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September 26, 2014 was the day that this whole thing started. Patrick and I decided a couple of weeks prior we were really going to enter the Engadget hardware competition, not just punt it like we had talked about. It wasn't a huge project; cobble together a mechanical keyboard, E Ink screen, and some software inside of a housing to make a distraction-free writing tool.
It was approaching midnight, the deadline, and Patrick was waiting for me to spring the freshly milled housing from the CNC machine. We needed to have something to show for this competition, a real picture, a live demo, anything that would give the judges a visual of what our idea actually was.
We submitted a rough description and an even rougher prototype.
It didn't have a bottom and was full of hacked electronics but it kinda worked. We had a custom app running on a Raspberry Pi that served an experimental browser running on a hacked e-reader through an internal private Wi-Fi network. A modified Poker II mechanical keyboard provided the input. If you squinted really hard, it was the Freewrite.
On Dec 10th, 2014, we launched this Kickstarter campaign. We knew we had something that was interesting to people but how many? There was a lot we were cautious about. The price, we had never told people the price. The campaign goal, it was a lot higher than what people told us we should set it at. The product parts really are very expensive and there was no other way.
Immediately after we went live, your contributions came roaring in. Yes, some people had objections, but in the first 20 hours we had over $200k in funding and were well on our way to our $250k goal.
Reality sunk in on day 2. We were really going to have to make this thing. Shift gears! We needed a supply chain, electrical engineers, a refined mechanical design, parts, a place to work, a real graphics card that can run Solidworks, experts, more money, and a lot more coffee. Shifting gears became the theme of the 18 months as we constantly had to re-prioritize to triage problems and keep things moving.
It is now May 18th, we have fulfilled substantially all of the Kickstarter rewards and the reviews are coming out. At the start, Patrick and I talked about what our personal goals were for this project. My goal was just to make it into production, no matter the size or the goal of having a sustainable company. Now, having a review like one of our Kickstarter backers and Atlantic contributor, Ian Bogost, wrote: LINK. Well, that really tops it all. I don't expect anybody to write something so insightful and positive like that about anything I have been a part of ever again.
Who are our customers people ask? Real writers I tell them! And the numbers don't lie. We thought the numbers were lying but then we checked them again. And again. You guys have been putting your Freewrites to work! Most people have only had their devices for a few days and already the productivity is through the roof.
At no time did I fantasize about this day, but, when it occurred to our team during a quick meeting on Monday that we have fulfilled all of the Kickstarter rewards, I couldn't help but feel some excitement about putting this chapter behind us and moving on.
A lot of people have been asking us what's next. We haven't had a moment where we didn't feel like we were playing catch up which means we haven't had a lot of time to think about this question. There are a few things I can say:
- We will be continuing development of Postbox and the Freewrite's firmware.
- The Freewrite's hardware is set. I don't expect any major component changes beyond minor manufacturing related tweaks to happen in any future production batches.
- We are starting to think about new products, especially accessories like covers and cases.
- Our team is tiny and must grow for us to properly support the Freewrite ecosystem. The rest of 2016 will be dedicated to hiring these people and bringing in the resources to support them.
There are a lot of people to thank for making this happen: First, my partner, Patrick, for leading and coding a massive software development project while also being a true partner in our company. Our first and only employee, Charlie, for figuring out how to thrive in a turbulent atmosphere that requires him to learn new things everyday while being surrounded by the insanity that is working with Patrick and me. Our EE and hardware engineering partners, Bitgear, who worked with us through 3 timezones with an intensity and diligence that is rarely found from contractors. Our factory partners, Andrew, Max, Stanley, Frankie, Jon, Rupert, and many others who took a chance on us and stepped out of their comfort zone to build this incredible product with us. Our technology partners, Gina and Johnny at E Ink, who were willing to working with us from the beginning despite ordering 0.1% their typical minimum order quantity. Our keyboard builder, Justin at Tex, in Taiwan, for producing our custom keyboard and making it one of the best ever. My friends and family for providing couches and guest bedrooms for me to crash on over the past six months while I commuted between New York, Hong Kong, Detroit and many places in between.
Last but certainly not least, we need to thank you, our Kickstarter backers, for making this happen. This campaign changed my life and I will feel forever fortunate that I have been given the chance to ideate a product and see it all the way through production and delivery, all while staying true to the original vision.
Thank you all!
P.S. We will no longer be responding to Kickstarter messages or comments. Please send any and all inquiries to email@example.com.
Written on my Freewrite ;)
About 500 Freewrite rewards have shipped and there are lots more going out! All should be out the door by the end of next week.
Getting to this point does not mean our work is done. Far from it! We spent the last year+ building a completely custom 'computer' and software platform which was a huge project for our small team. Admittedly, there is still much to do.
In preparation, we have some very important announcements:
- App.astrohaus.com is now deprecated and will soon be shut down. It was originally meant to be a short-lived customer manager but it survived (barely) for much longer than intended.
- All of your accounts that were once in app.astrohaus.com are now living at postbox.getfreewrite.com. You can access your account in Postbox using the same username and password from app.astrohaus.com. Postbox is where you go to manage your device and see your documents.
- We are still working on features in Postbox like screenplay formatting and additional languages. Please be patient, these will get rolled out over time!
- Today we are launching our Community site at community.getfreewrite.com. This is also accessed using your Postbox credentials. It is ONLY available for Freewrite owners. This is a bit of an experiment for us! It will be up to you, our community, to make sure it is an inviting place for everyone to gather and share.
- Today we are also launching our knowledge base at support.getfreewrite.com. We have already written some key articles but will be building it out as we get more feedback.
- Bugs. There will be bugs. We know this! The good news is that we are here to crush them. Please let us know about any bugs or strange behavior by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no need for alarm! The Freewrite is still a new product and we will be doing continuous software development to enhance the device. Did you know we can update the Freewrite's firmware over the air? We can! We will be doing over-the-air firmware updates periodically to keep your devices running as smoothly as possible.
– Adam & Patrick
Every journey has its twists and turns. In the creation story of the Freewrite, there have been a lot of those. Each and every time we encounter a first, all the details reveal themselves and we learn the difference between the way we thought things would work vs how they actually work!
Since Patrick and I returned from China a couple of weeks ago, we have been going through the 'firsts' of packing our production batch of Freewrite (in China) AND processing them with our fulfillment partner in Hong Kong. Given our experience with fulfillment, it is especially important to get the details right because the consequences are lost items, thousands of dollars in extra expenses, and a lot of extra support. Nobody wants any of those things.
The good news is that things are still moving along well! Our manufacturing partner is scheduled to deliver 500 Freewrites to our fulfillment partner tomorrow (27 April) now that we have all of the paperwork and packaging completed. The next step in the process is that they have to book-in each and every carton into their system. They say it can take up to 48 hours after which time they will start fulfilling orders that we load into their system. They are telling us pick and packing will happen quickly but until we go through it with them, we can't be sure how long it will take. The remaining Freewrites are scheduled to be delivered to our fulfillment team in each of the next two weeks by our manufacturer.
We are trying to be as transparent as possible. While we would love to give you a very specific shipping date, we can't do that until your unit actually ships. The best we can do is tell you where your units are at and tell you what lies ahead, as best we understand. Thank you for being part of this process and going along with us for the ride!
Addresses and Phone Numbers
If you haven't logged into app.astrohaus.com to update your address with your phone number, please do that now! Your shipment will NOT go out without a phone number.
For the rest of you who already updated your address with phone numbers, you will see that your address is now locked in app.astrohaus.com. That's because we have already sent your address to the fulfillment provider!
Thanks as always!!
Hello Kickstarter Backers,
Your action is needed to complete your shipping address!
As some of you have already noticed, we have updated app.astrohaus.com to require your phone number. Please log in, update your address to include your phone number, and make sure that your order status goes from 'action required' to 'processing'.
If after you add your phone number, your order status still says 'action required', it means that you still need to select ANSI or ISO keyboard. Click on the order number to set it.
Why do we need your phone number? It is not to call you! But your courier may if they cannot deliver. In many cases, your local courier will call if there is some issue with delivery such as a missing apartment number. Generally, a phone number is required for all international shipments and since all of your orders are coming direct from Hong Kong, we need it.