Fontus - self-filling water bottle (indiegogo scam campaign?)

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Spiemel

New Member
Due to the magic of the Intarwebs, we can find out all kinds of interesting information. Such as Herr Rezezár is 65% owner of Fontus Water Technology GmbH and has sole signatory authority. They also have 3 employees.

http://www.firmenabc.at/fontus-water-technology-gmbh_MpCM

Looks like if there's any personal liability going (is that a thing in Austria?) it's mostly/all on him.

Oh, Kristof! You silly thing... On a human level I hope he gets out of this one relatively unscathed, having reimbursed most of the IGG money.
The other 2 shareholders are also listed as co-founders on the IGG funding page. Interesting is that neither Brian Winters nor Paul Schmalzl have Fontus listed on their LinkedIn page (only Retezar still does that on linkedin), which is odd if you are co-founder and shareholder of a revolutionary new device that was supposed to not only help you on your 'adventuring' but quite possibly the earth's fresh water problem.

Furthermore, Brian Winters who is 30% co-owner of Fontus, was an engineer until august 2016 at a company that provides engineering solutions to other companies (sounds like something that Fontus said about them getting engineering support from some outside consulting company in one of their updates?) and lives in or around Orange County in LA. Irvine, LA is right next to Orange County and is where the IGG campaign was listed as based out of. Not a coincidence it seems.

Now why I just listed all that is this: in one of the updated from Retezar, he claimed the prototypes where disappointing and progress was slow (we all suspected that if you ask a company to beat thermodynamics, then you will be disappointed in their work), and subsequently they moved out of the US and went back to Vienna. It seems there was no need anymore to base the operation out of Irvine, likely because their engineering consulting company told them at some point that what Fontus wanted to do was simply not feasible in that small a package. Perhaps this means that things did not end well between some of the major shareholders of Fontus or that the other shareholders after knowing the issues the product development faced,decided to no longer be publicly associated with Fontus on LinkedIn. Unfortunately for them, the funding/Story page on IGG cannot be changed and their association with Fontus will be forever and ever as long as there are archiving sites that show their involvement. Being co-founders and involved in the funding effort might mean they are also on the hook for any liabilities.

Someone said this might have been a situation of in for a penny, in for a pound, and it really seems these guys got in way over their heads. I mean, in their response at this same forum/thread last year they basically told us all that it was just a design project and somehow it got so much media attention and even a Dyson award that they were suprised the sudden exposure and thought: heck maybe we should really put an effort into it now and run with it, start a crowd funding page and do this thing!
 

abacab

New Member
The in for a penny, in for a pound comment was me :)

I flicked through the IGG comments, and Kristof said at one point that "IGG is not our only source of capital". ISTR mentions of government innovation grants in Austria (and this might have something to do with the move there). I wonder if anyone's put up private cash outside of IGG?

The founders could be on the hook for rather a lot.

Also, no mention of CE certification of the finished product - anyone know how long that takes? Cos if that's something they've overlooked it's another hurdle... and I wonder how the certification bods will look on a system that produces drinking water contaminated with airborne particles?
 

Spiemel

New Member
The in for a penny, in for a pound comment was me :)

I flicked through the IGG comments, and Kristof said at one point that "IGG is not our only source of capital". ISTR mentions of government innovation grants in Austria (and this might have something to do with the move there). I wonder if anyone's put up private cash outside of IGG?

The founders could be on the hook for rather a lot.

Also, no mention of CE certification of the finished product - anyone know how long that takes? Cos if that's something they've overlooked it's another hurdle... and I wonder how the certification bods will look on a system that produces drinking water contaminated with airborne particles?
EEVBlog has an interesting video about the CE.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0uvS80YIGU&t=14s


According the him it is not an external certification. You are to make all necessary validations yourself before you place it on the device. If you cannot prove you have done the necessary validations yourself and you are investigated, you could face hefty fines for misrepresentation of the CE label.
 

abacab

New Member
Right. It's now 18 months and 1 week since the end of 2015. Any patent filed by Herr Retezar or Fontus GmbH should by definition now have been published.

I just checked espacenet and the Austrian register, and there's nothing from Fontus, nor "retezar" as inventor or applicant.

So, one of two things has happened:

- they never filed a patent application in 2015, despite their claim to have done so.
- they filed something and withdrew it to prevent publication since the search report was embarassing.

Which is embarassing :p
 

Marin B

Active Member
Right. It's now 18 months and 1 week since the end of 2015. Any patent filed by Herr Retezar or Fontus GmbH should by definition now have been published.

I just checked espacenet and the Austrian register, and there's nothing from Fontus, nor "retezar" as inventor or applicant.

So, one of two things has happened:

- they never filed a patent application in 2015, despite their claim to have done so.
- they filed something and withdrew it to prevent publication since the search report was embarassing.

Which is embarassing :p
Another possibility is that they filed a provisional patent application just for the sake of being able to say "patent pending" for marketing purposes, and then never followed through with the regular application filing one year later.
 

Spiemel

New Member
Another possibility is that they filed a provisional patent application just for the sake of being able to say "patent pending" for marketing purposes, and then never followed through with the regular application filing one year later.
In the US it is illegal to mark something Patent Pending if you haven't actually filed a patent. Here is an article that says something about it:

http://www.klemchuk.com/390-patent-false-marking-generally/

Since the campaign is listed as Irvine, C; they have marketed the product through a US site (Indiegogo) and targeted US citizens with their campaign, I would think that if they did not actually file a patent, then they have violated the following US statute:
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/35/292

The problem is that only the US government (i.e. a district/state/federal attorney) is allowed to file a criminal charge to recoup the penalty (USD500; likely per product sold/pre-ordered). So the question is whether anyone can find a US government attorney with room in their portfolio to file a suit against Fontus; seems unlikely.

Nevertheless, if they indeed falsely marked it as patent pending, then they are in legal jeopardy as well under the False Marking statute.
 

abacab

New Member
We have an update from the Font(us) of All Knowledge:


publié par Kristof Retezaroct. 14, 2017 • 11:47PM
il y a environ 21 heures
Mass production preparations - update
Dear supporters!

We are happy to inform you that preparations for mass production are going as planned and well.

We have finalized our first pre-production development phase and identified some vital potentials for optimization and cost saving. 6 production samples from one of our metal parts supplier arrived just yesterday. These have already been analysed and minor deviations are being communicated. Another 12 from a different supplier are arriving next week. These will be tested to verify the production quality. 4 plastic and electronic production samples are being also produced from a third company and all parts will be assembled by the end of the month.

As for changes in the design, we have built in another opening possibility which allows the end user to clean the inside of the condenser of our bottle and keep it always hygienic. Production metal samples show already now that the overall weight of the bottle will be considerably lighter than expected, which is good news for all. We have also finalized our packaging design and will get samples from the production company soon.

We have initiated a new research and development project in cooperation with the Joanneum Research in Graz. The Joanneum institute specializes in cutting edge surface technologies. Our mission is to develop the most optimal surface properties for the process of condensation. We are looking into combining hydrophobic properties with hydrophilic properties in the same surface. Furthermore, we are also analysing the influence of electrically charged surfaces and air particles on water condensation in hopes of accelerating the process of condensation by attracting water molecules contained in the air towards a conditioned surface.

We have decided to work together with a Germany based company that will organize mass production in a centralized manner through external partners. This minimizes miscommunication and accelerates processes. Furthermore, a mostly European production guarantees higher quality and fair working conditions.

We wish you a wonderful weekend!

The Fontus Team
Soooooo, still not working yet, condensation is still very slow ("...hopes of accellerating the process...") and they've belatedly discovered the hygiene issue. And if you've got clean water to wash out the condensor, what do you need this nonsense device for?

Watch "end of the month" stretch out into 2018... How many moons ago were we supposed to be shipping finished products?

Slow clap...
 
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Spiemel

New Member
We have an update from the Font(us) of All Knowledge:



Soooooo, still not working yet, condensation is still very slow ("...hopes of accellerating the process...") and they've belatedly discovered the hygiene issue. And if you've got clean water to wash out the condensor, what do you need this nonsense device for?

Watch "end of the month" stretch out into 2018... How many moons ago were we supposed to be shipping finished products?

Slow clap...
LOL, carrying a bottle of clean water to be able to sanitise and use your expensive magical self filling water bottle (just wait another 12 hours please).

Also: the only thing that was stopping me from drinking the water from my dehumidifier was that I couldn’t reach the condenser to clean it, otherwise it would have been bottom’s up for me!
 

Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
I see that Fontus's Facebook page is now plugging a sort-of related product, the Mitte "smart home water system".



Rather than condensing water out of the air, the Mitte just distils tap water, and then remineralises it using mineral cartridges (sound familiar)? So, at least it's not apparently breaking any laws of thermodynamics.

I did wonder whether this represents some kind of pivot away from Fontus towards a more plausible product, but as far as I can see the companies are not linked. According to https://angel.co/mitte_water the founders of Mitte are Moritz Waldstein-Wartenberg and Faebian Bastiman:

upload_2017-11-9_19-2-20.png
 

NoParty

Senior Member
As much as I despise the Fontus weasels, and am glad to see their current status,
I thought of them yesterday as I heard a radio account that U.C. Berkeley announced Thursday.
(in short, it's a "water harvester" assembled at M.I.T. using Cal MOF technology, as reported in Science mag)

http://news.berkeley.edu/2017/04/13/device-pulls-water-from-dry-air-powered-only-by-the-sun/

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/new-solar-powered-device-can-pull-water-straight-desert-air

View attachment 26410

Now, in no way does this development validate the lies of the Fontus group...
but it's cool and may be a step forward...
"Zero Mass" has some big claims, but seems real light on the deets.
https://www.theverge.com/2017/11/28...el-harvesting-clean-drinking-water-next-level
Dr. Ashok Gadgil of Cal seems to be gently mocking the real world (lack of) application for Zero Mass's product...
 

Spiemel

New Member
I just saw a Fontus Campaign response to a backer question that provided a very important nugget of information about the state of Fontus:

upload_2018-2-2_13-47-39.png

The sentence "Negotiations with production investors are slower than expected and therefore an exact timeline is impossible to calculate".

Read that sentence again...

They are basically saying they are (if not financially, at least) operationally insolvent: they cannot meet their long term obligations (to backers) without additional funding to start production. In other words, they are no longer in control of whether the Fontus bottle will be produced and will shipped or not, they are now effectively dependent on the grace (or should we say gullibility/stupidity) of external financial sources to be able to start/plan manufacture. This in itself is not bankruptcy yet (since that is an immediate liquidity problem), but if this situation continues for long enough insolvency turns into illiquidity and then bankruptcy. If there are no external investors to be found, this project will have to be terminated. The question remains how much cent on the dollar the backers will receive back from what remains in the bank when that happens (I am guessing less than 10cent on the dollar of any at all).

Update: I looked at their latest campaign update from 2 months ago and back then they had already given a glimpse of their financial problems late last year, seems like now they still have no progress and that is what they basically admitted in their backer response (as said above):

Excerpt Fontus campaign update 29 november 2017:

upload_2018-2-2_14-11-52.png
 
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NoParty

Senior Member
I just saw a Fontus Campaign response to a backer question that provided a very important nugget of information about the state of Fontus:

View attachment 31556

The sentence "Negotiations with production investors are slower than expected and therefore an exact timeline is impossible to calculate".

Read that sentence again...

They are basically saying they are (if not financially, at least) operationally insolvent: they cannot meet their long term obligations (to backers) without additional funding to start production. In other words, they are no longer in control of whether the Fontus bottle will be produced and will shipped or not, they are now effectively dependent on the grace (or should we say gullibility/stupidity) of external financial sources to be able to start/plan manufacture. This in itself is not bankruptcy yet (since that is an immediate liquidity problem), but if this situation continues for long enough insolvency turns into illiquidity and then bankruptcy. If there are no external investors to be found, this project will have to be terminated. The question remains how much cent on the dollar the backers will receive back from what remains in the bank when that happens (I am guessing less than 10cent on the dollar of any at all).

Update: I looked at their latest campaign update from 2 months ago and back then they had already given a glimpse of their financial problems late last year, seems like now they still have no progress and that is what they basically admitted in their backer response (as said above):

Excerpt Fontus campaign update 29 november 2017:

View attachment 31557
I think whoever is writing this stuff for them is pretty good.

A worldly, objective person can tell that the sad news is:
"Nope, this product is never going to happen...at least not in any way even remotely like what we promised."

But that message is always obscured by lots of little encouraging bits about how
"most" of the company's obstacles are being overcome by their wonderful team. :)

It's enough to keep the hopelessly optimistic believing--seemingly endlessly--and hanging in there.
 

Spiemel

New Member
Just because I thought it was funny, I calculated how much it costs to generate water through Fontus vs tapwater.

upload_2018-2-7_13-36-25.png

According to their chart a wall socket at 200W for 24 hours can generate roughly 3L (we take the middle of the bar). That means 4800Wh for 3L, which is 1.6KWh for 1L. In Netherlands 1,6KWh costs about 0,30euro, so that would be the price of having 1L of water through Fontus which takes you about 8 hours to generate (1/3 of 24 hours).

1000L of tapwater costs in NL about 0,70euro. So 1L of water costs about 0,0007 euro. And it costs about 5 seconds to fill that through your tap.

upload_2018-2-7_13-57-0.png

We should have Industrial design students develop consumer products more often
 

Spiemel

New Member
Unless I'm reading it wrong, shouldn't that time for Fontus be 8hrs=28,800 secs, therefore being 5,760 times longer to get 1L of water with Fontus?

Or is the . used instead of , in Europe? (in Aus we use , so I may have gotten confused. I use decimals everyday so saw it as 5 point 76 and 28 point 8)
You’re right, I mixed up the Dutch thousands separator with the English one. It’s a habit to write . [period] instead of , [comma]. Five-thousand and 28-thousand is how it indeed should be read. Keen eye
 

Spiemel

New Member
Why on earth would you conclude that? In my opinion this forum is pure provocation. We need to focus on working towards our goals. We could talk again in a year when we ship our products. Peace!
This was Fontus' last message on this forum. We're getting close to 2 years later and still no shipping date in sight....funny
 

Spiemel

New Member
Here is Fontus' annual report from 2016 (.pdf). They filed this on 26th august of 2017, about 5 months after their original ship date. Most interesting bits as of end of 2016 (so about 4 months before ship date are):
- they have a negative equity of 47K euro (Negatives Eigenkapital)
- In long term liabilities they have recorded 314K (Verbindlichkeiten), most of which is longer than 1 year. This is most likely the value of the promised delivery to the Indiegogo backers.
- They have 179K cash in hand or equivalent liquid assets (Kassenbestand, Schecks, Guthaben bei Kreditinstituten). This is basically what remains after 8 months that they received 354K from Indiegogo. In other words, they burned through 170K in 8months with very little to show for themselves as of the end of 2016. These were the months they spent in the US investigating how Peltier devices and compressors work basically with some US engineering consultancy company.
- They have 87K in (short term) receivables. These could be various things. Best case would be that these are pre-paid/retainers for production capacity that can be utilised once mass production starts (so they would represent actual value towards production). Worst case scenario is that these are short term loans to the owners, which makes the assets to liability gap even bigger than the 47K negative equity. This means the owners would need to find at least 87K just to pay back to the company, but their alternative sources of income are likely insignificant if they are trying to launch this product full time and travelling to Thailand etc to test out their prototypes in different 'atmospheric conditions'

In other words, they were officially broke at the end of 2016 and in their update/comments of late 2017/beginning of 2018 they indicated that they were still looking for 'production investors' which likely means their situation significantly deteriorated from the status as of end of 2016. We already guessed that from the update text, but seeing the raw numbers really makes it tough to see any path where they can release the product to the backers. I would be bummed if that were to happed, because I would want to see Retezar explain the insignificant flow rates from the products post release, but I doubt a release will ever happen.
 

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Spiemel

New Member
The Fontus update of 5th of August 2018 is quite something. Some of their investors made them do lab tests (at the respected TUV test company) to confirm product efficiency and they spin that the output (under optimal conditions) was 10% more then their projections!!!! Wo 10% more!! Now, of course, these are not the projections that they collected the over 300K USD at (which was 0.5-0.8L in 1 hour). No... these are the revised ones from earlier this year. They dared post a Youtube video of TUV and there you can see that under optimal conditions with the bottle seemingly plugged into some constant powersource it took 10hours to get the 0.5L and over 15hours to reach 0.8L. I sure wouldn't dare leave the house to go 'adventuring' without the Fontus bottle: I could die of boredom from waiting around for the bottle to fill.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=YZb7_yf97Ss


Can someone please archive this video before they decide to pull it at some point?

Update:
I also checked the TUV test report they posted.

Source: https://drive.google.com/file/d/17zG0Bx-6_4PwcI-_X9T2px8Sm0EODOBC/view


1) It's hilarious. The testing conditions where 95% humidity at 30c and 35c. At those temps, who has the time to wait around for that amount of time. I think it's easier to use a water filter and drink the sweat you can collect by the bucket loads dripping from every inch of your skin.

2) Little tid bit about production value:
"After about 22hours, the fan is broken due to part of the cover"

3) TUV designated the device they tested as dehumidifier of "Fontus" brand and the technical component used was a peltier running 20v@4A. I laughed out loud when I read that.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I thinking some screenshots should suffice.
Metabunk 2018-08-09 09-13-41.jpg

And the update:
And the relevant parts of the TUV report:
Metabunk 2018-08-09 09-18-36.jpg
Metabunk 2018-08-09 09-21-40.jpg
Metabunk 2018-08-09 09-22-34.jpg
So at 35°C/95°F and 95%RH (basically tropical rainforest conditions), drawing 104 Watts of power (12*2 + 20*4), it took 24 hours to get 1.265 Liters of water. It also broke a bit off at 22 hours.

It's ridiculous. Not only is the amount of water produced impractically low even in the most perfect conditions, it would need a 100W solar panel (large and expensive), and 24 hours of direct sunlight in a tropical rainforest, just to get that trickle of water.
 

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JFDee

Senior Member
This page listing bankruptcy notifications is in German:

https://www.ksv.at/insolvenzfaelle/insolvenz-fontus-water-technology-gmbh-1030-wien

It seems the fraudulent claims were perpetuated in the company's insolvency petition. It is quoted indirectly:

To wrap it up, their claim is:

The research and development cost of the water bottle has surpassed the planned amount by far, so when the development was completed (!), the company did not have the funds to start the manufacturing process. Despite all efforts to find investors, funding remained insufficient, so the obligation for delivery to crowdfunders could not be met.
 

Spiemel

New Member
This page listing bankruptcy notifications is in German:

https://www.ksv.at/insolvenzfaelle/insolvenz-fontus-water-technology-gmbh-1030-wien

It seems the fraudulent claims were perpetuated in the company's insolvency petition. It is quoted indirectly:

To wrap it up, their claim is:

The research and development cost of the water bottle has surpassed the planned amount by far, so when the development was completed (!), the company did not have the funds to start the manufacturing process. Despite all efforts to find investors, funding remained insufficient, so the obligation for delivery to crowdfunders could not be met.
In an earlier post I said this is my biggest fear: that they go bankrupt and can claim operational/financial issues as the reason they cannot deliver. It would have been preferable that they delivered so that the real world results would show that they are frauds or at least fraudulently negligent/incompetent. Reading the comments from IGG confirms this: there are still backers saying they are happy they supported this project because it contributed to ‘research’ into a global water problem. This leaves the door open for future projects to claim the same and people will get scammed again.

This is not the ending that this campaign should have had, but it was the most likely scenario and near unavoidable. IGG seriously screwed up on this one for not flagging this before releasing the funds. They just gave a standard canned response when I warned them during the first days of the campaign. SMH
 

Graham2001

Active Member
Thunderf00t has released his own video on the bankruptcy it contains a fair amount of sarcasm, but also covers a few other related 'water from air' proposals that have done the rounds.

 
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