platforms and we are in the process of bringing legal action against one of those platforms for their misconduct. We will not let a bump in the road stop our passion.

So... yeah. That doesn't actually answer the question. Nearly all crowdfunding projects don't involve the platforms seeing the projects, but it's very rare for projects to be canceled. It certainly suggests something else is up with this project and that's why they were canceled. Besides, the original story was that IndieGogo canceled over a "fee dispute." If that's the case, why would it matter that it hadn't seen the product?

And, of course, a few days after that -- earlier this week -- Titan Note launched its own website entirely (previously, one of the concerns was that the company didn't appear to have a website). And that website is allowing pre-orders. We won't link to it directly (no reason to give it free advertising), but astoundingly, the company is using the canceled IndieGogo project on its new website as proof of how cool it is:

Yes, the IndieGogo campaign had over 12,000 backers and had initially raised over $1.1 million dollars. But that was canceled and all the money was refunded. It seems very, very, very questionable to then go on and put up a website that suggests the project successfully raised that much money when that's not how things actually ended.

Distressingly, the project is also using the various positive press it got upon launching on the website, leaving out the Verge (obviously).

Not surprisingly, I am not the only person concerned about all of this. There are still some users in the Titan Note comments concerned about this (I have no idea how many others had their comments deleted, as mine were). There's also a Facebook group on crowdfunding scams that has taken a special interest in Titan Note with a few different discussions on it -- including concern about the current offering directly off the website.

Throughout all of this, I still would like the product to be legit, because it certainly would be an interesting product! However, with all of the red flags raised, and the questionable way that Titan Note has responded to these kinds of questions, it seems entirely reasonable to believe that the product is, at the very least, greatly exaggerated, and might possibly not exist at all. I did send Titan Note an email listing out a series of questions and letting them know I would be writing about this. So far, there has been no response. If one should come in, I will update this post.


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 May 2017 @ 6:45pm

    "They stole our property and we had to take action."

    We were using those photos to sucker people in to steal their money, how dare they interfere with our plans.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 24 May 2017 @ 7:06pm

    Tag line

    "Never have to worry about taking notes."

    True, you'll have nothing to take notes with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    athe, 24 May 2017 @ 7:20pm

    No response from them...

    Probably because they "are in the process of bringing legal action against" your disreputable publication for using their copyrighted images from their website without permission...


    /sarc

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2017 @ 7:57pm

    Great idea

    "Save over 50% for a limited time!"

    Save 100% from now on!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Designerfx (profile), 24 May 2017 @ 8:10pm

    why do people trust indiegogo when indiegogo is not relaible?

    Even techdirt themselves talked about how indiegogo is not kickstarter and doesn't even vaguely check that a project is legitimate before taking your money.

    So, surprise?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2017 @ 8:26pm

      Re: why do people trust indiegogo when indiegogo is not relaible?

      And yet, they checked on this product and removed the project. The article also mentions a "lengthy investigation by the trust and safety team". Seems to conflict with your claim.

      NB: I am not a fan of indiegogo's model of funding, and don't use them, so I am not defending them out of loyalty.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        John Lewis, 25 May 2017 @ 9:30am

        Re: Re: why do people trust indiegogo when indiegogo is not relaible?

        Slight correction: IGG did not check on this product until we contacted them with our findings - THEN they pulled the plug.

        Among other things, I'm one of that Facebook group you mentioned in your article above.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 24 May 2017 @ 11:06pm

      Re: why do people trust indiegogo when indiegogo is not relaible?

      Even techdirt themselves talked about how indiegogo is not kickstarter and doesn't even vaguely check that a project is legitimate before taking your money.

      Clearly they do check on projects, as this one was canceled, right?

      I've backed a bunch of projects on Indiegogo and haven't had a single one turn out to be a scam.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Max, 25 May 2017 @ 9:44am

        Re: Re: why do people trust indiegogo when indiegogo is not relaible?

        The problem that many people have with Indiegogo (and possibly the one at play here too) is not particularly about the site's reputation, but the fact that they allow open campaigns that take the money raised regardless of how much has actually been raised. This might possibly make sense for some campaigns that are effectively offering pre-orders for an existing product they can fulfil regardless of numbers, but rises huge questions in case of traditional campaigns where it is hard to imagine a small number of what are effectively still pre-orders can be fulfilled without raising the declared target.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 24 May 2017 @ 8:14pm

    "a small notetaking/speaker device called Titan Note."

    Looking at their webpage - all this is is a recorder with a speech-to-text program attached. Am I missing something here? Why would anyone back this?

    If their S2T software can do what they claim - the recorder part is irrelevant. The software would be a massive improvement over the current state-of-the-art.

    Just sell the software and I'll use my phone to record - like I do now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 25 May 2017 @ 12:41am

      Re:

      Easy to a) sell a hardware solution b) make geeks flock to a product.

      Let's see: "this hand-held dictation device does not just transcribe what it hears but uses ultrasound/image data to read your lips while dictating and thus achieves recognition rates that a mere audio-based solution cannot deliver".

      There you are. Works for humans in noisy situations for improving results even if they aren't trained lip readers (and could skip on the audio altogether).

      Add a few buzzwords like cascaded speaker-trained neural networks in nonlinear superposition (or whatever Cyberdyne Corporation would claim).

      Instant appeal, and a hardware-only solution becomes understandable depending on the kind of near-field sensors integrated into the device.

      It's not hard to come up with electrifying concepts. Just to deliver.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 May 2017 @ 7:06am

      Re:

      Why squeeze the bag yourself, we offer an $800 press...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 24 May 2017 @ 8:50pm

    Please let us know if you have any further question[sic]

    ..that we can promptly delete because it's toooo haaaard!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2017 @ 9:16pm

    Answer to all questions on this topic: SKIP IT. DULL at best.

    Can't you find anything of interest? Or just too scared of getting sued more?


    Suggestions. These titles enough so needn't bother with actual links:

    internet-hacker-kim-dot-com-releases-documents-seth-rich-leaked-podesta-wikileaks-emails/

    googl e-now-knows-when-you-are-at-a-cash-register-and-how-much-you-are-spending/

    uber-shortchanged-new-york -city-drivers-by-millions-of-dollars-1495558800

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2017 @ 4:09am

    Here we have someone who will spend the rest of their life pushing conspiracy theories that blame others for why their great idea never got off the ground.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2017 @ 5:42am

      Re:

      They don't mindlessly parrot my claims of having invented email, so obviously it must because they're conspiring maliciously to do so.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    juliana, 29 May 2017 @ 8:41am

    How much could your credit card protect you?

    I know on my American Express, they have a lot of buyer protections and ways to dispute payment. Is it possible that those could protect you somewhat if this turns out to be fraudulent?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    M, 1 Jun 2017 @ 8:13am

    Crowdfunding Nigerian prince

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    M, 1 Jun 2017 @ 8:15am

    They just sent another email to former indiegogo backers. Thanks for writing the article I am definitely out now. It seems like an elaborate scam. Nigerian prince meets Kickstarter..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chazz (profile), 10 Jun 2017 @ 6:25am

    Unresponsive

    Like others, I was skeptical about Titan Note delivering what they promised, but I was intrigued and had only lost out on one crowd funded device (i cables that had communications issues), so I gave it a shot. After getting my money back twice (Indiegogo & Pozible), I figured that someone knew something the rest of us didn't and was happy I didn't lose $90. Then the emails started coming in from Titan Note. After the 3rd or 4th email, I responded, asking what guarantees they were offering - guess what, no reply. A couple of more emails encouraging me to buy and I asked again - still no response.

    Maybe I should sue them for harrasment?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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