Cash-Short Aerion Supersonic Closes

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Aerion Supersonic has closed shop because the millions it had so far raised from investors, plus the contributions of its billionaire owner, wasn’t going to be enough to bring its AS2 supersonic business jet to market. “The AS2 supersonic business jet program meets all market, technical, regulatory and sustainability requirements and the market for a new supersonic segment of general aviation has been validated with $11.2 billion in sales backlog for the AS2,” the company said in an statement emailed to The Verge on Saturday. “However, in the current financial environment, it has proven hugely challenging to close on the scheduled and necessary large new capital requirements to finalize the transition of the AS2 into production. Given these conditions the Aerion Corporation is now taking the appropriate steps in consideration of this ongoing financial environment.”

Aerion has become a fixture as trade shows in the last 10 years with splashy news conferences and big-name supporters but it hasn’t made an airplane yet. One of the biggest announcements came at NBAA 2018 when it was announced that GE would develop and build the engine for the 12-place jet. It turns out there wasn’t enough money to fund that billion-dollar project, which was just 25 percent of the total estimated $4 billion cost of the program. Boeing was one of many high-profile backers of the project.

Aerion was planning to move from Reno, Nevada, to Melbourne, Florida, and begin assembly of a prototype, which was scheduled to fly in 2024. The FAA had also been laying the regulatory groundwork for testing of the new aircraft, including validation of its so-called “boomless technology,” which the company hoped would allow it to fly supersonic over land in the U.S., something that is banned now.

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41 COMMENTS

  1. Why report the aviation hucksters and losers when there’s Aviation WINNERS?…

    Virgin Galactic Spacecraft named VSS Unity, was carried up to an altitude of about 44,000 feet by a carrier aircraft called VMS Eve. The aircraft then released the spacecraft, which fired its rocket engine and accelerated to more than three times the speed of sound.

    After performing a slow backflip in microgravity at the edge of space – reaching an altitude of 89.2 kilometers, or about 293,000 feet – Unity returned through the atmosphere in a glide. The spacecraft landed back at the runway of Spaceport America in New Mexico that it took off from earlier.

    “It was flawless,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier told CNBC about the flight.

    • I knew that AvWeb would be posting the Virgin Galactic story soon. Sorry for jumping the gun, but… The number of aviation money grabbing fraud outfits is just getting a little bit over-the-top these days. Our public education system is not teaching basic physics. AvWeb should have a dedicated column just for fraudsters and hoaxes. (this last sentence is called sarcasm)

      I’ve been the center of attention many times giving a physics class to groups of people over 25 years of age. I find myself taking over the conversation shortly after someone tells me they saw a TV special. “The TV personality said we are going to be flying around on FAA approved pixel dust in three to five years”. Of course my question is “Have you seen any of this pixel dust yet?” Trying carefully not to insult anyone or accuse the TV personality of false information, you can explain that: 5 gallons of gas in a generator charging the batteries of a Tesla will give closely the same range that 5 gallons will to a gas engine vehicle of the same weight. There’s not been a new invention/discovery that changes the amount of energy it takes to produce one horsepower or Watt, yet, that I know of. Electric motors need energy to produce power. Energy has to come from somewhere. If they come back with the solar and wind renewable energy, then reply… “Do you have a solar and wind power system? How much does your system cost per KW/h?” Add the purchase cost, setup cost and maintenance cost together and divide by the number of KW/hours produced in ten years. Is this number less then 12 cents per KWh? (approximate average grid cost). Then ‘yes’, you are probably coming out ahead. Efficient diesel generators can be about 15 cents per KW/h.

      • A friend (R.I.P.), a famous British aviator, once took the Concorde to NYC from London, and then a famous Cunard luxury liner back to the UK. And that got him thinking, how fuel-efficient is the boat, compared to the aircraft?!

        As he was invited into the cockpit of the Concorde, he noted the fuel flow, but getting allowed on the bridge of the liner was a no-go. But he found out afterward, how much the ship’s mighty diesel engines consumed per hour, and how many passengers the ship had, contra how many passengers the Concorde carried.

        They ended up very close to each other, with no clear winner, to his surprise and amusement.

        The Concorde had a crew of six (if my memory serves me right), the liner had roughly as many crew members as passengers (quite normal for a luxury liner).

        By the way, the cost of diesel varies a lot around the globe, as does the price of photoelectric arrays, and wind generators, of course.

        I know of a small village here in Sweden that essentially has free electricity, as there is a small hydroelectric plant nearby that the villagers own collectively. For them, Teslas (and other electric cars) must be perfect!

      • “5 gallons of gas in a generator charging the batteries of a Tesla will give closely the same range that 5 gallons will to a gas engine vehicle of the same weight”

        You might be surprised to learn that I don’t charge my Tesla with a gasoline generator in my garage, any more than you power your refrigerator with a gasoline generator.

        I plug it into the wall like a lamp. The energy is in SC, where I live, is primarily NUCLEAR. TO your question: “Do you have a solar and wind power system”, the answer is NO, I get my power from.. atoms. A few ATOMS. Moving to Vermont in a few years, where the power is 90% hydro-electric. Yes, I will power my car: From water falling down a hill.

        • So your complaint about burning gas to make electricity to replace burning gas is circular logic and pointless. Of course we don’t burn gas to charge a Tesla.. that would defeat the whole point! We increasingly power the grid with renewable energy for a reason. And nuclear and hydro-electric are the primary power sources in the two states I’m living in.

          Also of course gasoline motors are about 15% efficient, and electric motors are about 95% efficient, so for a given amount of raw ENERGY, the electric motor goes about 7x the distance.

          I find myself taking over the conversation shortly after someone tells me in a youtube comment that the only way to power the grid is with the engine of a gas-burning car.

          • Gas engines were maybe 15% efficient in the days of the Wright Brothers. For a very long time they were maybe 25%. Lately, they are 40%. But you can’t fit enough raw electric energy into a road vehicle to compete with fossil fuels on range. Fossil fuels are about 42MJ/kg while the best batteries are still in the 2MJ/kg range. Electric is still one or two battery or fuel cell miracles away from competing with fossil fuels for long haul and especially towing applications.

          • Gasoline engines are more than 30% efficient.

            Plus they can be refilled in minutes at countless gas stations all over the world, including rural areas.

            They are also much less expensive and require fewer natural resources to manufacture.

            Gasoline is cheap and plentiful, especially in the United States. Much of the cost of the gasoline nowadays is artificial and causes by government taxation and regulation.

            I recognize certain advantages to electric powertrains, and for people who are not into cars EVs make good commuters, but for the rest of us who travel long distances, pull heavy loads, or enjoy the sound of a V8 snapping a clean upshift in a canyon ICE will always be superior

          • You lie about Alex Epstein, I’ll make two basic points:
            – he points to the tremendous benefit to human life of affordable portable energy, which poor people in Africa are happy to get but you want to deny to them.
            – you peddle the scam that humans are causing runaway warming, which isn’t happening and can’t happen.

            Look at accurate temperature sensors such as weather balloons and satellites.
            Look at government tide gages collated at PSMSL.org.
            You’ll find only a slow rate of rise, since about 1750 AD when a long cool era ended, the one that drove Viking farmers out of southwest Greenland.

            Check IPCC AR3 Chapter to learn of the ‘saturation effect’ that limits the amount of temperature rise that CO2 can cause, to a small amount most of which has already been realized. That limit comes from overlap of the absorption-emission spectra of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and dihydrogen monoxide.

            Beware that IPCC theorize a positive feedback cycle from that small amount, ever mind that the Medieval Warm Period and Roman Warm Period were warmer than today but climate stable.

            You’ve been conned by people with an apocalyptic mentality, aviation people should know better.

          • Beware of claims about ‘alternative fuels’:
            – sun and wind are not always there, so backup sources of electricity are needed. At some cost storage can be built, otherwise welcome to a grid using natural gas fueled aviation turbines which can start and stop quickly.
            – some climate catastrophists quote installed capacity not actual energy generated. Tip: the sun does not shine 24 hours a day.

            IMJ solar is a niche source, long been used in remote locations to power instruments or radio relay systems. You might out your money where your mouth is by donating to a good charity that would buy solar panels for poor people in sub-saharan Africa, so they have lights and radios like cellular telephones. It has use in sunny areas where there is great desire for air conditioning AND marginal pricing is high, such as in Chico CA where time-of-day pricing results in about $1. per kwh price.

            Wind generation needs wind, thus primary use is along coasts and in central plains. With investment it is useful in some areas, I lived for a few years in a house with a windmill for lights and refrigerator, owner paid for the system by working in the oil industry. (The location was windy due to configuration of mountains upwind.)

          • Uh, electric motors require a source of electricity, you fail to include the efficiency and cost of batteries or fuel cells.

            Duh?

        • And how much of the population has hydro or nuclear generation of electricity?

          At what costs of investment? (Tip dams are expensive, nuclear reactors are expensive.)

          Recommended reading: I Love Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein.

          • Who has nuclear and hydro?
            Some people. And we should continue to expand nuclear to include more people, to further reduce pollution. And we are.

            At what cost of investment?
            Who cares? Not me. Enviro sustainability should be a requirement, and if takes some up-front investment to make that happen then sign me up for the investment!

            Alex Epstein says its fine to ruin the environment because humans can adapt! Literally! That is one of his points. I am not even being sarcastic right now. He literally makes the excuse for ruining the Earth because we can adapt to the ruined planet.. nevermind all the animal and natural beauty and coastal land that is destroyed. He literally uses that as an argument. I am not even kidding. And you bought it. Why? Because it is the lazy-minded way you can give yourself permission to make a mess.

  2. ““However, in the current financial environment, it has proven hugely challenging to close on the scheduled and necessary large new capital requirements to finalize the transition of the AS2 into production. Given these conditions the Aerion Corporation is now taking the appropriate steps in consideration of this ongoing financial environment.”

    The current financial environment is the reason for Aerion going belly up? The lowest interest rates the last 50 years in with massive amounts of cash circulating through the economy being held by folks looking for new technology to invest in…and Aerion says that business climate is not good enough to finish developing and finally producing a product. Seriously? And the company is still being held by a billionaire.

    Evidently, he wants to remain a billionaire, has already gotten a huge amount of investment capitol (OPM, other people’s money), enough to maintain 10 years supplying the aviation news reports and mainstream media occasionally with claims the airplane will be certified next Tuesday after the virtual video will be spliced together by next Monday, showing an artist rendering of a pointy airplane over the usual clouds. And after 10 years and one billion dollars of OPM invested, knowing by their own admission it will require at least 3 billion more to produce a flying factory prototype, they call it quits.

    This sounds like the familiar recipe that will set the stage for the next purchase of the whatever assets actually exist by our now well demonstrated, global aviation savior known as Red China or Russia. At least they will get access to a building in Reno, cozy up with a cup of green tea, maybe with a shot of vodka as they review Boeing engineering data, FAA regulations, and have another door of business including legislative influence provided on their latest purchase of American aviation for pennies on the dollar.

    The best we can hope for is the EAA applying continuous pressure of the FAA to expand the definition of an LSA to include the largest portion of flying airplanes in the US and the world…even if they are mostly 50+ years old. At least they are certified, flying, and have been maintained well enough with a cottage industry of parts support from passionate people willing to invest themselves into something they believe in. New technology will not come to market via the current gauntlet of certification via the traditional methods. It will come from individuals who took visons into reality. Thankfully, we have the EAA, experimental category of airplanes, Van’s, Dynon, Grand Rapids Technology, CubCrafters, Aviat, Rans, Sonex Aircraft, Aircraft Spruce, Wicks, Univair, Virgin Galactic, etc plus host of well run small companies producing PMA parts, building LSA’s, and adding their much needed technology improvements to our old fleet. So, we have outstanding examples of American companies investing themselves into the same environment and succeeding.

    If there is a need is for a supersonic 12 passenger jet, it will happen led by American ingenuity. If there is no need for that, the Red Chinese or the Russians will buy it, and use it as another pathway into our taxpayer pockets.

    I don’t have a personal need to break the speed of sound. Nor do I have to get somewhere at those speeds. But I, and over 1700 other early BO owners sure could use a newly manufactured pitch change bearing for our no AD Beech 215 electric prop and magnesium skins for our 4,000 or so, flying V-Tail ruddervators. Hope springs eternal!

  3. No additional comment needed–EXCEPT–after the lengthy show of distrust of the aviation media reporting on “the next big thing” (see discussion on electric airplanes)–it further erodes both consumer and investor confidence. Is it any wonder why most of the aviation industry is largely funded by government–NOT investors? With the record of these kinds of false promises, is it any wonder why investors shy away from either investing or becoming “early adopters” of new technology?

    In MOST industries. a product is invented, perfected, patented, and THEN put on the market.

    Trusted aviation sources shouldn’t tout some of these “dreamware” projects. This failure, along with “flying cars” and “urban mobility” Jetson-like dreams not only hurts our industry, but hampers REAL development.

    Not picking on AvWeb/Aviation Consumer here–they have been the most critical of aviation pipe dreams in the publishing industry–but I’d like to see the rest of the aviation publishing industry back off the cheerleading a notch. In addition to the often ascerbic writers for Avweb that we have come to appreciate, Peter Garrison from FLYING Magazine does a credible job of analyzing the sometimes “over-optimistic” claims of startup companies and homebuilders for that magazine–casting an engineer’s eye on the claims. There is SCIENCE, FICTION, AND SCIENCE FICTION. We need to be aware of the differences.

    • Peter Garrison is long gone, sadly, but I remember our correspondence, after his near-fatal accident with his Melmoth (he was just inches away from the other planes prop as it was chewing up his plane’s tail).

    • All info-disseminating operations thrive on content, and much of that is supplied by the press releases from commercial enterprise. There’s a certain amount of entertainment value. And if one of these concepts makes the leap from vaporware to viable commercial product, we can say “I read about this in AvWeb way back when.”

  4. What I love is that the people who would have bought these jets save a few hours flying from NYC to Sydney, and then waste 20 people’s time in a useless 5 hour meeting that could have been finished in an hour over video if people would take 30 minutes to read the information sent to them.

    No one is important enough to *need* a private supersonic jet, but I’d be happy to take rich people’s money.

  5. Cliches survive for a reason…How do you make a small fortune in aviation? start with a large one. Boats don’t float, they rest on stacks of money, airplanes are more expensive because the stacks of money must be taller, which also explains why space is really expensive.

    …and adding to the “current environment” as a poor excuse, if you couldn’t sell high end private/charter in a post Covid world, what perfect storm do you need…zombie apocalypse?

  6. They can spin their decision to close any which way but I suspect a large factor was the realization that the projected customer base is not there. I don’t know what their projected price was but stating “$11.2 billion is sales backlog” may reflect the point where customer interest just plain stopped and they weren’t getting any more waitlisters.

  7. My guess is they suddenly discovered how noisy it would be.
    Europeans tolerated Concorde because it was an achievement technically and politically, the United States did not.
    Having all that noise made by a rich person’s private jet would be a no-no now, both sides of the Atlantic.
    There is a reason why business jets are now among the quietest machines in the sky.

  8. In complex endeavors such as this, the cost-to-complete estimate keeps getting more accurate (undeniable) and also larger. Eventually, the unrealistic initial cost estimates used to attract initial investors are replaced by reality, and additional investment dries up. Good luck to the team that hung in there this long, I hope their next project ends better.

  9. So neither Boeing nor GE wanted to pony up more investment?

    Of course neither has extra cash these days.

    Typical reasons for lack of investor enthusiasm include:
    – considering the venture to be a long shot
    – lack of enthusiasm for the industry, including because it is under attack from eco-bleeps
    – no actual product (‘meets all’ is vapourware, theory)
    – solidity of orders
    – no confidence in the management

    We’ll see how Blake Scholl does with Boom, IIRC it at least had some investment from airlines. Boom will fly a technology demonstrator ‘any day now’.

    As for Virgin Galactic, remember its history and the flakiness of its hypocritical owner Richard Branson.

  10. Also see Spike S-512 and Exosonic. Also note that each of these “concept aircraft” received government money for “The future Air Force One.”(though it takes YEARS to build a Presidential aircraft from a PROVEN DESIGN.)
    From Wikipedia

    Boom Technology, Inc. (trade name Boom Supersonic) is an American company designing a Mach 2.2 (1,300 kn; 2,300 km/h), 55-passenger supersonic airliner. Named the Boom Overture, the airliner will have a range of 4,500 nmi (8,300 km) and will be introduced in 2030.

    After being incubated by Y Combinator in 2016, Boom Technology raised $51 million of venture capital in 2017, and $100 million by January 2019. The Boom XB-1 Baby Boom one-third-scale demonstrator is expected to BEGIN FLIGHT TESTING IN 2021.

    History[edit]
    The company was founded in Denver in 2014.[2] It participated in a Y Combinator startup incubation program in early 2016, and has been funded by Y Combinator, Sam Altman, Seraph Group, Eight Partners, and others.[3]

    In March 2017, $33 million were invested by several venture funds: Continuity Fund, RRE Ventures, Palm Drive Ventures, 8VC and Caffeinated Capital.[4] Boom secured $41 million of total financing by April 2017.[5] In December 2017, Japan Airlines invested $10 million, raising the company capital to $51 million: enough to build the XB-1 “Baby Boom” demonstrator and complete its testing, and to start early design work on the 55-seat airliner.[4] In January 2019, Boom raised a further $100 million, bringing the total to $151 million, then PLANNING THE DEMONSTRATOR FLIGHT IN EARLY 2019[6][7] (emphasis mine)

    Projects[edit]
    XB-1 Baby Boom[edit]
    Main article: Boom XB-1
    The XB-1 Baby Boom is a one-third-scale supersonic demonstrator, designed to maintain Mach 2.2, with over 1,000 nmi (1,900 km) of range, and powered by three 4,300 lbf (19 kN) dry General Electric J85-15s.[8] It is expected to be flight tested in 2021.[9][10] A simulator for the XB-1 has been constructed using X-Plane 11 to test the flight model.[11]

    Overture airliner[edit]
    Main article: Boom Overture
    The Overture is a proposed Mach 2.2 (1,300 kn; 2,300 km/h), 55-passenger supersonic transport with 4,500 nmi (8,300 km) of range.[5] With 500 viable routes, there could be a market for 1,000 supersonic airliners with business class fares.[5] It had gathered 76 commitments by December 2017.[4] It would keep the delta wing configuration of Concorde[12] but would be built with composite materials.[4] It would be powered by three dry 15,000–20,000 lbf (67–89 kN) turbofans;[4] a derivative or a clean-sheet design will be selected in 2019.[13]

    In September 2020, the company announced that they had been contracted to develop the Overture for possible use as Air Force One.[14] Boom CEO Blake Scholl “estimates that flights on Overture will be available in 2030.”[15] In 2021, Boom announced plans to begin Overture test flights in 2026.[16]

    See also[edit]
    Supersonic business jet
    Aerion
    Exosonic
    Spike S-512

    • Blake will need thoroughness to make Boom happen, not something his software background fosters. He is a private pilot so enthusiastic about aviation. But he cannot make a clearly communicating up to date website.

      His business case is demand for speed at reasonable price, claims he can produce airliners that can operate at ticket price close to that of present business-class travel, whereas Concorde’s appeal was limited at its high price.

      (Boom’s design is intended to fly just below a steep drop in efficiency, slightly faster than Concorde.)

  11. Another lie Austin Meyer peddles about Alex Epstein is that fossil fuels ruin the environment everywhere.

    Besides the false claim of runaway warming from the small production of CO2 by humans, there are hundreds of eco-scams, such as that climate warming is killing coral reefs.

    Reality is that coral reefs appear to suffer when the actual cause is virus, fish that eat coral, and water level reduction from what I call ‘sloshing’ – water in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean is shifted by winds.

    In most cases the coral recovers, but if not then it just adds to the reef as it eventually does anyway due to the life cycle of coral.

    Why do catastrophists not do their homework? Answer is a bias against human life. Exemplified by the prominent ecologist who called humans ‘parasites’. (Reported by George Reisman in his booklet “The Toxicity of Environmentalism”.)

  12. Back to Aerion, if they had just claimed the new jet could operate ONLY on green renewable bio fuel they would have made it.
    Recall the old saws, a fool and his money are soon parted, and PT Barnum’s there a sucker born every minute and consider them as still modern and accurate, amazing that includes Boeing, GE, VG etc.

  13. I’m not so sure this was a scam. It may have been. I don’t know. I am not a big fan of companies spending huge amounts on trade shows when they don’t have a product to show, but I cannot say that’s a sure sign of a scam either.

    I have noticed that just about anything beyond fairly small evolutionary goals gets pretty sharp treatment in this peanut gallery. I’d assume many of us would like better planes and engines and such, but I sometimes suspect there’s a sizable amount that has an attachment to old planes and doesn’t want anything new to deal with.

    • The sharp treatment isn’t because things are new. It’s because things are not real.
      Lots of engineers in this peanut gallery, who appreciate the difference between progress and vaporware – something that apparently no longer is in the MBA curriculum.

  14. “I have noticed that just about anything beyond fairly small evolutionary goals gets pretty sharp treatment in this peanut gallery. I’d assume many of us would like better planes and engines and such, but I sometimes suspect there’s a sizable amount that has an attachment to old planes and doesn’t want anything new to deal with.”

    Eric W…Regarding “I have noticed that just about anything beyond fairly small evolutionary goals gets pretty sharp treatment in this peanut gallery.” This statement is spot on. I consider myself part of your describe “peanut gallery”. Anything beyond small evolutionary goals must be properly vetted. There are reasons why the outside shape of a F-22/F-35/FA-18/F-16/f-15/F-14/SR-71, etc. are similar. Aerodynamics are determined by physics. Having a carbon fiber Lazy Boy encapsulated by carbon fiber beach ball powered by a brushless electric motor fed by the latest battery tech will not be very efficient. Certainly not fast. The drag coefficient of a Bonanza, Lancair Columbia, or a Cirrus are all pretty good and relatively close. You cannot make a comfortable, usable, reasonable baggage toting, 4 place airplane to fly cruise around 200mph with either a tractor or pusher prop with a substantially lower drag coefficient. So, all production design goals of successful airplanes evolve through small changes. We have 100+ years of historical data to back that up. Wishful thinking will not make a carbon fiber beach ball with an electric motor efficient or even flyable.

    The “peanut gallery” has had its fill of outlandish claims, largely financed by tax-payer dollars without permission and/or with additional OPM, stretched out over years of crazy predictions, while producing NOTHING. At least Jim Bede produced something. He knew how to make efficient airplanes and brought everyone of them to fruition. His business decisions including depending on powerplant partnerships and agreements did not match his understanding of aerodynamics. Burt Rutan is a brilliant designer, produces results, and demonstrated with flyable products how far efficient could be pushed for whatever his particular design goals are. Not everything he designed was or is a commercial success.

    Airplanes and anything that flies has an optimum shape to do what it’s design function is. The only new frontier is the evolutionary improvements that is being made to powerplants. Yet they have to conform to physics to perform as a propulsion system. My 345 CID, Hemi is powerful, fast, efficient far exceeding the once vaunted one HP per cubic inch barrier…and will run an easy 300,000 miles with little maintenance. To get to this level of reliability and previously unimagined level of performance and efficiency has taken decades with cost spread out over millions of engines.

    Most of us in your described “peanut gallery” has a keen understanding of return on investment which drives everything to a functional maturity. Aerion, Boom, with a host of others we have all seen come and go, seem to think that they can violate the physics of Return On Investment plus violate ROI through claims of certification not even achievable for someone who wants to gain a PMA authorization to reproduce an existing part.

    As a result, the “peanut gallery” has a well tuned sniffer for violators of the physics of ROI, the physics of physics, and the physics of certification. We are not stuck in the past automatically rejecting the new. We are stuck in the past of the evolutionary physics described above that have resulted in usable products that on average, are now 50+ years old. The same physics that apply to new technology was met, including the physics of ROI and successful meeting the physics of certification. I am not flying a dream or a vision. I am flying an airplane that was produced by dreams and visions that met and overcame the challenges of the all the physics to make them into a final product. In aviation, these success are now considered old. I am not in love with the old. I am in love with successful products that work. I am in love with reliability. If I can get that performance in something newer, I welcome it. If it cannot exceed the performance of the old, the reliability of the old, the comfort of the old, the utility of the old…why would I invest in it or buy it? Can a new G-36 vastly out perform my 1953 D-35? In some areas yes, an in others no. Certainly not enough to justify spending an additional one million dollars to get there.

    This is a well trained, highly experienced “peanut gallery” whose educational and professional backgrounds are an enormous well of experiential, technical wealth. If an aviation company can pass the sniff test of the “peanut gallery” a successful product will emerge. All products have to pass the same sniff test of a large enough “peanut gallery”. All violators will be purged. Some sooner, some later. It’s all about the physics.