A close analysis by Dan_R of KS has pulled back the curtain on shocking new details of the Arist.
As speculated previously NBition did not build a new machine, they modified a Jura such as the X5, Z5 or Z7. This is highly unethical because in the promotion video with “Evangelist” Julian, they passed off the Frankenmachine as their own. The picture on the right shows a real Jura with the back taken off. They are the same (minus the black box on top of Arist 1.0).
Lets start with a fact: things don’t add up about Arist. Even if you are optimistic about a finished product, we need to report Arist to our local attorney generals so that they can take investigative action.
Benson stepped out of the shadows and engaged in a public flame war on the Kickstarter comment page. Do check it out, it was entertaining. Importantly he made the following statements on the record:
“We have 22 full time and 3 part time [employees] up till now.”
“Launch Party. Yep, we hosted one and friends and family came to show their support. They are all real pledges, and no refunds were made…No we did not [refund with cash]. And this is the second time I answered.”
“Videos and demos we have shown to the HK media and government.”
A source close to Benson and Nelson Chiu says that the real Arist is that ugly box sitting on the left. The pretty art piece on the right never existed in working form. In other news, Arist is threatening to sue unwire.hk
Also, do check out the Kickstarter comment section from today. Benson emerged from his long slumber to speak with backers.
Arist claims they were hacked both on their website and Dropbox. A reader of AristScam correctly points out, if their Dropbox was hacked then a Dropbox Event of a download would have been created. Dropbox Events cannot be removed. So Arist, why don’t you come out and prove that this actually happened.
UPDATE 3: bob_mcbob correctly points out on reddit: The Kickstarter backer list has an extremely conspicuous string of almost 200 people with Chinese names who have no profile information and have never backed another project. That’s about $70,000 of their funding and helped fuel the initial interest in the campaign.
UPDATE 2: Nelson and Benson are allegedly friends with the founders of Ignite Mobile (TapZilla & AppRebates) which inflate iOS appstore rankings by getting people to purchase apps and then refunding with cash. Seems like this was the inspiration for Arist asking people to pay with credit cards to fudge the numbers, and refunding with cash.
UPDATE 1: The following bombshell video at the Arist launch shows Benson at 0:09-0:12 thanking the audience for taking the time to queue up and use their credit cards to “pledge” for “something.” It supports the allegation that they artificially inflated pledge number by using the launch and then issuing refunds.
The Arist launch was allegedly attended by over 300 people in Hong Kong. Attendees of the party have informed that Arist asked everyone to contribute and then later refunded them. Seems like this was used to juice the initial amount of Kickstarter backers. Early backers on Kickstarter are all people with just 1 backing – Arist. See photos and discussion after the break.
UPDATE 2: According to sources close to Benson, during the demonstration of Arist coffee maker functionalities to the HK government, they hired paid actors to demonstrate the brewing. It is speculated they used some special effect or techniques to fool the viewers that the machine can actually brew coffee.
UPDATE 1: Here is a link to the controversial Hong Kong program closely tied to HK financial secretary John Tsang Chun-Wah which did a dollar for dollar match.
An anonymous source tells Arist Scam that the Hong Kong government matched Kickstarter proceeds. Seems like Arist allegedly received over $800,000 dollars from both KS and Hong Kong, and the scam is that even if they had to refund everyone on Kickstarter, they’d still get to keep that money.
Of course we all know that when you back a project on Kickstarter there’s almost no recourse if a project fails. But the biggest scam seems like that even if Arist chose to refund a huge percentage of backers, they would still get to keep that money from the Hong Kong government!
UPDATE: Don Mak in this screenshot asking if anyone knows the contact for Unwire.hk – attempting to do damage control after the news outlet’s first piece on Arist. Don Mak is connected to the Nelson/Benson Chiu Kickstarter consultancy business, and is also pretty famous in Hong Kong as an internet marketer.
Thank you to the anonymous contributors who brought this to our attention and provided a translation. The Hong Kong Economic Journal is one of the major local newspapers, and StartupBeat has a section covering HK based start-up related news.
A StartupBeat article was published today in Hong Kong. Like previous articles here and here the media outfit did a poor journalistic job. While it asked some questions of Arist, it fundamentally failed to press Nelson/Benson Chiu on their lies and deceit and failed to interview any Kickstarter backers.
There is an unconfirmed rumor that Benson will invite local backers to his office to demonstrate their machine in May. Folks in Hong Kong should crash the party. Many suspect this viewing will be filled with friends or with paid actors.
UPDATE: There is now at least one individual who can prove the Chiu brothers pay with cash-only to skirt the MPF.
An anonymous contributor writes in:
[Arist] is suspected to have given full-time employees the option to have their salaries paid cash-in-hand (usually by checks) instead of the conventional bank transaction. This is believed to be a dirty workaround to evade income tax and Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF for short, a compulsory pension fund for HK employers and employees). It is illegal for HK employers not to comply with the scheme and contribute their portions. They wrapped it up and allegedly claimed that it’s flexible to both parties and the company can pay more to their employees with the contribution going straight to their employees instead of the MPF.
So let’s think, if a company is treating its employees in such an illicit manner, how much worse will they treat their investors/backers on the outside?
News is spreading fast on the Hong Kong blogosphere that Arist way may well be a scam.
Arist has been profiled in Unwire Hong Kong: here and here. Anyone who wishes to see what Arist said can go to the Kickstarter comments page or the Unwire article. Backers on Kickstarter believe this allegation of hacking is complete nonsense.
The big news is that they allegedly showed a video of the app running a coffee machine. However, we all know videos can be fabricated. They also address many critics and allegations of scamming. Visit this Reddit page for a translation of the articles. The translation is also available in a subsequent post.
Additionally, according to a penetration test of the Arist website done by Samiux, Arist’s website was poorly protected and this may have compromised thousands of credit card users.
Despite claims in their latest Kickstarter update that their renderings were private and threatening legal action against leakers, a facebook post from Hong Kong ICT Awards shows Benson and Nelson Chiu standing next to the ‘new’ Arist. Does anyone who’s ever beheld a superautomatic believe this thing will be able to fit water, a grinder, dredge container, bean hopper etc?
Thank you to KS backer M who did a lot of investigative work to uncover these photos.
There’s a thread on HomeBarista where one of the posters shows he has the exact grinder part Arist displayed in the photo of their disassembled machine – look at the photo in post # 56 on the following link. That part is from a Eureka Mignon grinder which is a flat burr grinder that comes with a 50 mm steel burr set. You can take a look at that grinder here. Now look at the part shown in Arist’s photo of their disassembled machine both on the KS campaign under the heading “The Design” (it’s also on their new website) – the rectangular metal burr housing in both photos is identical. Note the Mignon is a $400 grinder and it’s dimensions are 16″ H x 8″ D x5″ W. Arist on the other hand purported to sell on KS an espresso machine incorporating this grinder for only $299 in a machine whose dimensions were listed as 17″ H x 9″ D x 6″ W? Wow, that’s an amazing feat of engineering – the Mignon grinder alone is as big as Arist’s entire machine yet somehow Arist was able to squeeze that grinder and also a state of the art superautomatic espresso machine into a package only 1″ larger in each dimension than the grinder’s dimensions and sell it on KS for 25% less than the grinder costs! I do hope Arist how they did that and also explains why their Kickstarter FAQ said they are using a porcelain conical burr grinder when in the photo of their disassembled machine we can see the Eureka Mignon parts they photographed consist of a flat steel burr set.
This is the Mignon grinder they showed in their Tosavour Facebook page, and likely where they got the part for the Arist photo shoot.