Project history and status as of today
Dear fellow backers,
I am writing this message, against the advise of my counterparts/legal etc, as an advocate for all backers who have been duped by fraudulent campaigns. I am sick and tired of people going onto Kickstarter, making false claims, taking peoples hard earned money, and not delivering on promises, just as much as all of you. Granted some campaigns have difficulties, delays, and even legitimately fail for many valid reasons. So how will we ever know the truth and moreover what is the case for this project??? RESEARCH and the FACTS!!!. I have spent many hours making phone calls, pulling financials, following leads, conducting numerous conversations with individuals close to this project and feel I can give a definitive evaluation of the SoundBand project from start to finish based on real facts. Before I give my findings let me list my criteria for evaluating the project.
1.) Who are the original creators?
2.) Who is still involved in the project?
3.) What led to the project delay or failure?
4.) What are existing creators backgrounds?
5.) How are existing creators compensated?
6.) How much capital have existing creators injected into the project?
7.) Do existing creators have loans that supported the project success?
8.) What contractors, vendors, designers, engineers etc. are involved?
9.) What do projects of this type generally cost and how does that compare to this project?
10.) Based on the facts is the project viable?
11.) What is the actual cost to manufacture a soundband?
12.) What is the actual status of the project today?
I understand not all backers may see this update since it could be pulled from the site at anytime, but here are the facts. I also understand it has been a long time since updates, but I only wanted to provide backers with valuable information. You were going to receive either a message of success or one of failure. YOU BE THE JUDGE!
The original creators of this project were Ryan Wells, Meagan Wells, Marty Stevenson, and Joseph Thiel. Ryan, Meagan, and Marty were mainly running the soundband project and prepared the Kickstarter campaign materials. This is indicated in the corporate documents related to the project. Thiel was running the Hybra Energy Lighting division and had minimal over-site of either soundband or Kickstarter campaign, at the time of the launch. In fact, Thiel and investors suggested not offering the project and felt it was a mistake. At the time of the launch, Marty and Meagan were employed by Hybra, Stevenson $85,000/yr. and Meagan $50,000/yr., and Joe and Ryan were fully employed by alternative sources unrelated to Soundband. Thiel and Wells have never been compensated by Hybra and Thiel or his related companies have never received any compensation from Hybra or the Kickstarter campaign PERIOD!. Once the campaign was successful, Hybra hired one full time electrical engineer who remained employed by the company until the end of 2014. He was compensated $150,000/year during his employment. Hybra also hired a marketing manager and contracted multiple web development/SEO firms after the launch.
As of February 2014 Thiel and the remaining engineer were the only individuals involved in the project. At that time, a new company was formed Hybralux LLC. and all intellectual property, trademarks, and copyrights were left in Hybra Advance Technology. Hybralux LLC was formed as a lighting division taking the place of Hybra Energy. Since Hybra Energy was a wholly owned subsidiary of Hybra Advance Technology it was advised to separate it from HAT just in case the soundband failed. HEC was a successful unrelated entity and it was advised to separate liabilities. Thiel was named president of all companies and Wells/Stevenson were removed as owners, managers. Hybra Advance Technologies offices were closed in Traverse City and all operations were moved to Warren, MI. Offices in TC were owned by Wells and are now leased to other tenants. Soundband development, at this time, was continued but totally from scratch. Thiel and new engineer discovered the piezo element in the original design was unable to be mass produced and could not be used. This information and other information obtained in early 2014 led to the release of project managers and the reset of the project. In addition, the soundband was also evaluated by a very reputable electronics design build company in Michigan and was found to be far to expensive to manufacture in its current form. Issues included: Wire harness costs and failure rate, inoperability issues with microphone and piezos due to both devices existing in a common housing, battery life issues, main control switch design and functionality issues. main control board design issues, tooling design issues, and overall ergonomics of the entire unit. With all of these issues the project seemed to be a complete failure. Against all odds, Thiel pleaded and negotiated with all parties still involved to reset the project and drive the project forward to completion, to the point of being required to give up all his equity in the project. Thiel is the original inventor of the project and believes, if it ever sees the light of day, will be a fantastic project. Also Thiel has never given up on anything. He is known to be a very determined and driven individual by all that know him. To give up is not an option especially once a promise was made. Thiel still oversees all aspects of the project.
Current stock share holdings of Hybra Advance Technology are as follows:
Angel Investors: 73%
Current stock share holdings of Hybralux are as follows:
The existing creators had a multitude of backgrounds. At the time of launch, Thiel was a family man and industrial engineer, Wells a real-estate developer and new father, Mrs. Wells a restaurant owner, exec. assistant and new mother, and Stevenson a family man and Environmental Engineer. All original creators had many past successes and were very well respected by all that know them. All come from good families and had much support at the time of launch. None of the individuals have had any history of fraud, bankruptcy, bad business dealings, or other legal issues.
Before the Kickstarter campaign about $660,000.00 was invested in the soundband by angel investors. Between campaign launch and Feb 2014, no personal funds, outside of Kickstarter, or other company funds were injected into the project. After Feb 2014, an additional $50,000.00 of capital from angel investors, about $120,000.00 from Hybralux LLC, $75,000.00 from personal loans obtained by Thiel, and countless hours from Thiel and volunteers, were directed towards the completion of the soundband. Majority of funds prior to Kickstarter launch were directed to 3 main sources, an engineering firm in California, an engineering firm in Chicago, and an engineering consultant in Shenzhen China. From the launch of the campaign to Feb 2014 funds were directed towards staff salaries, a design engineering firm in the Detroit area, marketing and web firms in the TC area, a tooling design house in northern Michigan, a piezo development company in UK and a manufacturing company in Taipei and Shenzhen, rental properties company in TC area, Intellectual property firms in Detroit and TC area, Legal firms in the Detroit area, an accounting firm in Detroit and TC area, and a electronics design firm in Chicago area.
Funds after Feb 2014 were directed towards a electronics board layout and design company in Ann Arbor area, an electronics contract manufacturer in the Ann Arbor area, a tooling design company in the Milwaukee area, a rapid prototyping company in Milwaukee area, a plastic injection mold manufacturer in the Milwaukee area, an electronics component supplier in the Ann Arbor area, a packaging design company in the Ann Arbor area, Legal firms in the Ann Arbor area, A mechanical design house in Detroit and Milwaukee areas, a board build house in the Ann Arbor area, a flex board build house in Ann Arbor area, an acoustics testing and design equipment manufacturer in Shenzhen, and a multitude of certification houses.
At this time, Hybra is working with reputable companies in all areas of project development, design, and manufacture of the soundband project. Hybra has been making significant financial investments with all parties and all parties are deeply involved in the completion and manufacture of the product. Thiel has positive reputation with all entities and he and engineers are intricately involved in all aspects of the projects.
Projects of this type, ones that are breaking new ground in multiple fields of electronics and electrical component design and integration, take years and millions of dollars to develop, when guided by teams of experienced engineers.
At this time, I see the soundband as a viable project and having a high probability of delivery. Unfortunately inexperience and unknown component issues led to mass delays and a full redesign of the product.
The soundband, in low volume ( >500 ), costs $695.45 to build. In 5000+ volumes the soundband costs $98.70 to build and deliver. In volumes over 20,000 units the SB costs $39.70 to build and deliver.
The current status of the project is as follows:
Board design and build: Complete
Below you can see the new multi-function button and switch. This is similar to the parts found in gaming controllers. The previous design had a flex strip with multiple buttons and was totally unreliable. This switch has right, left, up, down and push in functionality (will show more details in later assembly views). You can also see the new battery solder points integrated into the left of the board. In previous design the battery was manually soldered to the main PCB. In this design the flex board (next view) is sandwiched between the battery and the main pcb board. This design allows for much lower profile and robotic solder in the manufacturing and assembly process. IN this view you can also see the mirco usb charger and audio output. This is a mid mount design to save space/height and has both charging and manual audio capabilities if users do not want to link vial Bluetooth. Clearly we are using a standard BC module. We utilized this part for ease of programming and since it already carries FCC certs. Finally, the piezo driver crystal is located just above the mid mount micro-usb port. Unfortunately, this part was obsoleted so we ordered 4000 and have them in inventory, but will have to change it and mount it in the earpiece in later versions. This was the only dual output stereo part available and we wanted to save time, money, and space and elected to use it rather than multiple mono-output parts.
BOM form main board and new flex board: Complete
You can see the surface mount section for the semiconductor microphone on the left side and the new on/off switch on the right side. You can also see the detail of the connectors for piezo elements and other components connected to the dongle in the middle of the flex strip. This connector point was designed to eliminate the previous cords from dongle to earpiece. These contacts correspond to contacts in the middle of the main board. This allows for robotic solder in the manufacturing process and significantly greater strength and durability. This design was durability tested for 30 lbs of pull force. Finally, you can see the new piezo connection points at the ends of the flex strip. In the previous design the piezos were manually soldered directly to the connecting cables. This design did not meet the required pull force. The new design here mounts the flex directly to the earpiece housing and the new flat piezo is robotically soldered to the flex portion that is mechanically attached to the earpiece via the two holes (will see additional details later in assembly views) Cool fact about this material is that is requires no additional over molding and is totally waterproof and extremely flexible. ( Got to give props to Rick and the electrical design team on all of these amazing ideas!! Great job guys!)
Flex Strip Assembly and mating to the Main PCB Board and Piezo
Mechanical Design and Build: Complete
Thought it would be cool to show the final revision to the mechanical design before I finalized the tool. Also added the tooling quote just for validity (really just to give the haters something more to analyze and find fault with.)
Mass Production Tooling: Completed but still a little tweaking on the slide release of main dongle housings.
Tool is pretty standard carbon steel production tooling. Unfortunately, this is the second production tool we had to build. The original tooling was scrapped since the unit could not be mass produced using it (In other words I paid for this version myself). Took a couple months to get the design right for each of the materials. But we are close not to smooth parts at high speeds. The Dongle, Earpieces, Piezo connection covers, and piezo rubber seal covers are all rigid plastic. The piezo seals, earpiece hooks, and button covers are all rubber. The earpiece hooks have special properties that make them warm to fit materials, similar to the materials used in athletic mouth guards. You simple warm water and place the hooks in. Once they are soft you place them on your ears and form them to fit. Thought that was a cool idea that our tooling designer came up with. (Way to go Rusty!!)
Plastic for Mass Production Housings: Procured
Mass production component procurement: All long lead time parts or obsoleted parts have been procured for 4000 units.
Pre-Production prototype (20 units): Complete
Production process plan and build costs: Complete
Audio Testing Enhancements: Complete
Packaging Design and Build: Complete
Procurement of all popcorn parts: In Process
Final Build, Assembly, Pack. Ship: Pending
In closing, I want to make a few things very clear. Since inception of this idea and its award winning debut in 2010, I have always felt it was an amazing product and idea. The concept was prompted in response to audio eyewear. Soundband was created as an eyewear retainer strap with onboard audio. Sorry audio eyewear companies but only bounty hunters like your designs. Unfortunately, Soundband fell on some hard times and away form its original purpose. Today I am going to set that straight. Soundband is a lifestyle wearable for casual listening. It produces high quality sound, via surface sound to the back of the ears NOT BONE CONDUCTION!!!!, without eliminating you from your ambient surroundings. Surface sound and the use of piezo technology in this form function has not been accomplished to this level. Creating a new design required design of all features. Soundband can be worn as an over the ear headset or as an eyewear retainer strap. It is most suitable for casual listening at work, while enjoying nature, your family, museum tours, or sporting events. Many new audio concepts have been identified by our team during the development process of this product and will still hope to share all of them with you. One example is our "IN THE GAME" concept. This concept allows users to watch sporting events while simultaneously listening to commentary and or listening directly to events on the playing field as they unfold. We have many more.
For all you loyal soundband backers, you know who you are and we thank you, this update was for you. We are so thankful for all your support and sticking with us, we know it has been hard. I hope you have a little more confidence in this projects success and that you feel your support has been heard and will continue to be heard as we near delivery. I can tell you from the bottom of my heart I will not give up on you. I will do whatever I can to keep going forward each day FOR YOU!
For all others who keep bashing us and causing countless delays and hardships hopefully this update has at least silenced your senseless barrage. All of the hateful things you say and inaccurate statements you make have nearly destroyed this project. You claim that your creating this chaos to push the project forward and keep us on task. I can tell you your efforts have done nothing but delayed and nearly derailed us. To you I keep silent.
Very Best to you all,