Kickstarter project spent $3.5M to finish a working prototype—and ended in disaster | Ars Technica

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The “Designs” are complete, patents filed, component suppliers selected, the manufacturing process is defined, the CM [contract manufacturer] chosen so all we need is your support in this project as we size the first myIDkey production run and ship product in September 2013. Please make a pledge and receive your myIDkey!

So the product was ready to go directly to manufacturing…What happened? They over promised and promising more until they ran out of money. I see this happen so many times I could cry. I mean really!!!! This product was very promising. The idea solid. The problem; stop adding features and making changes. JUST STOP!!!!

Feature creep is an easy pit to fall into, but you must resist the temptation to change your product after you have made commitments. Also don’t change your product unless you really have to do so. It will cause delays. Have you ever played the board game Monopoly? Think of it this way if you change something, add something then you do not pass go, do not collect $200 and you have to start at the beginning.

Here is an example. Lets say I want to change a button. You might say well that is not a big deal…right? However after you select the first button you had to work it into your PCB design, industrial design, package design, and your manufacturing plan. When you select a new part you have to go back and work through all those plans you before did again. What happens if the button just does not fit the enclosure right, then industrial design must take place. Then what if you try to get the button in the MOQ and price you can afford, then find out it is a strange type of button that is not common in the market. In that case you will have very long lead times and may not get the part at all. You must ask yourself some business questions (not technological questions):

  1. Is this going to bring added value to the market by adding this feature?
  2. Will this increase the revenue I hope to get for my product in a substantial way to justify the effort?
  3. Will I be able to meet my deliverable commitments, for sales, marketing and volume?

If any of these are no, do not add the feature. Wait till version 2.0 to reconsider it.

via Kickstarter project spent $3.5M to finish a working prototype—and ended in disaster | Ars Technica.

Why That Phone Charger Took Two Years to Arrive – NYTimes.com

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Designing and fabricating a basic prototype was much harder than they had expected, and they spoke wearily of the process of obtaining permission from Apple to sell the case as a licensed accessory.

I am glad I keep reading this articles. I am reminded many times that people underestimate the manufacturing end of the product. It is great fun designing, marketing and branding, but hey you finally have to make the thing since you promised to deliver it. That is where the fun really is. At the last New York Hardware Meetup it was a abundantly clear from the panel that the manufacturing planing was a key thing that was underestimated.

Manufacturing plan is very important. The other item left out is DFM (Design For Manufacturability). People have forgotten about this too. Not forgot, but did not know they need to know that this is part of the product development and manufacturing process. The DFM process makes sure that your product is manufacturable. Without it you have no way of knowing if your product is manufacturable. It is best to keep DFM in mind when you are prototyping your product. That being said, there are many variables when it comes to DFM. In a nutshell you need to work with a person that has the skills and experience working with a factory to know what those variables are.

via Why That Phone Charger Took Two Years to Arrive – NYTimes.com.

The 17th NY Hardware Meetup At the New Microsoft Space In Times Square

Hardware Meetup Organizer Haytham Elhawary
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This month the meet up was at the new Microsoft corporate looking space. It was funny I walked in and thought about the times I worked at IBM. The space was huge. I would say that this space was at least three times the size when compared to the space at eBay. It was a welcomed relief not to be packed in like sardines.

Tom Kennedy (EnergyHub & Refactory) and Stephan von Muelhen (EnergyHub)

Tom Kennedy (EnergyHub & Refactory) and Stephan von Muelhen (EnergyHub)

At this event we had two groups presenting. Tom Kennedy and Stephan von Muelhen first talked about their experiences at EnergyHub and what they learned a long the way about the manufacturing experience. They had some great pearls of wisdom that I totally agree with.

Tom Kennedy (EnergyHub & Refactory) and Stephan von Muelhen (EnergyHub)

Tom Kennedy (EnergyHub & Refactory) and Stephan von Muelhen (EnergyHub)

The line from one of their slides said it best for me, “Process is product”. There are a lot of details that need taken care of when you are manufacturing a product. There a thousand things that can go wrong at any given time. Developing a great product means that you know the process from end to end. I can’t tell you how many times I talk with startups that refuse to embrace what needs doing from start to finish. “Embrace The Horror”. This does means that you have an understanding of what needs to get done and realize that there are things that will come up that you may not of thought of. Actually for startups it is not a matter of if, but when it will happen. Since most startups are new to manufacturing and process in general.

Tom Kennedy (EnergyHub & Refactory) and Stephan von Muelhen (EnergyHub)

Tom Kennedy (EnergyHub & Refactory) and Stephan von Muelhen (EnergyHub)

Tom Kennedy introduced us to his next venture called ReFactory. So, in a nutshell, ReFactory wants to make the PCB/PCBA development and manufacturing process easy. They have many services ranging from design consulting to real PCBA. One main point is that the work is done in the USA in Brooklyn, New York.

Christina Mercando, founder of Ringly Presents

Christina Mercando, founder of Ringly Presents

The next presenter was the fab Christina Mercando, founder of Ringly. I have to say that the product is great looking. It looks high end and wearable. Men’s version? It was great to hear her prospective on bringing a fashionable product to market. I have talked to people who have studied this and they say we are at the infancy of this. I think that Ringly has done some great execution. There are many obstacles to get a product like this to market such as look, electronics and battery size. It just can’t be to big and the battery must last for most of the day. The radios have to penetrate the casing for charging and for Bluetooth. It seems they have solved these problems. The ring is big, but it goes with the styling. Congrats on the great execution.

That was the last presentation. Another one was schedule, but they called to cancel.

Check it out. I have more pictures of the event below. Sorry for the low light conditions, but you should make out the slides and the speakers ok. I did my best to caption the images and make adjustments to the images. Enjoy.

A Process and a Plan

raja-gopuram
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What does it mean to have a process and sticking to it? A repeatable business process or a process that works for what you are working on is like finding gold. I have been talking with startups that want to automate the hardware product development process. The scenarios run the gambit from automating the idea submission process, to just automating the PCB/PCBa, and then there is the ones that try to automate the process from idea to production.

The sentiment is very clear, people want to get rid of the human element or at least lessen the human effects. Such as; some people are hard to deal with or they don’t understand me or the best one yet – you don’t understand my business. All of these shouts in the crowd makes us seem antisocial. I believe that it is a collaboration between willing parties that produce the best work. The machines do not have the capabilities to act totally autonomously (for now) and with creativity. So when it comes to hardware product development you need both. There are just too many variables to automate.

The process approach works. It works like a well oiled machine and best yet it can be adjusted with feedback. Take this example I ran into all the time. The misunderstanding game. You schedule a meeting, but at the last minute the meeting changes from an in-person meeting to a conference call. Not a video call. Once the call starts you can hear on the other end the person click with the mouse and the keyboard. What are they doing over there? They are distracted. The call covers the topics discussed, but the key elements of the call. I will call this the understandings fall to the waist side. What has happened? Unknowingly without you paying attention the parties on the call don’t get it and the call was a waste of time. How often does this happen? Well in my time more times than none. So what I do is make sure you can see the person, at least at first. And this can be done easily now with the Google Hangouts or Skype. The face-time is essential for building trust and the relationship. After the sense of trust is there then the non-face-time tools will work much better and the understandings will not fall to the waist side. A personable approach just works.

Why is this part of the process and not assumed to be operational? That is because too many people are rush rush rush and too busy to know how to make a relationship. The relationship building is essential to the process. Once a sense of trust is there, even a little bit the rest will be simpler. Mistakes will not be the blame game, but a game of how do we fix it and come up with a creative way to solve the problem. Interwoven in the process is trust.

How could you then automate this in a computer? People have thought of various was to build trust or cred online. There is klout, linkedin, etc. However, we know that social media can be faked and the posts can be BS. Nothing new there. Before all of this people would BS on their resume and the only way to find out was to be a good interviewer or try the candidate out. Been there done that. Could you automate this? What would be a software solution for trust building? There is the recomendation engine solutions, but what happens if you are new to the site and you have none listed and you have many years with experience. What would be the online solution for trust?

Let’s experiment with a particular scenario – I am a hardware startup, I have a great idea, and I want to get my product idea to market. I have a limited number of skills. So let’s say that you are not very technical (You don’t know manufacturing) and you have made a software startup before. What is the process to use? Every step of the way you can get people to help. The things to watch out for is money, time and quality. Do you have the money to pay people, can you get people to help you for free or can you learn what you need to know yourself? How fast do you need to get this product out? If you say I need to sell this within a few weeks, you are crazy – That will never happen. The best thing to do is to research other products that are similar as yours. Research the business portions of your product idea for viability. That is right – Is it a viable product? There are methodologies out there to help you such as Lean Startup. Viability also means that you need to dive in and see who out there is doing what you want to do, what markets they and you want to be in and get a sense of the cost. The cost is not in the details yet but is important to know what the market would pay for your product.

Feasibility is the next step. Can this product idea be built? I have heard some crazy comments about this. Oh yes, everything can be done. However most people read that up to that point and then don’t read about the cost and time elements. Sure you can develop a new method of communication (for example), but what about the technology and what about the market acceptance? Is it too soon? Does the technology need more time to cook? By cook, I mean does it need more research and development. Did you pick a technology that no one is using or the only ones using it are the big players? For you to enter you need to be a big player. Startups that have reached this step tend to look at the future technologies and don’t put into account this. An example of this is that you want to use a screen technology that would make your product look gorgeous. You find a technology that is great, but very few people are using it and the players are big companies. What do you do here? You start out and create a version 1 of your product. The product does not use the new technology, but you can get a product out there that can be used and feedback gained. Or you can wait till the technology matures. If you are a large company with limited access to the technology then you can wait. You have the time and the money. For a startup, you need to get something out there so you can tell if the product is the right one for that market. It is best to know now before you spend a lot of time and money on the product. Look at it another way. You need to gauge the market and get data so you can understand the acceptance. Through the lifecycle of the product, you will have other versions of the product. This should not be your first and only one – how will you have a business with repeatable rents? So come up with version one. Call it the MVP or call it the beta product. Get the data and repeat.

Hardware product development takes time. You can tell from the latest crowdfunding campaigns that people have underestimated the duration and skills needed to deliver. Get someone that has done this before and ask their advice. Find out how similar products were made. What were their hiccups – Then put together your plan. Having a process and a plan will make you successful.

In future blog post, I will get more specific about how all this works. I have thought about creating a multipart post, but I have not thought that far yet. I need to get my writing process together and then create a plan.

Photo credit: Prabhu B Doss / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

AnthroTech, Anthropology in Technology March 2014 Event About User Experience Research & Design

Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver
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I went to the AnthroTech: Anthropology in Technology last night at the NYU Washington Square Campus. It was my first time going to this meetup. I thought it would be interesting so I went. As a user and builder of technology products (and a human) I thought it would be interesting to see how people at this meetup use anthropological methodologies to study the use of products. It is clear that studying humans is necessary for product development. How else are we find out how people use software or hardware products? Anthropology looks like it would mesh well with the other techniques we use today to do this. At this meeting the topic was “User Experience Research & Design”. The organizers took a great approach by including two aspects of UI/UX in two presentations. The talk was first about UI/UX in the context of software and then hardware. The hardware presentation was the one that I wanted to see. That is what I am doing now. Hardware product development.

Adam Nyhan one of the organizers of the AnthroTech Meetup

Adam Nyhan one of the organizers of the AnthroTech Meetup

The introductions of the presenters was done by Adam Nyhan one of the organizers of the event. He mentioned there would be wine after…I love wine. On with the show…

Jenifer Vandagriff Director of User Experience at F#

Jenifer Vandagriff Director of User Experience at F#

The first up was Jenifer Vandagriff Director of User Experience at F#. F# is a company that specializes in online advertising for music. They merge music, technology and advertising to help brands reach consumers. It is a great idea to combine the love of music and products. I have some friends that tell me they have their own theme songs. Jenifer walked us through their method. It is difficult for them to iterate on product when the ads (their product) have a short life span. I like the way they use measurement. The data feeds into their product development process. It provides them a way to react fast to the reactions people have to their adds. From what I see they use tools like Google Analytics, Facebook Stats and their own home-made tools. The process they use is pretty much standard for any software development shop today. I did not see much new here that I have not seen before.

Jessica Bates is Consumer Insights Analyst at Sony Electronics

Jessica Bates is Consumer Insights Analyst at Sony Electronics

The second and last presenter was Jessica Bates Consumer Insights Analyst at Sony Electronics. Before working at Sony she was a former Lecturer in Anthropology at San Diego State University. I was hoping to hear some insights into Anthropology and the product development process. Does it help or does it hurt the process? From her presentation it was clear that she was looking from the outside into the organization. I have been there before, as a consultant, many many times before. It has more pluses than minuses. The plus is that since you are looking from the outside in you see what people don’t see. Very valuable. The downside is that people may not know why you are there and you have to constantly remind people who you and what you do. Her presentation went through the product development life cycle in Sony. Most of which you can check out in the pictures below. Much to say that there were many avenues the processes could go through depending on management approval, budget and whatnot.  Sony is definitely not as agile as a startup and they do move slowly. I wonder is that an excuse anymore with all the information out there on how not to be slow and how to use innovation techniques to create new products and services. I remember Sony very lovingly from when I was a teenager use my water proof yellow Walkman (remember those?).  It is sad to me that it seems that they have fallen behind and are playing it safe. I am glad she walked us through the different ways they go through the process. It showed very clearly what gets in their way.

After the presentation I talked with her about the methodologies we teach in the NYU School of Engineering Management of Technology and Innovation. One of the techniques we teach is Outcome-Driven Innovation. (I should  do a word count on how many times I have used the word innovation. Ugh I bet it is way too many.) Outcome-Driven Innovation developed by Tony Ulwick and it studies the jobs-to-be-done. The method works and gives quantitative data that management can understand and use to make decisions about the value of developing a product (or adding/updating features to a product).

Check it out. I have more pictures of the event below. Enjoy.

Feature Image Photo credit: EarthOwned / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA The rest of the photos I took.

Inno/Vention Power Pitch February 2014 NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering Pfizer Auditorium, Bern Dibner Library of Science & Technology 5 MetroTech Center Brooklyn

Brooklyn Borough Hall Station
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Last night I was invited to judge the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering Inno/Vention Power Pitch hardware (There was a software competition. I did not judge that) competition. This competition is a student run event sponsored by the EIA student club.  I love going to these events to see and hear the product ideas the students have and how they plan on executing the business.

Inno/Vention Team List

Inno/Vention Team List

This is how it works: At the start of the semester the EIA holds an event called the Sparkstart Kickoff/TeamHunt. At this event the students announce their ideas and hunt for people they would need to build their team. During the next several weeks the students attend educational events to help them develop their idea further into a business. They learn customer validation, market research, product development, business model canvas and various techniques from the great mind of Steve Blank. The students gave their first pitch at the event last night. Five teams are picked to move forward to the next pitch event. The student teams are given a stipend to spend on prototyping. There is a schedule for the Inno/Vention Competition here.

Our task as judges was to score the teams on various categories that are part lean startup model. After all the teams presented the judges collaborated and picked the five winning teams. The winners were:

  1. Skinesiology
  2. C-Cubed Robotics
  3. Team Limitless
  4. SensD
  5. Listen To Your Wrist

#CleanwebNY February 2014 Hosted at NYU Urban Future Lab Brooklyn NY

Patrick Morris Co-Organizer With Opening Remarks
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I got there very early. It said it started at 6:30pm, but the people started to arrive at 6:30PM. This was my first time attending the #CleanwebNY Meetup being held at NYU Urban Future Lab Brooklyn NY on the Engineering (formerly know as NYU-Poly) School’s campus. The venue is a partnership project between NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering and the NY NYCEDC. The space is in the 15 Metrotech Center building. Amy (Head of Community) gave me a great tour of the space. It has not officially opened yet, but it is looking great. I can’t wait till after the build out and they have their opening. Congrats on the great space NYU Urban Future Lab!!

The  #CleanwebNY meetup is about startups developing products (software or hardware or both) for the Clean Technology space.  They also are a part of this initiative: Cleanweb.co

Patrick Morris Co-Organizer With Opening Remarks

Patrick Morris Co-Organizer With Opening Remarks

The opening of the event was done by Patrick Morris Co-Organizer of the event. Great job in introducing the line up. The theme of this event was Cleanweb Connected Devices.

The first up to present was Jun Shimada Co-founder of ThinkEco. Their produce connects electric utility customers’ appliances such as air conditioners to the web. The data the devices collect flow into their cloud solution and gets processed for the utility companies. They partner with the utilities companies to create a program such as this for the customers. I have seen many variations of products like these in the past the difference with ThinkEco is their execution strategy. The partnerships with the utility is key. From the presentation it sounds like they have learned how to work with the utilities communicating their vale to them effectively.

Next up was Gabe Blanchet and Jamie Byron Co-founders of Grove Labs. Grove Labs creates hardware and software appliances for greenhouses and farms. The have created their own platform called GroveOS. Their competitive advantage is that they are cheaper and cloud connect when you compare them to their competition. They are also working on a pilot with Abu Dhabi and the UAE. If successful their products would be used in the entire country. That is a huge deal. I wish them a lot of luck. It sounds like Grove is a company the big players would want to buy. Such as what happened to MakerBot (bought by Stratasys). The big companies are making an effort to outwit the Innovator’s Dilemma. 

The last presentation was given by Brian Langel Co-Founder Dash Labs. Dash Labs creates software that uses information collected from a OBD device. These devices connect to the car diagnostic. I have seen their product before. I had sworn that they at one point they were selling a hardware product. I am not sure if they pivoted from that. Their direct competitor Automatic sells the hardware and provides the software. Dash Labs concentrates on the data collection and provides a social driving experience for their customers. If I had a car I would use their product. 

All in all I thought this event was informative. It was great to see the progress of the companies I have seen before.  

Check it out. I have more pictures of the event below. Sorry for the low light conditions, but you should make out the slides and the speakers ok. I did my best to caption the images and make adjustments to the images. Enjoy.