Funded! This project was successfully funded on October 24, 2011.

Update #11

Trip to Taipei, Taiwan

Hello backers! I am sorry for the radio silence on my part lately. This is something I definitely do not plan to make a habit of. So, what have we been doing lately? Here it is:

We spend the beginning part of January/late December communicating back and forth with manufacturers. Just one problem...nobody really understood what I was trying to do. The Levitatr keyboard is fundamentally different in minor and major ways compared to a traditional keyboard. When you begin to work with a company that has been building keyboards for 10+ years it becomes difficult to communicate that you have “reinvented the wheel” so to speak. Add a huge language barrier and a 12 +/- hour time difference and the result is a one-email-per-day communication system with confused parties at both ends. Whats the solution? A face to face meeting.

So we traveled to Taiwan to meet with these manufacturers at their facilities. Why Taiwan you ask? Its the unofficial keyboard manufacturer location of the world and I have no idea why and do not care to find out. We arrived in Taipei Wednesday the 18th. First meeting was on the 18th with several others to follow throughout the remainder of the week. I cannot go into much detail about these meetings, their locations and the manufacturers involved because I cannot be sure who reads these updates (cough cough competitors). It should be noted that this is my first experience in this situation. I am only being completely honest with my supporters. I am not a pro but I am a fast learner. Were some mistakes made? Most definitely. Was alot of progress made? Most definitely! Please remember that you pledged money to me to get my company off of the ground. There is no book about doing business in Asia. Scratch that..there are 1000’s of books but most are from big executives flexing their big muscles, muscles we do not yet have...nor would I want to take that stereotypical, thick-headed american approach to doing business in Asia. In my opinion, Asian manufacturers want respect from americans and their companies and this is something I am happy to dish out. Hey, I could not do this without them!

One minor delay and roadblock to progress...Chinese New Year. I knew it was coming I just had not anticipated it taking up so much time. This year, Chinese factories typically shut down from the 18th to the 31st of January. Taiwan takes this upcoming week off (23rd-27th) this year. The manufacturers I am working with rely on both of these areas. This sets us back a short amount of time.

Where are we at now?

All of the parts are in the pipeline. Some are not started due to others needing finished. Its a one foot in front of the other type of process. The mould cannot be cut for the chassis until the circuit board is finished. The circuit board cannot be completed until the keyboard membrane is finished. The mould for the battery cannot be cut until the battery compartment dimensions can be finalized which hinges on the circuit board dimensions the battery shares its space with. The moulds for the upper face, lower cover and kickstand cannot be cut until the chassis is finalized as their dimensions rely on the final dimensions of the chassis. Its a tangled web but we are making progress. We cannot afford to cut moulds and ask questions later as each one costs $3,000-$5000 and we need about 10 of them!

I leave this update with some photos from my journey and a final message.

I need your support now more than ever. You have given me the opportunity of a lifetime and I am forever indebted to you as a backer. You put me on the map. Gizmodo.com, Wired.com, DETAILS Magazine, Esquire Magazine UK, Fast Company Magazine, GQ Japan and many others have all taken interest because of your support for grassroots design and showing the world there was a market for a new, innovative product from an unheard of startup company that could rival major corporations. Its sounds like a movie but its now my life and I will (and do every single day) work my hardest to repay you with an amazing product. Please understand that nobody wants these keyboards in your hands more than I do. I wake up at 8am and go to sleep at 11pm everyday and my nose never leaves my laptop except for basic human necessities. When I get a setback, I am more upset than any of you. It pains me that you all have had to wait this long and longer to get what you have already paid for. All I ask is to please have faith and know that this is not only my full-time job, but my full-time life. I happened to come up with this amazing idea as a light bulb moment. I also happened to pick one of the most complicated iPad accessories as my companies first product. We are not talking about a iPad or iPhone stand here or a hunk of plastic. We are talking about a keyboard that requires hundreds of parts to work with most being custom, first of their kind, kind of parts. The result is an amazing, game changing product but the road to completion is difficult and complicated. I am still planning some sort of perk for making you wait this long. Possibly a price reduction? Stay tuned!

Cheers,

James

Comments

    1. Casey.small

      Creator Casey Sherman on January 23, 2012

      Thanks for the wonderful update James. I have complete faith and confidence in you and the Levitatr team! Keep up the great work.

    2. Missing_small

      Creator Ruud Ravenhorst on January 23, 2012

      Good luck with all james, I keep the faith!

    3. C360_2011-02-11%2023-23-48-1.small

      Creator Kevin C. Jones on January 22, 2012

      Mr Brown Coffee Reminds me of Something not good. lol

    4. 6.small

      Creator James Stumpf on January 21, 2012

      @Craig Dunn, I may have sold myself short in that last post about books/mentors. I have been thinking and planning my coarse of action for this trip since January 2011. I have talked to two or three business owners with direct experience in my target area and learned most all of the customs/business traditions...doubled-handed thoughtful business card transfers, my business cards in Mandarin, do not get involved with the bow, soft handshakes, report to manager/owner who in turn responds to employees, respect the manufacturers prototypes when they are shown to you because they are really proud of them, one on one time with owner who "stretches the figures"...I read many books and spoke with many people. What I was meaning to say was at the end of the day you have to follow your gut and use good old fashion respect which was a lacking topic in all of my readings.

      Cheers,

      james

    5. 6.small

      Creator James Stumpf on January 21, 2012

      Thanks everyone for the positive (and negative) comments. I love feedback! Thanks for the support.

      Cheers,

      James

    6. B%20purnell%20head%20shot%201x1.small

      Creator Brian Purnell on January 21, 2012

      Take your time and get it right, I'm in no hurry, I'll be buying an iPad 3 to use the keyboard with, but who knows when it will come out. I worked in Japan for years for an electronics manufacture, you have no idea how many hang-ups you can have. This thing has so many moving parts and I'm hoping for a slim profile which means minimal tolerances. The best of luck to you, don't be rushed.

    7. Missing_small

      Creator Dominic Raia on January 21, 2012

      James, I for one can wait months to get my hands on the most incredible backlit bluetooth keyboard ever imagined. Take as much time as needed so you can deliver the highest quality product to us. Having dealt with Asia myself I know the delays that can be encountered. You may have more delays in the near future but take it in stride. That's the way it works when dealing with Asian manufacturers.

      Continued luck to you on this project...Dom

    8. Missing_small

      Creator Lee Baucom on January 21, 2012

      Just keep moving forward! My pledge was to help you get it done, because I believed in the product, not because I had a timeline! Keep on truckin'!

    9. Craigsmallheadshot.small

      Creator Craig Dunn on January 21, 2012

      Having worked at many software companies (some being a combination of custom hardware, embedded firmware, and off-board management software), I've had a number of colleagues who have had to fly to and interact with Asian companies. You cannot go unprepared. There are a number of courtesies, protocols, and (dare I say) rituals that must be understood and adhered to in order to avoid (unintended) insult. There are definitely books on the subject, but I would suggest finding a friendly, non-competitor business person in your area who is willing to take you under his wing (I would say "his/her" wing, but Asian business men seem to take a rather dated look upon women in business). Anyway, if you can find someone who has done this sort of thing before, preferably in the specific countries you are dealing with, you will gain a huge advantage in your dealings overseas. As you said a lot of this is about respect....respecting them AND their customs. While "learning the hard way" is often a good lesson, you don't want to burn too many bridges during your education if there are a limited number of potential partners that can make your product a reality.

    10. Missing_small

      Creator Joseph Peterson on January 21, 2012

      Oops. That was supposed to say "that way I CAN'T be unjustifiably disappointed."

    11. Missing_small

      Creator Joseph Peterson on January 21, 2012

      Thanks for the honesty.

      No need or a price reduction here.

      When I find Kickstarter projects I rarely even look at the projected delivery date. That way I can be unjustifiably disappointed. I say unjustifiably because you creators are doing your best. There may be a bad apple or two out there, but I've yet to invest in one. If I do happen to pay attention to the expected delivery date I treat it as say, the start of a 3-6 month window. So, you've still got PLENTY of time to deliver a solid product that meets my expectations for quality and timing.

      Thanks.

    12. 100by100.small

      Creator Sephiryith on January 21, 2012

      skimming through the comments i have to put my 2 cents in...
      Uncle GroOve and Nilay Shah
      Ok so Kickstarter is like investing in stocks, just really more handicapped. you find a small company, put what they specialize and how it could later be beneficial, then begin to speculate.
      Just putting your money somewhere and having good passive faith, is just gambling

      I placed money in this project seeing that it will be trendy and almost everyone will want one

      Great to hear from you! Enjoy your Chinese New year James :P

    13. Img_1355.small

      Creator Quentin on January 21, 2012

      James,
      I am happy to see things are still moving forward. There are always setbacks and little delays in manufacturing. Do not let them block your dream. Thank you for the update on your dealings. It does show me I made a good choice in backing you. I look forward to the end product. My idevice is drooling for it ;). In all serisousness I think what you are experiencing is normal when creating a new product and timelines get crushed. For the next one you will have better contacts and a feel for delivery (keep us in mind there ;) ). Keep plugging on.
      Faithful Backer
      Quentin

    14. Iphone%20034.small

      Creator André De Coninck on January 21, 2012

      James,
      Thanks for your candid response and sharing your experiences with us. I think it's fascinating to hear how one tries to fulfill his dreams. I admire your guts and entrepreneurship. I would say, take your time, but deliver us a product that stands out from the rest, that people that see it go wow! Make it worth while waiting....! From my part I wish you all the best and take care of your health, remember "A candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long".
      Cheers
      André

    15. Missing_small

      Creator Nilay Shah on January 21, 2012

      As a backer on MANY Kickstarter projects, I realize that my investment is just that - I put my faith in someone because they have a strong belief/desire goal they would like to achieve. As an investor, I realize that not all investments are 100% guaranteed, but we pledge our money as a sign of good faith, and then wait. Most times we are lucky and get a great gadget, product, etc. on Kickstarter, albeit sometimes with a delay.

      Keep up the great work James... I believe in you!

    16. Missing_small

      Creator Uncle GroOve on January 21, 2012

      "So we traveled to Taiwan to meet with these manufacturers at their facilities. Why Taiwan you ask? Its the unofficial keyboard manufacturer location of the world and I have no idea why and do not care to find out"
      this is exactly the kind of mindset that got you into trouble, in addition to the fact that as your first project you candidly admit you chose the most complicated iDevice accessory.
      Maybe a little slice of humble pie, my friend?
      Lately I'm seeing a little too much crowing on part of the nouveaux-designer-entrepreneurs, and I'm sort of thinking that as backers we're really paying for your real-life-schooling..... with the finished product coming in (if and when done) as a sort of freebie :-/
      Paul

    17. 6.small

      Creator James Stumpf on January 21, 2012

      Anyone who has not received a sleeve and would like one, please send your mailing address to contact@levitatr.com.

      Cheers,

      James

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