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Unicorn, e-scooter startup from co-creator of Tile, shuts down with no money for refunds

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Unicorn, the electric scooter startup from the co-creator of gadget tracker Tile, is shutting down operations after blowing all its cash on Facebook and Google ads but only receiving 350 orders for its glossy white e-scooters, it claims. In an email to customers, the company says it lacks the resources to deliver any of its $699 two-wheelers, and won’t be issuing refunds “as we are completely out of funding.”

In a remorseful email, Unicorn CEO Nick Evans said the company had “totally failed as a business” and has also “spread the cost of this failure to you, the early customers that believed in us.”

Unicorn emerged six months ago as part of a new crop of scooter startups hoping to capitalize on the popularity of dockless rental services like Bird and Lime, while also pitching itself as an affordable alternative to shared scooters. In addition to having a striking profile — the all-white look was really something — the scooter was loaded with a lot of high-tech bells and whistles, like GPS tracking and smartphone-enabled locking. Naturally it included integration with Tile, Evans’ other company, which uses Bluetooth to track lost items, like a wallet, keys, or phone.

But now Unicorn is no more. The company claims it sunk all its money into advertising and marketing, as well as loan repayments and other expenses, with little leftover for production and deliveries. Evans wrote:

We could have continued moving forward and taking more orders and that would continue to fund the business, and if we did that might have been able to deliver the product, but we also may have not been able to sell enough Unicorns, so by doing that we would be risking more people’s orders. So we made the very, very difficult decision to stop.

A large portion of the revenue went toward paying for Facebook ads to bring traffic to the site. A portion also went to our manufacturer in the form of a down payment to build the scooters, but unfortunately that down payment cannot be redeemed for a portion of the scooters that we were planning to order.

Unfortunately, the cost of the ads were just too expensive to build a sustainable business. And as the weather continued to get colder throughout the US and more scooters from other companies came on to the market, it became harder and harder to sell Unicorns, leading to a higher cost for ads and fewer customers.

The company is working on selling its remaining assets in order to give partial refunds, but Evans warns that even this is “looking unlikely.”

“We are so, so very sorry,” he concludes.

Customers, as you can imagine, are pissed. “I am upset he basically robbed everyone of his customers and is closing without delivering any scooters,” Rebecca Buchholtz wrote in an email to The Verge. “This was my daughters Christmas gift and now I cannot get her any gift.”

“I find it shocking that someone like Nick Evans who has name recognition and clout in the tech community due to Tile, would operate in such a fraudulent way,” wrote Matt Furhman. Another customer, who said he is now out $998 after ordering two Unicorn scooters, called Evans “a thief.”

Customers are advised to contact their credit card companies and dispute the charges from Unicorn.

In an email to The Verge, Evans said the company had received only around 350 orders. “I feel horribly guilty that we left people with no scooters and no refunds,” he said. “We are working on something, but, yes, this seems unlikely.”

Unicorn isn’t the only electric mobility startup to fall on hard times. Inboard Technology, an electric skateboard startup from Santa Cruz, California, is currently liquidating its intellectual property and assets after attempting to pivot to electric scooters. All 24 employees have been laid off.

Other startups appear to have found some success through a more old-fashioned method of marketing: celebrity endorsements. Unagi’s e-scooter apparently is a hit with musicians like Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Halsey, Steve Aoki and teen pop megastar Billie Eilish — which has helped it raise $3.5 million in venture capital.

The scooter boom has been uneven for many startups. Big companies like Bird and Lime were able to stay afloat despite an unprofitable business model thanks to large infusions of capital from investors. But terrible unit economics, and the seasonal nature of the business, has made it difficult for smaller startups to gain a foothold. Companies like Unicorn, which sought to partner with China’s Segway/Ninebot on manufacturing (and whose Segway ES2 the scooter closely resembles), find themselves facing enormous upfront costs that are difficult to recoup without a swell of customer preorders.

It’s also an example of how difficult it is for scooter companies who just take Chinese-made vehicles, paint them and give them a new badge, and some fancier add-ons, and then try to sell it in the US at a markup.

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SpaceX returns to the launch pad for a second Starlink mission

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A rocket is being constructed.

Enlarge / Here is one half of the payload fairing that SpaceX recovered after a Falcon Heavy launch in April. (credit: Elon Musk)

Nearly three months have passed since SpaceX flew a rocket—the company last launched the AMOS-17 satellite on August 6 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.

But now the company is returning to the launch pad to send its second batch of Starlink Internet satellites into low Earth orbit. On Tuesday, SpaceX completed a static test firing of the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage that is presently scheduled to launch on November 11 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Beyond the primary mission, this flight is going for two rocket reuse milestones.

This will be the first time that SpaceX has attempted to fly the same Falcon 9 first stage four times. This particular stage flew on July 25 (Iridium 7 mission) and October 8 (SAOCOM 1-A) in 2018 as well as February 22 (Nusantara Satu and Beresheet spacecraft) this year.

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Software Updates

4 Comments and 13 Shares
Everything is a cloud application; the ping times just vary a lot.
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popular
34 days ago
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4 public comments
mvoelske
33 days ago
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Funny, while looking at this very comic I noticed that a very recent update to Chrome (on Android) ruined the title-text feature. Now how do I roll this fucker back?
mvoelske
29 days ago
And FYI: you can go to chrome://flags and disable "revamped context menu" to see the full title text again
aakashm
33 days ago
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I'm sure Stallman would have something to say about this
cbenard
34 days ago
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ShareX > 12.0.0 removing the ability to use Greenshot to edit. Stuck on 12.0.0 forever now.
Plano, Texas
alt_text_bot
34 days ago
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Everything is a cloud application; the ping times just vary a lot.
hairfarmerrich
33 days ago
Sigh... Outlook 2010, how I miss your true dark mode, folding calendar, drag-drop support and smart search folders. In corporate culture, 'unwilling to lose' is not the same as 'allowed to keep'.
WorldMaker
33 days ago
If it helps, true Dark Mode came back to Office in 2018/2019 (depending 365 or standalone).

NordVPN users’ passwords exposed in mass credential-stuffing attacks

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Screenshot from gameshow Password.

(credit: ABC Photo Archives / Getty Images)

As many as 2,000 users of NordVPN, the virtual private network service that recently disclosed a server hack that leaked crypto keys, have fallen victim to credential-stuffing attacks that allow unauthorized access to their accounts.

In recent weeks, credentials for NordVPN users have circulated on Pastebin and other online forums. They contain the email addresses, plain-text passwords, and expiration dates associated with NordVPN user accounts.

I received a list of 753 credentials on Thursday and polled a small sample of users. The passwords listed for all but one were still in use. The one user who had changed their password did so after receiving an unrequested password reset email. It would appear someone who gained unauthorized access was trying to take over the account. Several other people said their accounts had been accessed by unauthorized people.

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Google buys Fitbit for $2.1 billion

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It's official: Google is buying Fitbit. The company announced the move in a blog post this morning, and reports say the deal is worth $2.1 billion.

Google's SVP of hardware, Rick Osterloh, posted an announcement of the acquisition on Google's blog, saying the move was "an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market."

This is the second time this year Google has made an acquisition aimed at bolstering Wear OS, having previously purchased an unknown technology from Fossil Group for $40 million.

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Google will replace Home devices bricked due to latest firmware update

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Photography by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

If your Google Home or Google Home Mini has recently stopped working, good news: Google will likely replace it.

This year, there have been a growing number of reports of bricked Homes and Home Minis on Google’s support forums (via 9to5Google) and on Reddit (via Android Police), and the volume of reports has picked up since mid-September. It’s wasn’t clear what the issue was, and Google finally acknowledged that there was a problem in September.

It seems Google’s had a breakthrough, issuing a statement to 9to5Google today saying it’s found a fix for the issue, which was caused by an error in an automatic firmware update. Google says the fix will roll out to working devices soon to (hopefully) prevent them from bricking at any point in the future. The company will also replace affected Google Homes and Home Minis, even if they’re out of warranty.

“We are aware that a small number of Google Home and Google Home Mini devices are affected by an issue that causes the device to stop working. We have a fix that will prevent the issue from happening and will be rolling it out soon. We are replacing affected devices,” the statement reads.

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