Sondors Fact Finding. Due Diligence. Scrutiny.

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Hi guys, this thread is all about posting DATA POINTS surrounding the Sondors Ebike Campaign on Indiegogo. This is a scientific process, all claims need to link to proof or be testimony of first hand experience including dates, screenshots, videos etc. Please flag anyone who disrupts this process and I will delete their posts and administer suspension in accordance with behavior. Feel free to create an anonymous account to protect your identity if you feel this process will disrupt normal activities on the site.

I am creating this thread as a measure of accountability and am not on one side or another. I do not wish to see the credibility of crowd funding tools eroded by any campaign. I do not appreciate misleading or negligent marketing practices or reporting in the media. I do appreciate innovation and acknowledge pivoting in order to deliver a competitive product or service.

I sense a lot of energy around this topic and want to translate that into a productive, organized record with your help and plan to use this information in my official review.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
It’s clear, now, that this was a very well planned marketing campaign. Storm had a website and they were using Facebook. For some period of time (track the time in the Say Hello thread) they were basically pre-announcing.

I definitely think that throughout the early campaign, they left the impression this was a bike that would be FOR SALE. Now the actual email I got as a subscriber (attached below) was just basically a link and that went to Indiegogo. They could have said, from Day One, this is a developmental type project. We are raising money, through a crowdfunding site, and we hope to have a very good price on an ebike. That would have been 100% honest.

storm-ebike-launch-email.png

But that’s not what they did. How honest were they? If you were thinking, for a week, you would be buying a bike on the launch, you might have missed the fact you were on a crowdfund site.

Aside from that, the original email says a 45 pound bike. It wasn’t and it wasn’t even close. The range is off, but the ranges tend to be off. The motor is not 380 watts, but there are peak ratings of motors, and that might be within that number for a 350 watt motor. Charging a battery in 90 minutes is possible, but it might not be ideal. There is more heat, more risk.

Process comments, unrelated to the purpose of this thread:

This is exactly the way to do it. Having endless bickering in threads is worthless. There is currently a Kickstarter campaign for Shocke Spark (I hope they realize that name exists), and they answered all my questions with one email. I encouraged them to come to this forum, in an email. Mostly it is about getting clear and complete information, something Ian Grace has mentioned a lot. It would be great if CF campaign managers would just come over here and answer questions. Roshan, at Biktrix has. There aren’t that many questions. We could provide a list (sizes, battery type, brand of drivetrain, etc) that would cover 90%.

There are good reasons for young entrepreneurs with real passion for the business to embrace the CF format. But it should be made to work. The flaws with the Sondo are pretty clear, even now, and they have not produced any bikes. I really want to see CF work, at least the Kickstarter version. There have been a lot of failures in the arena.
 

EULITTLB

Active Member
Now I understand more - perhaps the Chris Davies Article (Slashgear) is the most telling for me http://www.slashgear.com/storm-ebike-electrifies-the-fat-wheel-hands-on-02367030/ - in house production of all parts, hydraulic brakes bringing a 45lbs bike to a rest, delivery in May 2015 etc. Secondly the image I found in Biknuts' photo bucket as below which was the basis on which contributors pledged for the first $2.5million although this is an approximation. Again 45lbs weight is detailed, 50 mile range is the headline although 30-50 mile range is mentioned in the article, 90 minute full charge time

(edit) Article makes reference to May delivery date and then at the end refers to a May 2015 shipping date, exactly the same information as on the IGG Campaign website.

storm-ebike-screencap.jpg
 
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George S.

Well-Known Member
Factual information:
  1. screenshot from an early IGG page showing the bike as having a geared hub motor and a direct drive hub motor.
  2. section of the IGG/Storm page stating that the weight was 45 pounds, though they wanted to make it lighter.
  3. section of the IGG/Storm page where the battery is specifically described as 10 AH. A range of 50 miles is given, noting that would be 2 hours at 200 watts. This suggests the bike could be ridden for 2 hours at 25 miles an hour (to get to 50 miles in 2 hours). These are not credible numbers on that bike.
  4. section of the original Storm/IGG page in which they state the $499 price is for 3 days. The campaign started on February 1st, and the price was not for that "limited time". Most CF campaigns are structured in tiers, with an advantage to early contributors.
Please, respect what Court said and only use this to post facts or obvious interpretations of facts. Anything else can go somewhere else, especially if it leads to endless back and forth. Read the original post. Respect the guy who runs the forum and pays the bills.
 

Attachments

Chas

Member
To summarize what we have learned about the Sondor's bike
  • 13 miles range, maybe 20+ miles with a strong rider pedaling a lot.
  • 50 minute battery duration (10ah, maybe 45minutes for 8.8ah)
  • 20mph full throttle cruising speed (flat, possibly downwind)
  • 58.5lb weight
  • 350watt Bafang XO2 geared hub motor (This $81 motor looks to match the specs well)
  • 36v 8.8ah bottle battery
  • Gearing – hard to say. They spec a 39T crank, and likely have a freewheel between 16t and 22t (22t is hard to pedal at 20mph, 16t would be hard to pedal without the battery).
  • Charge time – 90 min at 5amp, 4 hours at 2amps (this part is a bit vague on IGG.
  • <$200 – additional charge for shipping less than $200.
  • $179 ($350 msrp) for additional battery
Corrections from initial information:
  • Initial video has a 3000 watt bike (green wheels, no pedals, non-street legal) doing things you can’t do on the Storm bike (i.e. 25+ in on streets, riding on the beach, doing single track).
  • Bike weigh increased from 45 to 55lbs (actual bike is 58.5)
  • Battery downgraded from 10ah to 8.8ah
  • Disclaimer put on range
  • Hydraulic brakes changed to cable brakes
  • Motor changed from direct drive to geared.
Ability to climb hills, sand, mud, go off road: roughly the same as a healthy rider could do on a normal 60lb single speed bike (i.e. its difficult at best).

Court –nice video of the Sand Viper. That matches my experience of building 350watt bikes, and gives us a realistic idea of what to expect with the Sondors bike.
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks for the feedback guys, I want to keep the tone non-accusatory here because the situation is so dynamic and still unfolding. One area I feel that's worth covering is media reporting (including my own). The following articles seemed to have a big impact on the campaign from the start:
It would be neat to see a growth chart for the Indiegogo campaign so we could connect events and news with funding (does anyone know how to do this?) I became involved around February 3rd when I posted in the "Say Hello to Storm" thread. Shortly after I was contacted by Dan Tynan of Yahoo! who had read my thoughts and wanted more information for a follow-up story. I obliged and immediately dug in for some more information and shot the first YouTube video talking about whether the bike was a good deal.
More recently, a story was published in the LA Times introducing Storm Sondors more formally and providing background on his childhood, unique character and the Indiegogo campaign.
What's striking to me about the original articles on Yahoo! and TechCrunch is a lack of investigation into claims made by the campaign and the existing ebike environment. Both focused on the low price of the bike but did not compare a final unit cost with existing products, they seemed to regurgitate the information they were given (I've done this myself in the past unfortunately) and they connected this information with a vast audience that might have had a lower awareness of electric bikes. This, combined with the "limited time" positioning of the original price point created a situation where people jumped on board who might have otherwise chosen differently. And once they were on, due to the no-refund policy of Indiegogo, they were unable to jump off. I believe this is a big factor for why some people are so emotionally invested in the success of the campaign. Does anyone have information about what the original dates/prices for funding levels were and how they have changed?
 

EULITTLB

Active Member
Court can you PM me your email, I have a list of contributors and we can determine from the funds pledged when the price shifted - in fact i'll do it now and then delete this comment

Shift to $599 pricing was on or around 7/2/15, i'll upload the .xslx file cheers (can't seem to do it i can email it if you wish)

5403 Donny Ward 14 days ago $499USD 07/02/15
5404 Donny Ward 14 days ago $179USD 07/02/15
5405 amistadasc 14 days ago $599USD 07/02/15
 
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George S.

Well-Known Member
Court,

Dan Tynan (author of Yahoo stories) repeatedly asked Sondors to remove his 'review' (in the comments). I don't have a snip, but you could just ask him. His 'story' on the Sondo is still front and center on the IGG page.

press-reviews.jpg

You could ask Prodeco how they finally got through to the campaign, since they prevailed on their trademark issue. Daniel del Aguila made the point, again in the comments, that they had no business address to deliver the cease and desist order. I don't know how many comments are archived on their pages, but it is tedious to try to get through them.
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks @George S., I've been in touch with Dan Tynan and Daniel del Aguila since the event as well as the guys from HPC but some of what they told me was private. One very public thing I've noticed is that the Sondors campaign has been running Google and Facebook ads like crazy.

sondors-ad-3-2-15.png

They also ran this ad on my video review smearing Dan Tynan. I quickly blocked it.

sondors-yahoo-dan-ad.png

I'm not going to link to the page that the banner was linking to but this is what they have posted there, to view the full image click the right link that says "show original location".

storm-yahoo-article.jpg

The story refers to "sloppy journalism" and concludes that "You can't even keep your claims straight!" which is ironic to me because that same claim could be made of the Sondors Ebike Indiegogo campaign given the changing weight, motor size, battery size, colors, range and funding price point deadlines.

Mostly, I'm saddened to see the money that contributors put up for a bicycle going to ads like this, especially when Dan's original article helped to fuel the growth of the campaign. They are benefitting from his "trusting" journalism but I do agree that there were some mistakes just as I and many other journalists with busy schedules and limited information have made. I also acknowledge that crowd funded products are subject to change and that's okay for me if the reasons are genuine.

One theory I have is that Agency 2.0 gets paid a percentage of the funds raised by the Indiegogo campaign and that they are therefore working on a different profit margin than Storm Sondors himself. I asked this during my interview with Chris but he declined to answer. This would explain the incongruencies between what Storm says and does... what kind of a person he is and what's all over the web and listed on the campaign.
 

EULITTLB

Active Member
The Google Adsense campaign is not limited to the USA, almost every page I go on in the UK has the Sondors ebike ads running - there has been no clarification whatsoever if the bikes are even legal to import into the EU (although I note some cycle shops have a 1000w motor off-road option), what the Sales Tax (aka VAT in the UK) position is, or if the Chargers are 100-240v compliant.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 19.58.29.png Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 20.08.27.png Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 20.34.16.png Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 20.39.31.png

Chris Olenik of Agency 2.0 responded to a false claim by the.insurance.guy on the IGG forum by making a slanderous, and I believe actionable, statement which has no basis in the truth whatsoever. This is a person at the epicentre of a Campaign which has raised a tremendous amount of money on the back of hollow claims and media spin, most notably by Agency 2.0. I doubt even Sondors is aware of what Olenik is doing

Chris Olenik
7 minutes ago
@InsuranceGuy ~ Fully aware of it. ;) We are taking appropriate action against them.


the.insurance.guy
9 minutes ago
News Flash this just in from a VERY RELIABLE source. “ian grace” was hired by a MAJOR eBike company to sabotage this campaign via social media and in the comment section of this campaign.

Again found out this morning from a very reliable source that “ian grace” was hired to spam and sabotage this campaign by a very large eBike company.

""AND NOW WE KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY""

EULITTLB, Saturday at 10:21 PMEditReport
 

Mike leroy

Active Member
I did some very basic research about standardizing eBike comparisons. After minimal research, I came to the conclusion that the Consumer Protection Agency may become involved. The variations in performance can vary so greatly, that publicity-seeking campaigns of this magnitude might invite law suits.

I cannot recall any motorcycle or automobile advertising campaign handled in this manner. We live in the Information Age, which poses new issues for the CPA. Instant, international communication must be handled in a responsible manner.
 

FTC Complaint

Active Member
Datapoints are all known as this is a known product not an unknown-invention such as the Kreyos Watch {another Agency 2.0 campaign} The problem is that the datapoints differ materially and significantly from the representations that were made.

There would be no controversy with the Ebike offering if the parties involved were committed to truthfulness. Truthfulness could be, and could have been, achieved by them at any time.

The problem is not with the bike (that will likely be delivered as a Chinese product is easily delivered), the problem now is with the conduct of the campaign as it relates to consumers (and the press) who know very little about the product.

(Post sales is also a major issue and guys such as Chris Nolte from Long Island Electric Bike, and many more people selling ebikes, can speak to that issue. I highly doubt that post sales concerns will be addressed which is a major part of purchasing an ebike, as it is also a major cost in selling these bikes.)

There has been a tremendous effort to misuse the press by having them echo the false claims of this campaign. 50 miles range has appeared prominently in prolific internet advertisements (without disclaimers - not that a disclaimer would offer anything but a rationalization for such a clearly false statement) and also in the Los Angeles Times (Yahoo Cnet etc) The Times may not have been aware of the false nature of this statement but the campaign certainly knows this number to be an impossibility.

The campaign (in the form of Agency 2.0 and also Indiegogo) have been actively and aggressively managing the information landscape. These entities are fully aware and alerted to these falsehoods and they refuse to remedy.

Unfortunately, The CPSC will only step in once people are injured, there is no law against bad business such as failing to have product liability insurance or post sales support, and consumers don't have the right to pursue false advertising claims under the Latham act.

False statements in advertising however are within the venue of the FTC. The FTC has also acknowledged that crowd-funding campaigns must conform to truth and advertising laws and standards that they set as a regulatory agency and which they administer. Both the advertiser and the agency could be held accountable by the FTC, the platform might also be considered a participant since they are offering "delivery insurance at a whopping 20+%" and thus have insight into the campaign.

If you care to file a concern about false or misleading advertising find this FTC complaint template as it can be used by you as a starting point;

The "Storm-Sondors crowdfunding" campaign has been centered around the sale of an electronic bicycle being sold to consumers for $499 (now $599) This campaign has raised near $3,750,000 in several days based on false representations made to the public and members of the press.

The product being sold is a known product with clearly documented parameters. Materially false and misleading statements were made as part of this campaign to include range, weight, specification, legality of operation (federal v state ) and expected performance.

Illustratively, the most brazenly-false representation made pertains to a claimed range of 50 miles versus a reality of approximately 15 miles or less. This claim has been widely published through advertisements appearing on the internet. This claim, among others that have been made, is and are irrefutably false.

The parties involved in this offering, individually separately together or in part, including Storm aka Sondors ebike, Indiegogo, and/or Agency 2.0 have continually refused to remedy the gross inaccuracies of this offering.

I hereby ask the Federal Trade Commission act in the public interest by remedying this situation through litigation.


https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/GettingStarted?NextQID=251&Url=#&panel1-8#crnt

If you like, copy this post and send it to the FTC.. (or write your own based on facts) In the text name three parties.

Sondors ebike c/o Indiegogo 965 Mission Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103.
Indiegogo 965 Mission Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103.
Agency 2.0 co Indiegogo 965 Mission Street, 6th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103.
 
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Ann M.

Well-Known Member
Does the equivalent of Underwriters Testing Labs exist for eBikes?
Should not an independent third party publish the data?
Hiring a promotional agency is fine, but also devote some resources towards claim validation by a respected "Agency".
Ebikes come under the domain of the CPSC, like regular bikes since they are non-DOT, so there are standards, but vague and the public really only sees them when there are safety recalls. ExtraEnergy from Europe and the LEVA here in the US have been working on sets of standards or basic testing, but it is very expensive and time consuming given all of the stuff coming from China. LEVA was working with about 6 manufacturers here for standardized labels to go with bikes that had been through rigorous testing of motor/frame/battery, but $$$ has been lacking to go further with the project. And I think there is a certain lack of desire in the US to know just how 'good' the quality is on many ebikes, particularly high speed varieties and kits. That kind of wild west mentality shows up regularly when my customers brush aside safety or other concerns in the name of speed.
 

Mike leroy

Active Member
Ebikes come under the domain of the CPSC, like regular bikes since they are non-DOT, so there are standards, but vague and the public really only sees them when there are safety recalls. ExtraEnergy from Europe and the LEVA here in the US have been working on sets of standards or basic testing, but it is very expensive and time consuming given all of the stuff coming from China. LEVA was working with about 6 manufacturers here for standardized labels to go with bikes that had been through rigorous testing of motor/frame/battery, but $$$ has been lacking to go further with the project. And I think there is a certain lack of desire in the US to know just how 'good' the quality is on many ebikes, particularly high speed varieties and kits. That kind of wild west mentality shows up regularly when my customers brush aside safety or other concerns in the name of speed.
I started a thread to compile related information.
 

Ann M.

Well-Known Member
Nice organization of data, @Mike leroy and it starts to address the standards issues; however, as long as anyone can log onto Alibaba and order 5-10 or a container load of ebikes (and I'm not necessarily against that) and drop them here then how do you propose to manage the manufacturing side. Do we let some govt. entity have control over the whole domain of ebikes and limit creativity or drive prices sky high in order to pay for dyno. testing? Or do we break it down by components? Where does that leave all the doit yourself types and how much of an already timid market gets pushed further away simply because ebikes become even more overwhelming to understand than they are now. There needs to be some type of balance.
 

Mike leroy

Active Member
Nice organization of data, @Mike leroy and it starts to address the standards issues; however, as long as anyone can log onto Alibaba and order 5-10 or a container load of ebikes (and I'm not necessarily against that) and drop them here then how do you propose to manage the manufacturing side. Do we let some govt. entity have control over the whole domain of ebikes and limit creativity or drive prices sky high in order to pay for dyno. testing? Or do we break it down by components? Where does that leave all the doit yourself types and how much of an already timid market gets pushed further away simply because ebikes become even more overwhelming to understand than they are now. There needs to be some type of balance.
I am just trying to identify benchmarks for sanity checking that other people can easily locate. Some sort of reference point is necessary to even discuss the matter. Currently, I have not been able to locate a norm to compare against, even for a single use-case.

I think companies with adequate resources already do standardized testing as part of good engineering practices. Trustworthy companies will publish test results to distinguish themselves from unreliable vendors. I assume they also collect data for legal protection, e.g., Truth in Advertising.
 
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EULITTLB

Active Member
Ian Grace the article your quoting from is misleading, since Storm has always said the bike was built using off the shelf parts making it easier to repair or upgrade. The journalist most likely misunderstood Storm when he wrote that piece.

Manufacturing all the parts from scratch will always cost way more that off the shelf parts, this is a known fact, otherwise all bicycle manufacturers would make their own parts, but they don’t they use as many off the shelf parts as possible. @Bruce Choate
Thanks Bruce.

Back to factual matters surrounding this Campaign, the reporting of it, and inconsistent claims by Storm Sondors. To explain, my view is that this Campaign is hollow, it has been launched on the existence of a single bike made up by Southern California bike shop which nobody has a chance to evaluate properly, with exaggerated claims - my view was that they (Sondors and Agency 2.0) were making things up as they went along, plucking performance figures out of the sky and claiming they were a professional outfit with manufacturing in place, costs were kept down by in-house manufacturing of all parts. Thanks to Chris for getting back to me anyway, I've sent him a link to this thread.

Hi Ian,

Apologies, I'm traveling at present with limited access to connectivity.

Sondors comment to me was that he was indeed manufacturing the parts; in fact, he argued that, rather than paying a premium for off-the-shelf components, he was saving money by having them produced himself. Unfortunately I've been unable to get hold of him to follow up on some of the e-bike controversy.

Best,
Chris


--
Chris Davies
SlashGear c/o R3 Media
chris@slashgear.com
@c_davies

I split my time between San Francisco and London, so please check before shipping anything out. Thanks!

On Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 11:16 AM, Ian Grace <morethanav@me.com> wrote:
Chris I would be grateful if you can give this your attention, I am the one defending you and stating that it is highly unlikely you would misquote on this matter, are you able to confirm your reporting is accurate?

Thanks, Ian

Begin forwarded message:

From: Ian Grace <morethanav@me.com>
Subject: greetings from the Uk
Date:
1 March 2015 21:18:09 GMT
Cc: Ian Grace <morethanav@me.com>
To: chris@slashgear.com

Hi Chris, some doubt has been placed on the accuracy of the article you wrote concerning the Sondors ebike. The relevant para is

In fact, it's made of more traditional steel, though unlike many boutique bike vendors out there, Sondor is making all the components himself. That, he explained to me, was the key to the sub-$500 price: by producing everything, rather than piecing together off-the-shelf parts, he can keep the costs down.

It has been suggested that Sondors said they are NOT making parts in-house by Court at electricbikereview.com and you are mistaken which I find hard to believe. Do you have notes of the interview at all?

Would be grateful if you can confirm.


Hi @EULITTLB, I was told that the Slashgear article might have a misquote and while I cannot confirm this one way or another, I feel it's worth proposing here as it's not too controversial:

The article says: "That, he explained to me, was the key to the sub-$500 price: by producing everything, rather than piecing together off-the-shelf parts, he can keep the costs down."

The actual quote may have been: "That, he explained to me, was the key to the sub-$500 price: by not producing everything, rather piecing together off-the-shelf parts, he can keep the costs down."

I don't think this is a point anyone is really concerned with, seems like they will definitely be using off the shelf parts to keep costs down, I'm highlighting it out of fairness and to avoid possible misunderstanding.
 

FTC Complaint

Active Member
Ebikes come under the domain of the CPSC
Yes, I spoke to an assistant to the Vice Chairman in person, filed a "safer products concern," and reviewed the regulations. The Storm-Sondors bike does not conform to US standards and it certainly does not conform to EU standards where the bike is illegal for import!

Chinese products leak into the US on ebay or alibaba and they can be obtained by you (or Storm) directly and cheaply.

According to US standards the bike needs reflectors front, back, wheels; It also needs the inner triangle free from obstruction; hence the big yellow box puts the bike out of compliance; the bikes need to have a manufacturers mark, date of manufacture, and serial number but these elements are likely to be omitted. The CPSC also lists engineering tests which have to be undertaken and these tests are likely to be omitted.

The CPSC has the authority to take safety complaints based on injury and then take action such as demanding recalls.

This is where pre-sales and post-sales diligence and support comes in. When you front-load the majority of your sales why would you want to stick around for the fallout?

Why stick around especially when you are selling a cheap product? Why are ebikes expensive and we covered some of the reasons above.

The bike is a strict liability product, which means that manufacturer needs to carry costly insurance works out to about 4.5% of gross. Is the company going to carry insurance? What happens when someone gets injured and killed? Who is there to sue?

As to the battery; to sell and ship a legal battery in the US, the product needs to undergo a series of destructive tests. I have a non-disclosure agreement with a battery company so all I can tell you is that this process is expensive. I am sure that certification of the battery will be omitted. This is why good US batteries cost $500-$700.

At the high end of the risk curve a battery can catch fire or explode and on the low end of the risk curve (common with Chinese products) is that it can under-perform to specification.

All these question are not going to be answered because addressing them destroys profit margin.

A person wanting to sell an electric wheelchair would have to test the product and then file with the FDA; a person selling a bike does not have to file with the CPSC. Failing to comply to CPSC standards would become a major negligence issue were there an injury or a death. With 6000 cheap bikes and strict liability there will be injury lawsuits. Therefore failing to comply with CPSC standards is "bad business." "Bad business" is not illegal, it is a way to make money unethically.

False advertising is illegal and here the false claims are not just implied they are literal and easily provable. False claims in advertising is also something that occurred, they are not a future hypothetical. If you want to do something constructive file an FTC complaint per the template above.
 
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