Update: We just spoke to Enso CEO Alberto Armandi, who says that the company has now secured the necessary funding to make good on orders, and promises that he will ship us a zenPad for review within two weeks. We'll revisit this story then. Meanwhile, read how we got to this juncture after the break.
- In June 2008, Alberto Armandi, Maurizio Colarossi and Olivier Lalonde formed an internet advertising startup named Wozad.com, and attempted to raise $250,000 through micro funding, claiming the company would generate $5 billion in revenue by 2010 and run neck and neck with Google AdWords in 2012. Yeah, we know.
- On or about February 2, 2010, an Alberto Armandi found videos of the Smit MID-560 tablet around the internet, and wrote comments like the below on each:
Hey, i am doing trading business in china and just ordered a lot of 500 pieces of the Smit 560. The thing is real and i can show off real pictures. I will get a sample in about 15 days. Is anybody interested in a reseller opportunity?Accompanying each comment, he provided a link to a series of eBay auctions, each for a lot of 50 tablets. These eBay auctions have since been deleted.
- On February 4th, Alberto Armandi purchased the enso-now.com domain name, supplying an address in Shenzhen, China.
- On March 8th, Alberto (under the handle enso-now) attempted to get feedback on the website at Y Combinator. He told commentors that he did not yet have a device, but was instead "waiting to meet with the factory to buy the prototype." Two comments later, he wrote: "i am not pre-selling anything, the device is currently produced and i can ship you 500 hundreds of pieces to you in a week."
- On March 8th, Maurizio's twitter account pointed to the website. (On March 4th, it pointed to another of Alberto's get-rich-quick ideas, watch-replicas.net.)
- On March 10th, Alberto defended Enso's reputation amidst scam allegations, again at Y Combinator.
- On March 12th, eBay seller "enso-now*com" got neutral feedback on an auction for an individual tablet, under the name "GOOGLE ANDROID TABLET IPAD IPHONE STYLE WIFI GPS 3G." On March 22nd, it got negative feedback for the same item, with the buyer claiming that he hadn't received it after a 45 day wait, and had to get his refund through PayPal. These auctions and the eBay seller account have since been deleted.
- In between our March 22nd posting and now, customers on the official Enso Facebook page and various websites complained that they weren't receiving so much as a payment confirmation after purchase.
- Until around March 30th, customers ordering the zenPad through the Enso website had to send money directly to a co-founder's PayPal account, "OLALONDE."
- Originally, Enso's about page promised devices would be processed and shipped within 7 working days. Then, customers on the official Facebook page wrote that Enso had replied to their worried emails saying that the company was overwhelmed by orders and the device would start shipping April 10. As of this week, the company's website was updated to read:
Due to our huge and sudden success, our facilities have a hard time to keep up with demand and shipping delays are longer than usual. Be advised that the current average wait time for shipping is 15-23 days.As mentioned earlier, Enso now says it cannot ship the device until May 8th.
- As of April 5th, customers claimed they were unable to log into their accounts at Enso's website, and noticed that Enso's logo was similar to that of other companies called Enso. (Since "enso" is Japanese for a circle in calligraphy, anger at the latter is probably misinformed.) Customer Jerry O'Hara got in touch with Enso, who told him that sales records were being "saved in a database" and that customers would be informed when the devices started to ship.
- We emailed Enso on April 6th. We received no reply.
- On or around April 7th, Multimediawereld.be got in touch with manufacturer Shenzhen State Micro Technology (SMIT), who confirmed that Enso had purchased a single sample tablet, but had not placed an order:
This is Forrest from SMIT, how are you? I'm in charge of the overseas sales for the MIS products. Regarding your question below, for Enso They did purchase a MID-560 sample from us two weeks ago. They Have not Placed mass production order to us.Forrest also told Multimediawereld that the current MID-560 does not support several features, including 3G connectivity, that Enso claims their zenPad does, and questioned if the zenPad was in fact the same device.
- On April 8th, Enso posted their first two official blog entries, backdating one to appear as if it was posted March 31st. They claim that the startup is a "victim of its own sudden success" and has already sold thousands of zenPads, but that the sudden influx of money caused eBay and PayPal to freeze its accounts, preventing them from manufacturing and shipping the tablets. Enso also claims that they are currently unable to refund customers who purchased before March 30th because the company had a limited PayPal account at that time.
Even with the deck stacked against them, it's still quite possible Enso is wholly legit, and plans to issue both tablets and refunds in short order. They're certainly polite, when they get around to answering our calls. But honestly, with a company as shady (or unprepared) as this, it's just not worth the risk. PayPal director of communications Anuj Nayar told us that if you want a refund, the online payment processor gives you no more than 45 days from the order date to file a dispute, and you might as well do so: "If a buyer is worried, they can open a claim, and and then just close it if things work out."
We'd close with a JooJoo joke here, but hey, it actually shipped. Although that might have actually made matters worse.