Last week we posted an exposé of Peep Wireless. Despite repeated attempts, we initially couldn't reach the company for comment, but founder Scott Redmond has since contacted us. He's nonplussed. For transparency's sake, we'd like to show you his objections.
What follows is the Peep Wireless post, in its entirety — and then some. Mr. Redmond demanded that we remove the original story by 5pm today but instead, we are reposting it with his comments included — the @'s and bold red text were his idea. Read his grievances and judge for yourself whether we were too harsh.
In the tech world, a few questions are usually enough. Does the product work? Is the idea good? How much does it cost? But as Peep Telephony reminds us, there's a fourth, all-important qualification: Is it real?
The Consumer Electronics Show, which took place in Las Vegas last week, is a place where you get lied to. A lot. Always, basically, which is one of the reasons reporters attending CES mope so melodramatically: for every cool thing you see, you have to endure hours of pitches, all of which are misleading, and many of which, disingenuously so.
But that's how this industry—and plenty of others—work. They pitch; we parse. They stretch the truth; we try to make it contract. It can be a crude and occasionally uncomfortable system, but it generally works.
This year, a company calling themselves Peep Telephony (or Peep Wireless), seemingly popped up out of nowhere with promises of cellular service powered by mesh networking that would be free to consumers. Peep's promises are manifold: customers will "never need to pay a phone bill again," and "all their email, Internet and media access would be free forever"; network owners could save "billions of dollars and years of build-out time," doubling their capacity overnight. It's a software-based system, and, of course, it will be free.
But a visit to Peep's website is vexing. Every page is jam-packed with sentences that don't make sense, literally and technologically. The first video explaining the service says nothing, and appears to be stitched together from spare parts found on YouTube. @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. THE VIDEO IS MADE UP OF ITEMS PURCHASED BY PEEP FOR PROMOTIONAL USE AND THEY DEPICT THE IDEA OF MESH GROWTH. The second video, an alleged "UI demo," is too blurry to be useful, and the phone in use seems to be a knock-off iPhone. It's truly bizarre. @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. THE PHONE IS AN IPHONE BECAUSE PEEP IS DEVELOPING AN IPHONE APP. THE WEBSITE CLEARLY STATES THAT PEP IS AN IPHONE DEVELOPER SO IT APPEARS THAT THE WRITER IS TRYING TO CREATE DISPARITY WHEN NONE EXISTS.
To be frank, this all sounds like bullshit. In fact, the combination of everything described was so strange, it almost made the company seem like a larger-than-life prank on the tech world. The closest thing to a technical explanation for Peep is this:
[E]very mobile device connects instantly to every other unit by WiFi, Bluetooth, optical, GSM, CDMA or walkie talkie channels that the PeepApp is constantly scanning. No cell tower, base station or internet server is needed. Phone calls, media sharing, texts, movies, media and data sharing can be free between all mobile devices.
(The rest of the release is filled with meaningless technobabble, and it's worth a read.) @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. ALL OF THE WORDS IN THE RELEASE ARE STANDARDS-OF-ART IN THE INDUSTRY FOR PEER TO PEER SIP MESH NETWORKS.
Of course, they claimed they wouldn't be showing anything to anyone except select analysts and potential investors. However, they're garnering coverage for it. A fair amount, actually.
Early coverage just parroted the press release or interview talking points, though later coverage was a bit more cautious. Rafe Needleman at CNET posted on Peep with an open mind and high hopes, but was somewhat worried by the massive promises and uneven explanations. (We reached out to Peep by phone, but didn't have any luck getting through until after this article was published.)@ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. THE WRITERS MADE NO ATTEMPT TO CONTACT PEEP OR SCOTT REDMOND. NO CALLS OR EMAILS WERE LOGGED AND MANY SOURCES OF CONTACT EXIST AND WERE PROMOTOED NATIONALLY IN THE CES PRESS RELEASE. [Ed: We called three times. We have phone records]
In addition to being arguably impossible, the problems with Peep go much deeper than unclear business plans and sketchy PR.
@ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. ALL OF THE START-UPS THAT SCOTT REDMOND HAS STARTED WERE EITHER SOLD OR ARE STILL IN OPERATION. PROJECTS, UNDER CONTRACT, HAVE ALL BEEN STARTED AND COMPLETED. DEMO PROJECTS HAVE ALL BEEN BUILT, FUNCTIONED FULLY AND PROVED THEIR TECHNOLOGIES IN EVERY CASE.
Peep Wireless is just the latest in a string of seemingly failed tech startups that spans back about two decades, all conceived, helmed and seemingly driven into the ground by one man: Scott Redmond. We've done a bit of digging into the Peep CEO's past projects, and they don't give us much faith in his current endeavor, to say the least.
The pattern is easy to pick out: This dude shows up whenever there's a bubble or hot trend in the tech business world that has yet to make it to the marketplace. @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY CORRECT. THE STATEMENT DOES CONFIRM THAT SCOTT REDMOND IS A VISIONARY WHO IS FIRST TO CREATE THE "NEXT BIG THING". Then he strings together a bunch of technical jargon that hardly informs what he's doing, @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. ALL OF THE STEALTH-MODE STARTUPS USE LANGUAGE COMMON TO THE ART OF THE INDUSTRY IN WHICH THEY ARE TARGETED. and presumably gets some kind of funding. After that, he generally forms not one but two companies around said bubble. (Peep Telephony has Peep Wireless; Limnia, a fuel cell company, Fuel Sell; Clever Homes, FabModern). @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT AND UTTERLY FALSE. CLEVER INDUSTRIES HAS NEVER DONE DUAL COMPANIES AS A PROCESS. All the companies are listed at the same address in San Francisco.
Ultimately, the companies just disappear, @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. THEY ARE SOLD OR THEY CONTINUE TODAY. SOME WERE MERGED OTHERS HAD NAMES CHANGED TO MEET MARKET STANDARDS. legacies reduced to comically vague blurbs on Redmond's resume @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. NO RESUME WAS SUPPLIED TO THESE PEOPLE AND THE ONLY AUTHORIZED RESUME AVALABLE IS ON LINKED IN.—if that. There's no point trying to ascribe motives to what Redmond does, @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. SCOTT REDMONDS MOTIVES ARE WRITTEN ON HIS WEBSITE. HE DESIGNS PRODUCTS THAT CREATE A PARADIGM SHIFT IN THE IMPROVEMENT OF A HUMAN PROCESS AND HE GIVES IS HIS PERSONAL PROFITS TO CHARITY. HE WORKS TO SUPPORT HIS INVESTORS INTERESTS. HIS INVESTORS HAVE MADE PROFITS. and we don't want to make this about character or intent. Point is, these ventures rarely—if ever—work. @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. ALL OF THE VENTURES EITHER HAD SUCESSFUL COMPLETION OF THEIR CONTRACTS, WERE SOLD OR CONTINUE TO THIS DAY. And through the harsh lens of hindsight, some look like they weren't ever meant to. @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. ALL OF THE VENTURES EITHER HAD SUCESSFUL COMPLETION OF THEIR CONTRACTS, WERE SOLD OR CONTINUE TO THIS DAY.
When you start digging further into his past, you end up plummeting down a rabbit hole where things seem to get more surreal with each discovery.
Redmond is a man who has worn many hats. On his personal site he claims to have worked in the green home, digital outdoor display, flight simulator, computer, mobile energy, auto, aerospace, medical device, media broadcasting and events production industries—among others. His resume is equally spread out, as far as jobs go. @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. AS A STARTUP FOUNDER ONE MUST WEAR MANY HATS. THE WRITERS ATTEMPT TO CREATE THE INTENT THAT THIS IS A BAD THING WHEN IT IS THE SKILL MOST SOUGHT BY SEED INVESTORS TO SAVE MONEY.
Over the years, he claims he's created 19 "industry firsts" and lists "conceptual blockbusting" as a key qualification. Most of his previous jobs list him in the role of "Program Executive," and for the last 14 months, has been an Executive Vice President of Business Development for a "Major Media Software Company." His words, not ours.
But there's more than just an ambiguous resume. Let's take a quick, scattered tour through the underbelly of the tech industry, courtesy of Scott Redmond:
Here he is, talking about a video startup that would offer free streaming films—major films!—to any computer. If I'm hearing this correctly, you don't even need an Internet connection: @ HE IS LISTED IN SONY'S FILE WRAPPER FOR THEIR PATENT AS THE INVENTOR OF ONLINE MEDIA AND THE US PATENT OFFICE CONFIRMED IT BY ISSUING HIM PATENTS ON IT. THIS FILM WAS PRESENTED ON BROADCAST TV BEFORE YOUTUBE WAS EVEN A CONCEPT.
It no longer exists, obviously, but it's worth noting that this kind of service was completely, utterly impractical in the mid 90s. @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. THE COMPANY DEMONSTRATED THE TECHNOLOGY AND THE COMPANY DOES STILL EXIST
Here's his virtual reality product:
Note the complete lack of video evidence of any kind of functionality whatsoever. @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. THE WRITERS REFERENCE IS A SEQUENCE FROM OLIVER STONE'S MOVIE AND THE WRITER INTENTIONALLY AVOIDS MENTIONING THE ACTUAL VIDEO OR HUNDREDS OF MEDIA ARTICLES ABOUT THE WORKING TECHNOLOGY
Here's an idea he had for an inflatable car:
That $100m in pending venture money mentioned in the comments never came, for (I hope) obvious reasons. @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. THE FUNDING IS STILL IN PROCESS AND THE FUNDS EXIST IN A US GOVERNMENT FUND IN NEGOTIATION. OVER A MILLION DOLLARS WAS ALREADY INVESTED IN THE PROJECT.
Here's an announcement that he's competing for the Lunar Xprize, somehow, with a personal flying device. @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. THE DEVICE WAS A LIFTING INFLATABLE.
Aaaaaand here's the patent for said device:
And another, which someone should probably forward to one of George Lucas' 7,000 lawyers. (Thanks, commenters.)
Here's his concept for the standardization of fuel cell components (which received nearly 900k worth of funding from the department of energy). He claims it's functioning, but judging from the video, the thing seems more like a movie prop. @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. THE DEVICE FUNCTIONS AND HAS BEEN VALIDATED BY SANDIA NATIONAL LABS AND CLONES OF IT HAVE BEEN BUILT BY GM.
And this list goes on. (Literally! Check his own website)
Redmond also seems drawn to areas where there are cash prizes available. While his flying car isn't likely to snag any Xprize money, this Department of Energy report suggests that he actually received money from the government for an idea that also seems worryingly oblique.
This post isn't meant as some kind of personal hatchet job, @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. THE AIR PANEL DROP VEHICLE NEVER APPLIED FOR XPRIZE MONEY. IT WAS DESIGNED FOR DEFENSE APPLICATIONS. and to be honest, one shouldn't be necessary to dissuade investors from throwing money at this venture. @ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. SCOTT RED MOND HASS [sic] BEEN THE FIRST CASH INVESTOR IN EACH AND EVERY ONE OF CLEVER INDUSTRIES VENTURES. Peep's background information is freely available online, and everything you see above was discovered with a few quick searches on Google. Any investor—or reporter, for that matter—should be able to see these red flags on their own. (As far as Peep is concerned, the seams are already showing. A savvy commenter on CNET noticed that the prototype "PeepPod"—the dongle that allegedly increases the effective distance of the peep app—is just a securID fob with the logo pulled off.)
@ THIS STATMENT IS VERIFIABLY INCORRECT. PEEP SPECIFIES THE SECURID FOB FOR GOVERNMENT USE. PEEP DOES NOT MAKE HARDWARE. PEEP TECHNOLOGY CAN FIT INSIDE A SECUREID FOB OR USED ALONG WITH IT.
Rather, this is a glimpse at what happens when hype overcomes all else. It represents an unchecked version of the pungent, insidious promotional id of events like CES. And it's worryingly familiar.
There's a reason Peep got coverage this year.
UPDATE: A cherry, from Mr Redmond's public photo albums: @ EVERYTHING THAT SCOTT REDMOND OR CLEVER INDUSTRIES HAS BUILT HAS WORKED OR BEEN FUNCTIONAL IN REFERENCE DESIGN FORM. CLEVER INDUSTRIES ONLY BUILDS A REFERENCE DESIGN (LIKE RAMBUS) LIKE MANY OTHER SERVICES IN THE SILICON VALLEY AREA AND PROVIDES TECHNOLOGY TO CUSTOMERS OR PARTNERS TO PRODUCE VOLUME PRODUCTS AND/OR IP TO USE AS BLOCKING IP OR DEPLOYMENT IP. THE ARTICLE IS A BLATANT ATTACK ON SCOTT REDMOND WHICH COINCIDES WITH A WRITTEN EXTORTION ATTEMPT (NOW TURNED OVER TO LAW ENFORCEMENT) WHICH OCCURRED AT THE SAME TIME IN WHICH THREATS WERE MADE AGAINST MR. REDMOND, WHICH, IF NOT COMPLIED WITH FINANCIALLY, WOULD LEAD TO SOME PR DEBACLE.