Vessyl Backers Still Waiting For Smart Cups Slated For Early 2015 Debut — So What’s The Holdup?

Back in June 2014, we caught wind of a new product called the Vessyl, a smart cup that was designed to identify what kind of liquid the user is drinking and display nutritional information about that beverage, as a sort of health tool. At that time, it was slated to ship in early 2015, with backers paying $199 for the privilege of preordering one. But as 2015 closes out, some Consumerist readers have wondered — where are all those promised Vessyls?

The short story: they aren’t ready to ship yet. The longer story is, well, longer.

By the end of 2014, the company behind the Vessyl, Mark One had issued a few updates for backers on its blog, promising more information on when the preorders would ship.

Co-founder Justin Lee wrote on Dec. 30, 2014 that the company was still working out what material to use for the inside of the cup, and would need to engage in “substantial testing” before the Vessyl would be ready for its big debut, but that there would be more information on expected shipping dates to come “soon.”

More updates followed as the months ticked by, citing various production obstacles and charting the Vessyl’s progress from prototype to a fully realized product:

Feb. 3, 2015: “We plan to share a more specific ship date in a few weeks, so stay tuned for that.”

March 13, 2015: “Originally, we intended to ship Vessyl to you in Q2 of 2015. This is feasible, and though your Vessyls would meet the minimum threshold of quality, it would not meet our standards at Mark One. To ensure we are shipping a product that meets our and your expectations, we have decided to take a few extra months to optimize the interior materials and do extensive drop, reliability, and durability testing.”

June 29, 2015: Sensor improvements further delayed the Vessyl, Lee wrote, “as progress continues, we will report on any changes to the schedule and further refine our expected shipping date.” Though preorders were shut down by this point, Lee announces that it will accept advance reservations, with no money changing hands until the Vessyl ships.

Oct. 24, 2015: By the time fall had rolled around, the backers were restless, and Mark One acknowledged that in another update, simultaneously announcing a new toy, Pryme, a smart cup meant to monitor the user’s “daily hydration needs.” Backers still waiting on their preorders could sign up to receive a free Pryme, but by doing so, would have to forfeit their right to a refund for the original Vessyl.

That stuck in the craw of Consumerist reader Dan, who wrote in mid-November saying that he was critical of the continued pushbacks, calling the whole thing “fishy.”

“I have not yet asked for a refund, but I will not opt-in for Pryme,” he wrote, adding that others who had opted in for Pryme hadn’t received their units yet, despite Mark One’s pledge to begin shipping the cups in on Nov. 12.

This, despite the fact that Mark One was selling the Pryme in Apple stores online and at retail locations to the general public for $99. On Nov. 18, Mark One acknowledged that due to retail demand being higher than anticipated, backers who’d opted in for a Pryme wouldn’t be getting their units yet. This time, Mark One didn’t put an exact date on when it expected to ship those products, saying only that “the goal is to start shipping out your Pryme Vessyls when we replenish the stock.”

So when can I expect my stuff?

Image courtesy of frankieleon

We got in touch with Mark One to see what the holdup was, and if there were any firm dates set for Vessyl backers to get their pre-ordered smart cups, as well as the Pryme units many who’d opted in to receive on were also still waiting for.

Nic Barnes, vice president of brand and marketing for Mark One, echoed co-founder Lee’s position throughout the string of update blogs for backers: the company has learned its lesson and isn’t going to put a shipping date out there for the original Vessyl.

“The challenge for us to make sure that the 100,000th unit has the same level of accuracy and reliability as the first, Barnes told Consumerist via email. “This is a critical threshold in order for us to achieve our mission. We are focused on doing the due diligence to fully understand what it will take to achieve this, which is why we haven’t released a new delivery date.”

Barnes acknowledges that people are pretty ticked off, but says it’s all part of the process.

“I think we’re willing to deal with that frustration, whether it be through press or through consumers venting and letting us know their feelings, because at the end of the day, we refuse to put out a product that is not going to be effective,” Barnes later told Consumerist by phone.

To that end, the company has brought in Hamid Mohammadinia, formerly of Apple, as the new VP of engineering. His job is to figure out how the company can take the product from one thing to a million things.

“That’s a struggle we’re dealing with now: how do we scale out the product to have the same level of effectiveness to help folks get healthier?” Barnes said. “That’s a challenge and that’s what we’re working through right now to analyze what it’s going to take, and then at that point, we will send out a date, but until then… we’ve learned our lessons, and we’re definitely not going to put out a date until we have that kind of confidence that we know when it’s going to happen.”

What about Pryme?

As for backers who opted in for a free Pryme, relief is in sight, Barnes promises, though again, the company can’t promise a specific shipping date.

“I’ll say that we are very close to kicking off the backer Pryme shipments,” Barnes told Consumerist, calling it a “top priority as a company.”

If you opted in for a Pryme but want to wash your hands of the whole thing, you can still get a refund for the original Vessyl up until the Pryme units ship. And if for some reason Mark One goes bye-bye, or the Vessyl never ships? Backers won’t be out $99, Barnes promises.

“Could we have done things differently? I think we could’ve,” Barnes admits, in regards to Pryme units going to retail while Vessyl backers were left behind. “But given the current constraints, it was a tough decision that we had to make. We’re looking forward to getting some extra units out so we can get them the product we promised them.”

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