Goodbye Lily

So long, farewell, auf weidersehen, adieu.
Adieu, adieu, to “yieu and yieu and yieu”.

That last line by some distance the worst lyric in musical history (and there’s a lot of decent competition out there).

But this morning, an email from Lily. (Never mind the fact that I unsubscribed from their mailing list ages and ages ago.)

Lily are no more. 

Here’s the full story:

Antoine and Henry here from the Lily team. When Lily set out on the journey to create a flying camera over 3 years ago, we were determined to develop and deliver a product that would exceed your expectations.

In the past year, the Lily family has had many ups and downs. We have been delighted by the steady advancements in the quality of our product and have received great feedback from our Beta program. At the same time, we have been racing against a clock of ever-diminishing funds. Over the past few months, we have tried to secure financing in order to unlock our manufacturing line and ship our first units – but have been unable to do this. As a result, we are deeply saddened to say that we are planning to wind down the company and offer refunds to customers (details below).

We want to thank you for sticking with us and believing in us during this time. Our community was the drive that kept us going even as circumstances became more and more difficult. Your encouraging words through our forums and in your emails gave us hope and the energy we needed to keep fighting.

Before we sign off, we want to thank all the people who have worked at Lily, who have partnered with us, and who have invested in us. Thank you for giving your all, nights, weekends and holidays, in the effort to deliver a great product.

After so much hard work, we are sad to see this adventure come to an end. We are very sorry and disappointed that we will not be able to deliver your flying camera, and are incredibly grateful for your support as a pre-order customer. Thank you for believing in our vision and giving us the opportunity to get this far. We hope our contribution will help pave the way for the exciting future of our industry.

Antoine and Henry
Lily Founders

Lily tried to make something that no-one had ever managed to make before: a drone which film your adventures while it followed you around, filming your escapades in luxurious HD, but more than that, a portable drone which you could pop in your pocket and take anywhere. (That description just for those of you that struggle with the definition of ‘portable’.)

It looked good. It looked like something I was after, and thus, following some degree of due diligence, I dived in. As did over 60,000 others, yielding more than $34,000,000 in revenue.

But despite a huge uptake, the process was fraught with problems. Reviews of the product test shots were less than complimentary, although the Lily guys always had a reason and a fix and buyers were kept well informed as to the latest developments via email. It was this excellent communication policy that kept me going, despite the delivery date being moved further and further out. Then – 18 months into a 10 month process – they decided that they couldn’t deliver to SA and the alarm bell, tired of being overused and ignored fell off the wall. I pulled the plug.

I’m not surprised that they are struggling to find funding. If they were at this stage 2 years ago, there would be no issue. But things have outpaced them: the good news was that while Lily were struggling with hardware, software, camera, funding and shipping issues, other companies were moving on in the background. DJI had (finally) seen the gap in the market and moved all their existing Phantom technology into a portable drone: the Mavic Pro. Notably more expensive than Lily, but also packed with more features such as 4K video, obstacle avoidance and actually existing, mine arrived last week. Even if Lily were still going, I’d not have their drone yet. And it’s nearly 2 years on from my order.

I’m sad. Lily were trying to do a good thing, it just didn’t work out. As with any start-up, the mountains they had to climb were huge. The issues with the technology are a bit beyond me, but perhaps their biggest error was repeatedly promising too much and repeatedly having to backtrack. Another player in the market would have been great, (especially as Parrot are also struggling) but perhaps it was their idea and the interest it generated that prompted the development of the Mavic Pro. So, for that, thank you Lily.

Hopefully, there are positives that the Lily team can take out of this experience: their communication strategy should be one of them. I’ll keep an eye on what they are going to do next, because I have (more) high hopes.