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Nikki Wertish and the UbuTab Scam

2015-09-03 Tags: tech

Yesterday I wrote a trolly post about how to make $25,000 in 15 easy steps in an effort to raise awareness about the UbuTab scam that happened on Indiegogo this year. Although no one has yet gathered a angry mob to chase after Nikki Wertish and Indiegogo, I think that overall it was pretty successful. In fact, yesterday was the single best day for overall traffic on this blog since its inception. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read, comment, and share that post!

I wanted to follow up with a slightly more serious post expressing my frustration with the whole situation. I first saw the UbuTab campaign on Indeigogo back in January. I wrote about it then predicting that it would probably turn out to be a scam and commenting on how if you want to be taken seriously as a new business then you should not use a gmail address or redirect potential customers to paypal for checkout. Especially if the name of the company on paypayl that you are redirecting them to is not the same as the name of the company of the site that the user was just on.

I’m sad to see that this campaign really did turn out to be scam. I am not sad because I don’t get to play with an awesome Ubuntu tablet (even though I would love to), I am sad because Nikki Wertish took advantage of the kindness of strangers and based on Indeigogos initial reaction to the whole thing, is likely going to get away with it. I think the reason why she is going to get away with it is because $27,980 dollars is a relatively small amount of money and 156 people are a relatively small number of backers. When you screw that few number of people over, no one really pays attention and the only people that lose are the ones that believed in the project in the first place.

Reading through the comments on the project is depressing. It is a sea of disappointed and frustrated users pleading for any sort of communication from Nikki. Their questions go unanswered for months, and contacting Indiegogo for any sort of support is a fruitless endeavor.

“I am starting to feel like this project is dead. Nothing for two months??” “No response to my comments or emails what are you talking about? I think we have been scammed and indiegogo will not do anything to help us.” “Hello Guys,
As we didn’t get any response from UbuTab Team and the only answer from Indiegogo is ” try to contact the campaign owner “. Is there any kind of legal actions can be taken ??” “As a reminder, the offer of a tangible perk is legally binding – see the IndieGoGo TOS below. Given that this campaign has failed to deliver the tangible item as offered, please refund either provide a tracking ID or refund my money. “If a Campaign Owner (CO) is unable to perform on any promise and/or commitment to Contributors, the CO will work with the Contributors to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution, which may include the issuance of a refund of Contributions by the CO.””

In addition, the website for the project is down and Nikki has not provided an update for over three months. Her latest update read:

3 months ago

Hello everyone!! First of all, I apologize to all who haven’t received any e-mail response. We are currently working on getting back to everyone’s questions. If you are waiting for a response, please know you will get an e-mail back by the end of this week. If you haven’t heard back after that, please try us again so we can help in any way possible. Secondly, I know you are all anxiously awaiting the tablets. We are still a little bit behind in production. We were disappointed in the quality of the first batch of tablets from the manufacture. We do not feel they were of high enough quality to continue production of the current model. We are working with them to resolve the issues, and hope the next batch is up to our standards. Thank you for your patience in this matter! We are working on getting a few things updated so that we can send everyone the highest quality product. At this point we are looking at another 6-12 weeks before shipment. I just want to thank everyone for their patience in this matter. We are working hard to get the UbuTab to you as soon as possible, but we don’t want to skimp on quality to save time. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to comment or e-mail and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you again for your support and patience! – UbuTab Team

It turns out that this wasn’t the first time that Nikki took a stab at crowdfunding, along with a few other failed businesses under the company name NuMac, but she was much more successful taking advantage of people who actually want to see Ubuntu running on a tablet.  Some people say that the ones that funded this campaign were simply stupid. Why in the world would they trust someone with no background, no credibility, and no working prototype with their money. I would agree that perhaps they should have scrutinized this project a bit more before fronting cash, but I do not think they are stupid. I would argue that the entire point of crowdfunding is to provide someone with a crazy idea the resources that they need to make it a reality.

I think the crowdfunding overall is a good thing, there have been tons of really amazing projects that have come out of kickstarter, Indiegogo, crowdsupply and the like. For comparison this is what a successful and legitimate hardware crowdfunding campaign looks like. When things like this happen, it causes many to lose faith in the system and makes it harder for the next person with a crazy idea to get enough people to trust them to follow through with it. I think that is a real shame.

I really hope that Indiegogo steps up and does something on behalf of all the users that trusted in the platform. I would also love for Nikki to provide everyone with an honest update on what is going on with the project and if it truly failed find some way to refund all of the backers. Until then, shame on Nikki Wertish for exploiting the crowdfunding model and scamming 156 people.

I have registered a formal complaint with the FTC. I would encourage everyone else to do the same, especially if you are one of the victims of this scam.