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Displair's air screens not going up in smoke just yet

0 16 January 2014

Displair, one of the most well known Russian tech projects of recent years, has been brought back from the brink this week. 

Last week the future seemed bleak for the project, which has been featured by TechCrunch, Mashable, Wired, Huffington Post and even the BBC, after a grainy recording appeared on SoundCloud in which founder and CEO Max Kamanin seemed to be breaking the news to his team that the project was to be closed down. 

He said that “the company’s debts are now bigger than the total sum of grants we have received in the past two years. For this reason, the company directors have taken the decision to close the project. I am very sorry that I couldn’t make our dream a reality.”

It seems that the firm’s wage bill spiralled out of control as the team grew to more than 70 people, but they were unable to release their product on time (it was supposed to go on sale in October 2013). 

One of the main technical problems was where to store water - the screen gets through 1.5 liters an hour, and the firm’s target clients (retailers and advertising agencies) don’t want to be filling it up all the time. The cost also seems to have been an obstacle, with a starting price in excess of $12,000 dollars per unit. 

However, it seems that all is not lost. Perhaps the recording, and subsequent furore, pushed the project’s backers, principally the Russian fund LETA Capital, to act to save the company. LETA invested $2.2 million in May 2012 and appears determined not to give up on its investment.

So, it was announced this week that the project is not going to be shut down, but it is going to change direction. It will no longer produce and sell units, but will instead sell licenses to its patented technology to other manufacturers. 

In a press release, the company said that it is already in conversation with a number of major global manufacturers, and has cause to look to the future with optimism. 

However, it is the end of the road for many of the company’s 70 employees. It has been confirmed that only the R&D department will remain, and a company source told CNews that this could mean “only a few people”. 

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