The Tero Company: An Entrepreneurial Failure?

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Tero  entrepreneurial failure?

Tero created quite a craze a few years ago with its device that turns table scraps into fertilizer. However, the young company is unable to deliver its devices on time, despite the millions of dollars invested in this adventure.

The Tero is a small appliance that dehydrates and grinds food waste.

Sylvie Gagné has lived in Trois-Pistoles for three years. She can no longer make compost in her yard, as she used to do in the countryside.

The rest of us are used to making compost. The oldest [of the family], we've been doing this since the early 1980s. […] Compost in the yard […] in town, it tends to attract bugs, she says .

That's when his brother tells him about the Tero device. A small device that turns table scraps into fertilizer. An invention of Valérie Laliberté and Élizabeth Coulombe, two young graduates of the School of Design at Laval University in Quebec City.

Sylvie Gagné recovers her compost.

Sylvie orders, with her brother, a Tero device in October 2021. A purchase of $684 with taxes.< /p>

It doesn't take up much space. You weigh on the piton at night, then the next day, your compost is ready. You can dispose of it outside, in your garden or do whatever you want with it. So I thought it was clean […] with no smell. […] Then it was done here, by people from here, she underlines.

She was to have her Tero device in the spring of 2022 , but she never received it. Delivery is constantly postponed. The first emailsaid there were small issues with parts supply due to COVID. […] By June, […] I asked them what was happening. We still have supply problems.

In December, Tero tells her that she won't be able to receive her device before April or maybe even June 2023 Sylvie Gagné is discouraged.

“There, no. I said to my brother, “We'll never get it.” »

— Sylvie Gagne

This client is far from the only one. Of the 8,000 devices sold, 3,500 have still not been delivered. Some customers have been waiting for more than three years.

This is the case of Céline Duval, among the first to believe in the Tero adventure. As long as I have not received my devices, it is certain that confidence is shaken, very shaken, she laments.

From the launch of the fundraising campaign in 2019, Céline Duval bought four devices. An investment of $1800.

“I ordered four Tero. One for me and for each of my three children, because I wanted to give them one for Christmas. […] It annoys me that they continue to receive praise and that I embarked on the adventure and I am not rewarded. »

— Celine Duval

The praise that Céline Duval is talking about is an award that the founders of Tero received last November: the Conscience d'affaires award, which recognizes eco-responsible business practices.

For Maarouf Ramadan, business start-up specialist and professor at the University of Sherbrooke, the delays are not justified.

“When I see that there are customers who have been waiting for two or three years, it's not normal. Of course, we had a rather difficult period, […] that of the COVID. […] But it has been several months since we returned to a much more normal situation. Today, in my opinion, these conditions cannot be mobilized to explain the situation in the company. »

— Maarouf Ramadan, Professor of Entrepreneurship, University of Sherbrooke

Valérie Laliberté and Élizabeth Coulombe, two graduates of the School of Design at Laval University, in Quebec.

The two entrepreneurs had well-stocked coffers and benefited from significant media coverage. Their crowdfunding campaign generated a buzzon social media and raised $1,750,000. Tero also benefited from a government grant of $250,000.

Not to mention that a private investor, Germain Lamonde, invested $800,000 in the Tero adventure. He is now the company's third largest shareholder.

An entrepreneurial project that started from the start with a fundraising of funds through a crowdfunding campaign of 2 millions of dollars approximately. I can tell you, it's rare that we have this type of project. […] What did they do with that money?

— Maarouf Ramadan, professor of entrepreneurship, Université de Sherbrooke

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Germain Lamonde, president of the board of directors of Tero, and Élizabeth Coulombe, president and co-founder of the company.

The directors of Tero refused our request for an interview, but wrote to us that the company apologizes to its customers and intends to deliver all devices by the end of the year.

“Discussions are ongoing at the moment between Tero and its various partners. These discussions are subject to confidentiality agreements, so Tero cannot share all the answers to the questions at this time. »

— Élizabeth Coulombe, Tero

Curiously, while the device is out of stock on the official Tero website, it is easily found on the Internet, for resale , at a lower cost.

In a few clicks, we unearth about fifty. For some Tero generates too much fertilizer, for others it runs too long and is noisy.

Tero defends itself by telling us that the company has delivered more than 4,000 devices since September 2021. The vast majority of our customers are very satisfied, says Élizabeth Coulombe.

Maarouf Ramadan is a professor at the University of Sherbrooke and an expert in entrepreneurship.

Maarouf Ramadan sees worrying signals there.

“These are signals that show us that there is a serious problem, because at operational level, it does not work. At the delivery level, it does not work. In terms of sales, it does not work. »

— Maarouf Ramadan, professor of entrepreneurship, Université de Sherbrooke

Is this company, today, quite simply, badly managed, badly conducted? […] All the weak signals […] that we have today […] that leads me to say that this entrepreneurial project is heading towards an entrepreneurial failure, observe- he.

Sylvie Gagné is tired of waiting. She is now demanding a refund. I find it a pity. It was a nice project, she says.

But she didn't completely lose confidence. She hopes one day to buy a Tero on the resale market.

Sylvie Gagné requested a chargeback from her credit card issuer, and her account was credited. This is what the Consumer Protection Office recommends.

And even if your purchase was made as part of a crowdfunding campaign , you may be entitled to a chargeback.

The report by Annie Hudon-Friceau and France Larocque is broadcast on The Invoice on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 12:30 p.m. at ICI Télé.

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