Your friend is one of many of us who backed The Things Network Kickstarter. Our motivations may differ in the details but I expect we nearly all backed it because a) TTN sounded like a BRILLIANT idea, and b) building low cost fully functioning gateways is a really good goal and c) IN YOUR FACE Vodafone, Sigfox...!.
Building a low cost LoRaWAN gateway was always going to be challenging. I don't believe for a second that it is vaporware. I do believe that the TTN guys were super optimistic in their original timescales. To their credit they have kept us updated with progress, slippages, etc. It can't be comfortable having to say "er... we've hit a problem..." and all credit to them for not giving up and for keeping us informed.
The people involved in The Things Network - including all us community members - have helped build something incredible. Lets keep it going - the gateways will turn up soon enough - what matters is what you do with them