ZPM drops automated coffee & Kickstarter backers

ZPM's PID-controlled espresso machine sounded too good to be true. Billed as "a home espresso machine that provides commercial quality temperature and pressure consistency at an affordable price", the Kickstarter easily blasted through their $20,000 goal on the way to just under $370,000 in funding. That was three years ago, almost to the day. As backers waited, the company dragged their heels on delivery. Via an update to backers, we learn they're ditching the product altogether, and won't be issuing refunds.

The idea was pretty lofty to begin with. For as little as $20, the project promised to bring artisanal coffee to you, fully automated. Backers were promised "customizable temperature and pressure, pre-infusion" and "shot-time settings". It was like having a human barista in your kitchen.

Except it wasn't human, nor was it totally believable. Unbelievable earned it $370,000, though.

Via Reddit (none of the SlashGear team backed the project), we learn that the COO of ZPM has left, and is "taking most of our team with her." According to the update, she left in early December. Since then, they've been exploring legal remedies to the situation and searching for new team members.

Ultimately, the team remaining says the COO leaving and inability to source additional funding left them without a direction forward.

After nearly three years and no viable product.

They won't be refunding backers, though they say they plan to open-source their work to-date, and are "having conversations with several other parties to see if we can't create a situation where your pledges are still honored and you guys get something for all your support of this project."

Kickstarter's new rules about refunds or products issued were implemented after ZPM completed their funding, so they're probably not bound to the same rules existing projects are. Even if they were, ZPM clearly isn't solvent enough to issue full refunds.

Here is the full update to backers, via Reddit:

Hello Everyone!

Unfortunately we do not have good news to report. At the beginning of December our COO informed us that, effective immediately and with no notice, she would be leaving the company and taking most of our team with her. Since then she's been radio silent. This halted the progress the company was making, and left us reeling.

We explored our legal options, started a search for a new team, and reached out to our existing investors to get a bridge round together. Even though they were very supportive, at the end of the day, we were not able to get a big enough bridge round together to move forward. While we've looked into several other financing options, after serious consideration, we reached the decision to shut the company down. We are currently ending all operations.

It was an incredibly difficult choice to make, given the funds, effort, and time put into the company. We have poured 3+ years of our lives and all our personal savings into ZPM, because we believed — and still do — that there is a huge need in the market for what we're doing, and that we've made an amazing product that can get the job done.

We deeply regret that it's coming to an end in this way, especially given how painfully close we are to completion. However we want you to know that you have been incredible backers, and it has been an absolute honor to be working on your behalf and have you guys behind us. Your support and expertise was invaluable, and we wouldn't have gotten nearly as far as we did without everyone's support and advice. Thank you for believing in us — we are very sorry to disappoint.

The vast majority of the funds have been spent on development and inventory, and we will most likely be unable to offer refunds. However, we are currently having conversations with several other parties to see if we can't create a situation where your pledges are still honored and you guys get something for all your support of this project. Please stay tuned — we will keep you up-to-date on this front in the coming month, and very much hope to see a silver lining come out of it.

If nothing does, then we will be pushing out as much as we can, and open-sourcing and releasing all our designs and code. Either way, we will also later be putting out information on the financials and challenges we faced that we were unable to openly discuss before.

Thank you all very much. Working on this project was the most ambitious and meaningful undertaking any of us have ever attempted. Getting to know all of you, and working to create some seriously cool technology was one of the most rewarding things we've ever done. We are deeply and truly sorry that despite our best efforts, we were not able to get this machine across the finish line.


Gleb, Igor, and Janet