Since this has transitioned into a "why we like or dislike our zeros", here's my opinion from an 16 SR owner of just over a year...
I have been riding Suzuki and Triumph ICE cruisers and various dirt bikes for many years. I, on a whim, went to test ride a zero. Sales guy put me on both a DSR and SR. Loved both. Would've gone with the DSR for the dual-purpose capability but it was a couple inches too tall (as most dual purposes seem to be for me; don't get me started about KTMs or Kawasakis) and I didn't want to mess with a lowering link or the suspension or forks. I had wood when I dismounted both bikes after those first test rides.
I've got just over 1K miles on the SR in the past year and all of them have been for the purpose of joy. I thought I would use it for commuting, but quickly found that my other bikes do a better job at that based on my requirements.
I used to surf Orange County beaches growing up and haven't been able since an injury to my knee while serving in Iraq. But I can still ride. And I ride the shit out of my SR, often testing the 102 governor and taking corners in the mountains like I would when attacking a wave on my board. It genuinely reminds me of the body mechanics used while surfing. Balance, body coordination timed with environmental indicators, etc. My other ICE bikes don't make me feel that. When folks ask what it is like to ride (and they ask often), I tell them, "you ever see the movie Tron? I'm the blue dude on the light cycle with this thing".
Granted, I am absolutely an outlier from the mass market that will need be penetrated for Zero to become Tesla-like; cult-followed and lusted after by just about every motorist out there. But for me, my SR is like a third child in that it brings out emotions in me that I don't feel while riding the other bikes or participating in other activities. Perhaps it's the instant torque on demand, or how I can flick it around like it's a broomstick between my legs, or who knows why.
I had/have reservations about buying a $17K toy from a start-up in an unproven market that is still trying to figure itself out. But as of this moment, I've had very few problems, feel good about taking some Co2s out of the atmosphere, and still get wood each and every time I ride. Like half a Cialis type wood.
Zero has certainly not matured (as one would hope for a 10+ year old business) on a pace that many business experts would have liked to observe, but from what I hear, the folks in Scotts Valley feel great about their prospects in a growing (albeit, slowly) industry and they are aware that folks like me exist. And the staff, from two different engineers I've spoken with, to the regional sales guy, to Dave who travels the country selling the idea, to the lady who answers the phone ... they all buy-in. In my book, that means that at least they give a damn about their individual missions within the overall org.
Agreed, the dealer arrangements, parts-ordering, warranty-confusion and marketing efforts could be improved/expanded. But, as far as I'm concerned, I'm good with having one of the only ones in the region and feeling somewhat special that I lucked into it on a lark.
One thing that strikes me as odd from the OP is that if he is a vc that is genuinely potentially interested in putting a substantial amount of capital into zero, aren't all the shortcomings brought up pretty easily addressable. Moreover, doesn't OP have folks in his group whose sole job is to go in and redirect outfits that are missing out on potential opportunities for growth and maturation? Like the dudes who put fires out so the org accomplishes what it is capable of?
I dunno. Maybe I just have no idea how all that works.