I spent a few hours reading about smoke detectors in October. No two are alike and some just let you know when your house is going to burn down and others have all kinds of special features. If you want a smoke detector that’s ‘smart’, this narrows the list of options down significantly. If you’d like one that also works with HomeKit where you can tell Siri to mute the alarm or receive a push notification that the alarm is going off when you’re not home, you only have two options available for order today.

The first is OneLink from First Alert. The reviews are horrendous. This thing should be pulled from the market. The more I read about it, the less I want it. The only other alternative is Birdi. There are 2 other HomeKit alarms coming the 2nd half of 2017 but I have a house that needs smoke detectors now. The Birdi was coming in November when I was on their website based on what they had put on social media so I sent them an email confirming things and I should have taken their reply as a sign to stay away but I did’t. The features were just too good. This alarm seems to do it all! Read through a few of the help articles on their site and you’ll see this is the ultimate smoke detector. They even auto replenish batteries for you and monitor your home for $5 a month. Wicked cool.

I emailed their team on October 11th:

Subject: Pre-Order Lead Time

Body: I’m remodeling a home from the ground up and wanted to order 4 of these. We finish renovations the 3rd week of November. If I order this week, would I have the unit by then or are your lead times slipping into december now? I have to have the units installed by then and would like to know I can get one of yours in time.

They respond the next day:

Hi Adam,

Great to hear from you! Thanks for your interest in Birdi.

We’ve been shipping some units as we perfect the device. After all, we’ll never compromise on your safety. You can find some of the stories from those early users on our blog. And we’ve just updated our shipping broader date now that we have official life safety certification – blog.birdihome.com .

As a reward for your enthusiasm, feel free to use coupon code “safety1st” for an extra 10% off of your order – birdihome.com . Have a great week!

Sincerely, The Birdi Team

I replied

“This didn’t answer my question. I’ll just go with Nest.”

*No Response*

———

I should have known that without any idea of lead-time, I should have stayed away. Now, I’m finding Tweets, Instagram Comments and Facebook posts on Birdi social media referencing customers who have purchased the unit in 2015 (18 month ago) and are still waiting on shipping. There are even some IndieGogo backers who backed the project in October of 2014 who have not received their units yet: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/birdi

Like an idiot, on October 22nd, I ordered a 3-pack of Birdi units for $305.99. Status is Open, Paid yet showing Unfulfilled on the Order Status Page.

On November 30th, I sent this to Birdi Support:

Any update on shipping? My home is almost done with construction.

On December 8th, I sent:

Can I get an order update?

On January 3rd, I sent:

Did the company shut down? I’m going to file a claim with American Express.

Today, I sent:

I’ve sent multiple emails to you guys without a response in 2 months. Can you please provide an order update? If you can’t, I’m going to cancel my order.

The Birdi Team has not responded to a single message.

it was then that I looked again at Facebook’s page for Birdi. Before the Christmas break, there was a dozen people asking for shipping updates. Today, they’ve all been removed. Twitter is full of tweets asking for an update. Their Instagram page has comments asking for updates and the worse of it all is the five-hundred people who backed the project in 2014 are commenting every day on the company’s IndieGogo page asking for an update. These people have waited 2 years and only a few units have trickled out.

For those customers, they’re royally screwed. I can call Amex and get my money back. Kickstarter / IndieGogo backers have zero recourse other than comments & telling their friends not to buy the product. They can’t get $99 back. It’s lost forever.

The CEO, Mark Belinsky (Facebook, Twitter) has been completely silent on any delays only posting links to the Birdi blog which seems business as usual although one telling aspect of their troubles is titled, “Manufacturing For Scale”. I would imagine their promises in software & hardware with mobile applications has simply been too much for this 5-person company and they aren’t able to deliver. 

What I believe the company should do is come clean and let everyone know where they screwed up and what’s going on and how to they plan on fixing it and make refunds an option for people who want them with others being told a realistic lead-time for Birdi getting the job done. It appears on AngelList they’ve raised a ton of money so far but not enough in my opinion for a hardware startup. This is plenty of money for an iOS application where you apply filters to photos but the overhead on bringing a hardware product to market is expensive and I’m worried that they’ve already use the money I gave them and still haven’t created any results. I wonder how Jason Calacanis feels about this company taking money w/o delivering or giving any reasonable estimates to the customers. 

Here’s something interesting. In the Manufacturing for Scale post, the Birdi team writes, “..it means that the next batch of devices is going to ship in mid-February.[2016]” but on an Instagram post 3 weeks ago (December 2016), they write, “birdi1st shipment to Birdi HQ just arrived!” 10 months after they initially promised. Delays are huge. There are 500 Backers + 2 years of pre-orders ahead of mine. I won’t get one for 5 years at this rate that’s if the company survives that long.

In closing thoughts, how can I trust the life of my friends & family with a product that detects smoke, CO2 and fires when this company can’t be transparent and up front about what’s going on with the $300 I gave them?

I think I’m going to call American Express. This has gone on long enough.