It has been a while since we posted the last update. I understand a lot of our backers have been frustrated and unhappy with such delays and infrequent updates. My number one priority has been to finish building second batch and ship the remaining rewards and pre-orders. That’s what keeps me up at night as founder, and have not thought of dropping the ball for a second.
Finishing up the second batch was an arduous process entailed with numerous challenges along the way. I am glad, and at the same time very exhausted, to finally finish this process. We had to go through a lot of uncertainties and make personal sacrifices to make things happen. I would really appreciate it if you can give me chance to explain what has been going on during the last few months. On the bright side, the second batch left the factory right before the Chinese new year and we managed to make a lot improvements to the product, and the QA process.
To recap briefly, in our first production batch, we built and shipped close to 1500 units. However we had a high defect rate in the first batch, that created a lot of overhead since we had to recall, repair, and replace the defective units. We must have made sure these issues were addressed in the second batch, because we could not afford going through same process again.
The PCB manufacturer that we worked with in USA did a very poor job with building the circuit boards in the first batch. We specifically picked a USA based manufacturing in Fremont, CA because we were worried about such issues, but we realized that despite the higher cost, the manufacturer made several novice mistakes and quality was much worst than a lot manufacturers in Asia.
To give you an idea, in some cases the PCBs were not heated enough to fully melt the solder paste in the reflow oven and solder joints were not strong enough (in some cases even open circuit) and as a result, the components just came off the board with minor pressure.
We did not want to risk working with same supplier and we started looking for a new PCB manufacturer. However, this time we had to run a lot more tests on the PCBs to make sure supplier is able to deliver the PCBs with consistent quality. That required us to build a small batch of 100 locks and test those boards with X-ray, and strength test the components on PCBs. We spent close to two months just going through the process of vetting a new manufacturer.
After approving the quality of the new PCBs and right when we were ready to manufacture the rest of the circuit boards, our Bluetooth chip distributor told us that their lead time had changed from 4 weeks to 4 months, despite an outstanding purchase order with the distributor. The distributor argued that the projected sales quantities for 2015 did not match their order volume from the manufacturers and that’s why the lead times changed.
Unlike other components, we cannot simply buy Bluetooth chips from others manufacturers since the firmware is written and tested for a specific chip. So we had no choice other than wait and escalate the situation to the chip manufacturer to get the chips delivered. We are talking about a company that provides Bluetooth chips to Apple and other phone manufacturers, but unfortunately they treat startups differently. Finally we managed to get the chips after 2 months after the PO date.
At this point, we realized that we need to put some extra the capital together to build the next batch, because all these delays have been negatively affecting our cash flow. It took us another two month to secure financing to build the second batch.
We used this time to make several Improvements to the lock to increase resilience against and humidity and water ingression. We decided to go with a more strict IP67 standard that protects against water immersion. In this test, the lock must endure immersion under the water at 30cm depth for 30 minutes.
In addition to hardware improvements, we made several improvements to the lock firmware, apps, and the software.
We finally managed to ship the second batch out of the factory almost a few days before the Chinese new year began. If you can go to http://www.track-trace.com/ and enter APZU3861038 as the container number, you can track the shipment from Taiwan to Colorado (that's where the fulfillment center is). Based on that information the vessel will be leaving Taiwan on February 16 and arriving to Los Angeles on February 29. It should reach Colorado on March 8th and be delivered to the warehouse by March 10th. The shipment left the factory on Feb 5th but it looks like it is being held in the ship yard till Feb 16 before it hits the Ocean.
Some of the locks got back returned to us because of either invalid address or customs issues. We are sorting out these returned items and will resume shipping operation all at once on March 10th.
During the next couple weeks and before the arrival of the shipment from Taiwan, we will send an email reminder through BackerKit to everyone who has not received their BitLock yet to double check their shipping address.
I understand that this project has been way overdue, and the communication has been poor. Sometimes I get absorbed and sucked into dealing with day to day problems and challenges and take an inward approach instead of reaching out and communicating with people around me, including my backers. I hope you accept my apology and help us keep making this product better.
Love you all,