This is going to be a fairly long update, but we encourage you to go through it because all of it is important. A few things first before we get to the manufacturing news, our trip to China and other key issues.
First and foremost, we have gone quiet and we’re really sorry about that. We’ve been intensely negotiating with our manufacturing partner, which we will talk about in this update, and we had to wait for some crucial pieces of information first in order to avoid communicating something that wasn’t 100% confirmed. More on that below.
This also applies to another quite complex thing, which is the shipping fees. A lot of you have already asked about the customs and shipping fees especially for Europe with regards to our decision to move production to China. We think it’s only fair for us to bear any additional expenses caused by this so you don’t have to worry about it, and this applies worldwide for all the backers, not just for Europe.
Another thing we want to get out of the way is T-shirts. Does everyone have theirs? And more importantly, do you like them? Do they fit? We want to know! If you haven’t got yours, please check in with us. Some of them have already been returned to us due to incorrect addresses as well as some that haven’t been claimed. We’ve been in touch with most of you about that, but feel free to reach out if yours hasn’t come yet.
We have a new strategic manufacturing partner
The biggest task in the couple last months has been our trip to China and our mission to find the right strategic manufacturing partner. During our stay, we visited a number of factories that varied not only in terms of size, but also quality of production, processes and right types of partnerships. A few of the most significant factors for us have been financial stability, strong R&D background and production process management.
After 2 months and careful consideration of all the possibilities, we finally made a choice, which was about a month ago. The company we chose has vast experience with electromobility as well as our key components, including their manufacturing and assembly. Moreover, the company has a seasoned development team that is at our disposal. They have well-established basic processes not only for assembly, but also post-assembly, such as QC (Quality Control) and global shipping, which will be suitable for our purposes.
We are glad to say we get along well with the company management both on the personal and professional level. We share the same vision of smart electric vehicles and the passion for new technologies. Establishing this new strategic manufacturing partnership is a very significant company milestone that brought us yet another step closer to delivering our first batch of boards.
We have secured more key partnerships
Just as important as finding the strategic manufacturing partner has been securing suppliers for the most crucial and the most expensive components of the board.
Another key partnership we have established is with a company that will manufacture motors for our boards. The motor samples they custom made for us, which we then tested, achieved excellent results and are by far the most efficient and powerful motors we’ve had in our hands. They also meet our requirements in terms of design, which is another advantage.
The next partnership is with a company that specializes in the production of batteries and is among the leaders on the market. One of their biggest advantages is that we can use their R&D team that will help us with the final design and optimization of our battery pack, which they will then manufacture to suit our needs.
A few next steps forward
In terms of product development, we primarily focused on testing motor samples we acquired from our new supplier after coming back from China. After series of tests we are finally able to say we’re seriously happy with the results.
Based on what we learned in China, we adjusted the board’s design where we changed the rear wheels to fit the new motors as well as the trucks. We also changed the accessories, namely the batteries based on a design of the internal structure we acquired from the supplier, and a remote that was improved in terms of its visual aspects, ergonomics and less LED diodes used for communicating information. We made a model of the remote, based on which we slightly adjusted the shape of the controlling component. We also focused on details related to accessories, such as color, logo placement and texts of certifications.
Updated delivery dates
Our new manufacturing partner just sent us a timeline. It is not what we were hoping for and we are discussing potential improvements to save time, but we don’t want to underestimate it as we have done in the past and would rather count with the estimate at hand, so here it goes. It’s June next year. However, given their vast experience, we are confident that this estimate is close to accurate and that this is it, no more delays. Even if it’s not great, we’re still happy with the fast progress we’ve been making ever since we opted for China.
One of the reasons it’s pushed to June is the fact that we cannot make it before the end of January as we hoped and there will be the whole month of February that is devoted to celebrations of the Chinese New Year, which means all the manufacturing facilities are closed. We weren’t aware of this fun fact until our visit. We’re very much aware that you won’t be happy with this piece of news, but we hope that you will be able to see all the progress from this point on and be as excited as we are about it.
A few explanations and a small favor to ask you as our backers
We have a massive delay and it’s not ideal, we all are well aware of that. We cannot express how sorry we are about the fact you haven’t got your boards to ride yet. We learned that the journey from creating an innovative product to getting it into mass production is beyond any difficulty we ever imagined. But we assure you that every team member gives their 150% to get the boards to you as soon as possible.
Our board combines a lot of complex mechanical and electronic designs along with advanced software, which adds up to a seriously complicated product. An important factor adding to our delay is our lack of experience with mass production as well as, unfortunately, unknowing ideas about what phase our product was in. From the end of Kickstarter, we also had to face many serious obstacles we objectively couldn’t prevent. We went through hell and it hasn’t been easy to keep going underneath all this. Most people in our place would have already waved a white flag, issued an apology and closed shop altogether.
Most people don’t realize that a budget necessary to develop and produce a hardware product such as ours is at least $2M. The Kickstarter campaign was a condition from our investors to validate our project - it was never really about the Kickstarter money because getting the product into mass production for that amount is impossible.
As for changes on the product, it’s always slightly different to the prototype. It’s mainly because we didn’t focus primarily on manufacturability in the prototyping phase, but we later learned in the DFM phase (Design For Manufacturing) that some of the components were extremely difficult or expensive to manufacture. Every change we made, though, makes the board better in terms of functionality and safety.
A lot of people also criticized our decision to move production to China. It’s the best decision we ever made and we’re only sorry for not making it sooner. China offers vast manufacturing experience, automation and scaling of production, high quality and incredibly speeding the whole process up. Not to forget, reasonable prices.
We know a lot of people think badly of products being made in China, but the fact is China is far ahead of the rest of the world in terms of technology and manufacturing. It all comes down to what you want manufactured. If you want a premium product such as Apple, DJI or GoPro, which are all manufactured there as well, that’s what you’ll get. If you want a cheap, low-quality product to keep the price at minimum, you’ll get a cheap, low-quality product.
We spent 2 months choosing the right manufacturing partner and now we have a strong, experienced one that produces premium products, knows the ins and outs of production processes and has already been producing thousands of products each year, which means we will be able to deliver a product in high quality we promised, which wouldn’t be possible in Europe.
At the end of the day, we’d like to point out that Kickstarter is not an online store and when it comes to hardware products in particular, they are presented in their pre-production phase. We’re not the first or the last with a wildly incorrect estimated delivery date. And considering Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform, we’re all in this together, for better or worse. We just want to ask you to keep that in mind. We’re sorry about what we’ve kept seeing in the comments for a long time and we’d like to point out that all it does is make things worse, for us as well as for you. Having to constantly face not only waves of criticism, but also threats of lawsuits and even abuse is taking up a lot of our time we’d rather invest into delivering the boards sooner.
Frankly, it also demotivates the whole team, we have anxiety about what and how to communicate because it oftentimes feels like anything we do or say triggers another wave of backlash. Speaking of the team, which is fairly small due to our lack of resources, we don’t really have anyone in particular to handle the customer care area. One of our colleagues has been taking care of that, but technically it’s not her job. In any case, given the abuse from several backers that we’ve been dealing with and that we cannot share because it also involves what we find in private messages, emails and even on our personal social media, we can’t really blame anyone for not wanting to do it.
Nevertheless, over the last couple of months, we have made incredible progress and despite having a small team and a significantly smaller budget than necessary, despite the never-ending anxiety, we are happy that we keep overcoming the obstacles, which says something about our resilience and strength as a team. But we also want to say we are very grateful for any support we get and we are determined to deliver what we promised.
We are back in China and we are working hard together with the development team of our new manufacturing partner. Hopefully, we will bring more specific updates on how the production itself is going. It is likely to be after Christmas, though.
As always, we are infinitely grateful for your support. Although it hasn’t been an easy journey, we believe that together, we can make this happen. And we will.