How a single review brought down a promising San Francisco startup.

by Gregory Trueblood

Not all press is good press. For San Francisco startup Kanoa, a single negative review proved fatal. Click To Tweet One day the company was launching its crowdsourced wireless headphones and a mobile app. A few days later, it had shuttered operations.

It was a case of instant accountability that could only happen in the internet age.

kanoa accountabilityIt only took one stinging review from tech tester Cody Crouch, also known as iTwe4kz, on YouTube. In his review, Mr. Crouch says he had issues getting the $300 headphones to pair with the Kanoa app—a critical factor considering the app is what users were supposed to use to manipulate settings, including the level of ambient noise. Adding fuel to the fire, the earbud charging case failed to work, and the product’s user manual was blank.

Mr. Crouch also said in his video review that after reaching out to Kanoa about his challenges, they offered him $500 for a good review, which he did not accept. Instead, he ended his video by advising: “You don’t want to have these. This is not a company you want to deal with.”

Investors started to back out, and a few days later the company ceased to exist. A lengthy statement outlining its decline was posted to Kanoa’s now defunct website, which stated: “This is not the outcome we had foreseen, and with the quick turn of events, we are emotionally overwhelmed. We know you are disappointed, and can only ask that you understand that we genuinely tried.”


Gregory Trueblood is a consultant with Insigniam.

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