Skip to main content

This week, AI hardware startups are learning a hard lesson about consumer expectations…

Marquees Brownlee (known by his handle @MKBHD) released two damning reviews of Humane AI and Rabbit R1, which raised polarizing reactions.

Techies were quick to defend the startups and founders as misunderstood pioneers on the cutting-edge technology, but most of the Internet seemed to agree with MKBHD’s assessment that both of these hot AI startups have shipped half-baked products at full price.

Marquees Brownlee (MKBHD) critical reviews of Humane AI, Rabbit R1, and Fisker Ocean

It boils down to a fundamental difference in expectations between startups and consumers:

Conventional startup wisdom argues that founders should build fast, ship early, and iterate to win.

But consumers (rightfully) expect a product that they pay full price for should live up to its expectations.

Some argue that early adopters should expect cutting-edge tech to be inherently buggy.

Daniel Vassallo on Marquees Brownlee (MKBHD) Humane AI Pin Review

At least for Humane, one can say they did deliver what their original pitch deck promised (albeit, with some noticeable shortcomings). 

Humane AI Pin - Pitch Deck Humane AI Pin - Pitch Deck

That said, this saga has made it clear that the approach of building an “MVP” (minimum viable product) does not work the same in hardware as software — a lesson that should be familiar to some of the infamously short-lived Kickstarter hardware startups of the 2015s like Coolest Cooler and Pebble time.

Arvid Kahl on Marquees Brownlee (MKBHD) Rabbit R1 Review

Weeks prior to these reviews, MKBHD also posted an equally hyperbolically-negative review of the Fisker Ocean, dubbing it the “worst car [he] ever reviewed.” That said, Fisker’s near-bankruptcy stems from much deeper issues, which we discussed here. To summarize briefly, Fisker is fighting to stave off bankruptcy after…

  • Losing track of millions in payments in 2023
  • Being de-listed from the NYSE
  • Suspending production for six weeks
  • Failing last-minute financing talks with Nissan
  • Burning $1B in 2023 to deliver less than 5,000 cars
  • Going through two rounds of layoffs

Needless to say, MKBHD’s review was just the tip of the iceberg for Fisker’s mounting laundry list of problems (see Fisker’s pitch deck here).

Some sensational outlets may hasten to say that MKBHD is “killing startups” with his reviews, but we’ll leave it to you to judge whether that’s a fair analysis.