A sustainable startup excites the conscious community, only to end with 1.3 stars on Trustpilot, voluntary liquidation, and a lesson in buying for life.
Even a cursory read of the reviews of Bambooi Beauty & Care on Trustpilot reveals a cadre of eager environmentally-conscious buyers who feel duped. By the time I added my review, it was a familiar story: Excited by the product and the company, anxious about the extended shipment delays, and then left disappointed with the product’s performance.
Ordering the Bambooi Electric Toothbrush
The Shop app recommended I might like it: An electric toothbrush made of compostable, biodegradable sugarcane and plastic-free. The price, even in USD, seemed very reasonable, with brush heads costing far less than what I would pay for the brush I was currently using.
The Shop app knew me: Within a few days, I purchased the brush. Due to shipping costs from U.K. to U.S. and the potential time it would take, I decided to buy 15 packs of additional brush heads. The entire order ended up being like $75 USD.
Inexpensive, environmentally friendly, a sophisticated eco-look. I was sold! I ordered in early October 2021, expecting the brush to arrive by Jan/Feb 2022.
Things Go Awry
By March/ April, I was getting ready to move states for the summer and anxious about not having received the brush. Messages to the customer service department went unanswered. Through the Shop app, I changed my delivery address in hopes it would make a difference. I received an email in April confirming my order.
June 15, 2022 I received a message that my order had shipped. Miraculously, I received it at my summer address!
The brush had the look of colored plastic rather than natural sugarcane or earthy-type material. Still, it was lightweight and portable. Initially, it went weeks without needing charging. After about 3 months of use 2x daily (husband opted to stay with the original brush), it started needing to be charged every week. I noticed it actually went weak and then went off more often.
The brush finally died in December 2022, about 5 months after I received it. The metal that held the brush heads prolapsed into the handle, so I can no longer add a brush head to it. This revelation came after I charged the brush overnight, since charging for a few hours didn’t allow me to use it.
Now I’m back to Sonicare, which I got at Walmart ages ago (don’t @ me I know!) and it still works perfectly.
Was Bambooi a Scam?
In Bad Influence Medium late-2020, I wrote about some scams I’d encountered in my life. Since then, I spend a lot of time on the Reddit r/scams community, keeping up-to-date on scams and helping where I can to prevent the devistation scammers cause.
Based on my knowledge and experience, I believe Bambooi was NOT a scam.
- Valid contact information (at least at first) on their website
- Valid U.K. business registration with address
- Website had real info, a unique About page, and updates about the products specifically
- Prices were fair
- Good grammar, professional site design, realistic product photos
Bambooi appears to have been a geniune British startup company with poor leadership and overly-ambitious goals. Startups can and do often fail, but much of that typically falls on banks, financial institutions, and other investment companies. This seems to be more of a “Kickstarter without the middleman” scheme: Consumers pre-purchase the products based on marketing of a prototype in order to fund manufacturing and delivery of the final products. You as the consumer are the investor, taking the risk of funding something that may never materialize. Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, however, are up-front that you are investing in the company and may get a gift in return, but it’s not guaranteed. You risk time and money for the promise of getting the product first, at a lower cost than the public, or with other exclusive perks.
I’ve successfully funded Lomi, Tidy Brush, and other projects through Kickstarter/ Indiegogo. I also invested in a project last summer that seems super cool but is continually delayed, and I’m concerned may never materialize.
If anything, I believe Bambooi was unintentionally deceptive about where they were in their manufacturing and production process.
What I Learned
Just like many people, I succumbed to the excitement of an eco-friendly, more socially conscious electric toothbrush option. But I overlooked the fact that the most socially conscious option was right in front of me: Use what you have.
I had and still have a perfectly good toothbrush. I bought it to use until it fully died. Certainly it did not die, and I’m happy to still have it. Buy for life, use for life.
The second part is, if there is a startup or pre-order situation, and it’s a solution you can wait for potentially forever, then you have to understand you actually may never receive what you’ve invested in.
- It’s a toothbrush, I had a solution that worked at better than I expected Bambooi to work, and couldn’t wait for it without serious dental consequences. So right there I should’ve quit.
- Bambooi made it seem like the manufacturing was only delayed due to COVID supply issues, not that they had never shipped a single brush. A U.K. watchdog group found Bambooi had been deceptive about almost every claim they made.
- Consumers had every reason to expect they would receive a brush, not that they were funding a new product.
- Those like myself who were fortunate enough to receive a brush had every reason to believe it would be a fully functional brush with functionality similar to lower-end brushes currently on the market. We were all willing to pay a bit of a premium for the idea of a shiny new eco-friendly option, at the expense of some functionality. Like, I doubt anyone expected this to be Sonicare quality (which has been on the market a long time and periodically upgraded), but probably akin to like Fairywill. It was not even that good – definitely more of a prototype.
What Happened to Bambooi?
Back in 2019, Lewis James Bryden, a 21-year-old Brit, started his first company, Bryden Group Limited. The company’s purpose: “Retail of furniture, lighting, and similar (not musical instruments or scores) in specialised store.” By 2020, the company’s name was legally changed to Bambooi Sustainable Enterprises, Ltd. (For American readers, it’s a U.K. version of an LLC.)
In Bryden’s own words, he wanted to become a millionaire and eventually billionaire selling sustainable products. Great for ambition, and great for wanting to own a sustainable product-based company, but it’s clear Mr. Bryden’s skillset wasn’t up to the task he set forth. A business manager would have been able to help, as far as funding, managing expectations, marketing, etc.
The company unfortunately appears to have undergone voluntary liquidation, surrounded by a chorus of angry consumers. No doubt business schools in U.K. could easily use this as a case study in business failure.
Of course not all businesses succeed, or at least they are often not profitable for a few years. Bambooi tried out the gate to make a huge impact, putting a lot into marketing and publicity to get pre-orders and then expecting to have steady sales thereafter. Tempering initial expectations with a “fund more sustainable alternatives by buying the prototype” message would have helped– or even a good old-fashioned Kickstarter campaign. People aren’t happy to not receive a reward for funding a Kickstarter, nor are they happy with sub-par quality, but they understand the risk.
The second big issue is that it seems they did no quality assurance testing, a big gaffe for an allegedly market-ready product.