uBeam could be vaporware, according to one blogger claiming to be uBeam’s former VP of Engineering. You accuse the startup of not being able to fulfill its technology promises. [Update: Reporter Lee Gomes confirmed with the author that they are former uBeam VP of Eng Paul Reynolds. More below]
uBeam says it builds a device that can wirelessly charge your phone or other electronic devices several meters away. But in a series of blog posts The author claims about the startup that the product is a fake. The criticism will increase the pressure on uBeam to reveal a working prototype.
TechCrunch cannot confirm these allegations or the blogger’s identity and we are waiting for a response from uBeam but the blogger claims that:
- uBeam refused to publicly show a demo because the technology wasn’t working
- The original CTO and newly hired CFO Take both leave the company
- uBeam CEO Meredith Perry induced co-founder Nora Dweck to split the company 80/20 instead of 50/50 to Court documents. Dweck sued Perry, who “has reached an out-of-court settlement with Dweck, who allegedly acquires 20% of the company.”
- The Laws of physics and scientific experts state that “While in theory [uBeam] be possible in limited cases, which mean safety, efficiency and economy that it is not even remotely practical. “
We contacted uBeam; there was no comment. uBeam has repeated defended oppose previous claims that its technology is impossible, saying it has made scientific breakthroughs and has made high profile supplements Ultrasound experts to his team, his advisors and investors as proof of his potential.
The company has claimed that its critics are not privy to its proprietary technology and make false assumptions about how it works. Perry, 25, has repeatedly told me that the technology is indeed possible and that it is safe and efficient enough to be practical. Even so, she has repeatedly refused to provide a demo, although said in november uBeam would finally showcase its technology in 2016.
The great opportunity to change the way electronic devices are powered has attracted more than $ 23 million in funding from notable investors, including Forward-looking ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Start-up fund, Marissa Mayer and Mark Cuban.
TechCrunch has densely covered uBeam because of the potential Market size to the it is technology and the financing it is preserved. However, we have repeated our skepticism about the product until we see a production-ready live demo of remotely charging cellphones.
The new claims spread across 20 blog posts on “Lies, Damn Lies and Startup PR” add to this skepticism. Details stating that the author left his role as VP of Engineering in October after two and a half years led contributors to cite Hacker News name who they think is the author. We contacted this person for more information and also posted comments on the blog for information from the author.
Because these allegations are made by an alleged former employee and someone who does not wish to disclose their identity directly, the motives for the author to publish these reports are unclear. Most obviously, however, they feel that uBeam is misleading its investors, the public, or both. We also obtained a comment from lead investor Upfront Ventures.
[Update 2pm Pacific: Science news outlet IEEE Spectrum’s Lee Gomes says he’s confirmed with the author that they are indeed former uBeam VP of Engineering Paul Reynolds, as Hacker News contributors suspected. In a tweetstorm, Gomes says uBeam engineers tell IEEE Spectrum that the company isn’t close to delivering its promised product, can’t reach the energy transfer rates it’s purported, and won’t meet the 2016 deadline for a public demo that it told TechCrunch.]
The author writes that she was originally joined uBeam hoping to work with an inspiring CTO on a challenging issue, Marc Bertewho left in January 2015. They say they “It was an ugly exit when I left, but it was reported to investors that VP Engineering left for personal reasons – personal reasons are fed up with enduring this bullshit.”
Energous, a competitor in the wireless space, is also accused never let go a working product despite going Publicity and currently have one Market capitalization of $ 174 million. The author claims that Energous is solely intended to provide financial support to the founders.
Finally, the author also explains why the physics of saturation would severely limit the distance and level of power uBeam could transmit, making its promise of charging in a room impossible. There are various insults and comparisons between Perry and Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, a toddler and Smeagol from Lords of the Rings.
While uBeam’s product used to be mocked by people outside of the company who weren’t sure exactly how it was supposed to work, this report is different. If it is indeed from uBeam’s former VP of Engineering, it could indicate that uBeam will have serious trouble delivering a wireless energy product that fulfills its own promises or is even useful.
The allegations could reinforce uBeam’s review to provide a compelling demo of its technology. Otherwise it could become difficult to raise additional funds, hire or retain talent, and avoid a negative press spiral.
Venture capitalists in some sectors are increasingly keen to fund serious scientific innovation, although due diligence can be much more difficult than simple software that can be assessed against immediate market effects. The economy of startups is such that VCs seek risky bets that could generate huge returns, even if it means a high percentage of their investments fail.
However, to avoid the huge waste of capital that could fund more worthy and impactful companies, VCs need to dig deeper than the big idea of a smart team.