It’s been something like 7 years since we’ve seen or heard from anyone connected to the Freedman Chair saga on Kickstarter. For those who aren’t familiar – The Freedman Chair was set to revolutionize sitting and was successfully funded to the tune of £340.14. For the few that got a chair (I did), it became a paperweight (I couldn’t even give it away). It was hard to assemble and unstable. For the rest: No chair and no refund. At close to $800 CDN after shipping and customs, the loss was huge. To be sure, many thousands of dollars were squandered on this project. But, today, Simon Freedman has returned with an update (read the full message here) by way of Kickstarter’s mail system. Would we finally get some good news?
The update starts with an explanation. Simon explains how the previous project failed because he needed to raise more money. Already this is troublesome since Freedman is not taking responsibility for incorrectly understanding or managing costs. Scaling such a product is not easy, and I wonder if he brought in the kind of expertise needed to shelter us from failure. His wording effectively puts the blame elsewhere for the failure. So far, that’s a huge red flag. This is important because Freedman clearly seems to be leading into another project, possibly another chair. The question at hand is – should we trust him again? Is this email enough for us to buy into what he has in store for us?
Simon offers many apologies and even a Mea Culpa, but nowhere in this email does he offer to return the many thousands of dollars lost; either to those who paid to get nothing or others that received an unusable chair. It seems like that would have been a good start, and also dropping the blame on faceless “new shareholders.”
Freedman repeats the line often: “I lost much of what was my life.” While the losses were no doubt high for him, the phrasing appears vague and specific at the same time. This wording wants you to know it was bad, but not so bad that Simon couldn’t come back – he even says “I’m really not one for staying down.” For much of these platitudes, one is left to assess the sincerity in context. It’s really not good for Simon. These words may have hit better if it was a video or live broadcast, but that wouldn’t have gotten him the same audience. The Internet is a difficult place to gauge sincerity.
Just an aside, as far as I can tell, Simon is a good person. He wants to help people. The problem of posture, back pain and sitting are huge problems to solve. The world needs what he’s doing. I also love those documents he makes with the small bunny plush toy that shows people how to stretch and keep good posture. Simon, by all accounts, seems like someone doing the best he can.
But, back to his email – the context we need is limited by non-specific phrasing. Freedman doesn’t want you to know what the “everything” was that he lost. he says he “keenly feels a debt to you [the backers].” But again, he doesn’t say what kind of debt, but probably not monetarily. He’ll get to that later. When he finally leads to the point of his email, you’ll be loving him or hating him. Simon says he’s been working on a new chair and “of course” he’d like to give us one (for free) – but can’t. There’s a hint of cheekiness in this works that almost comes off as malicious. Considering the solemn tone of his email, it seems entirely out of place. I was even thinking for a second, maybe this really isn’t Simon.
But, he continues to pump up this unknown chair exclaiming “fantastic press reviews,” though that might have been referencing his previous chair. The lack of details or links to these reviews seems telling. Since it’s in production, one would think a Google search could find some details – but I found nothing. Why the lack of information in the email? Why so mysterious? It may have been to focus more on the apologetic nature of this email and less on pumping a new product. It seems he’s after building a mailing list from the ashes of his previous chair.
This all feels like a very disjointed appeal to our better nature, though I can’t help feel for Simon. As a person, he may really be chasing his dreams of helping people and deserves a chance. It’s also so conflicting, and perhaps the current state of his freedmanchair.com website is a perfect metaphor for where we’re at. It’s there, it’s messed up and tread carefully. Simon, if you do ever read this, I would very much like to speak with you. You can contact me anytime.