It has been quite some time since we last spoke, and it’s time to bring you up to speed. As you may recall, in February we announced that Tiko had run into financial difficulties. We had frozen all operations, but we were not yet ready to quit. We have since spent over half a year quietly exploring ways to get back on track. We pursued many avenues, but in the end, came up short. As such, it is time for us to share the strategies we explored, the efforts we made, and to finally make a necessary –albeit heartbreaking– announcement. But first, let’s start from the beginning.
The Turnaround Effort
After February’s announcement, we maintained some R&D momentum, this time in China. We knew that we would have to demonstrate technical improvements in order to raise capital. Given our financial predicament, our options were limited. But still we pressed onward.
Through a combination of experimental firmware developments, slicer fine-tuning, minor hardware adjustments, and QC process improvements, we were able to realize measurable improvements in print quality, success rates, and overall reliability.
Unfortunately, improving print quality was not enough to secure a deal. While investors were impressed by the printer and complimented us on our work, they ultimately turned us down. Tiko was not a good fit. We kept seeking new investors, but a pattern soon emerged. Our capital requirements were too large for Angels, but our operation was too risky for Venture Capital. We had scaled up too soon, and sought capital too late.
Over and over again, we were turned down. By late May we had gotten the message – Tiko would not be funded. Still, we were not ready to give up, and so we explored other ideas.
First, we reached out to the dozens of distributors who had contacted us over the past year. It seemed there were countless opportunities here, but it turned out there weren’t. Some were small-scale re-sellers seeking order sizes too small to overcome our manufacturing overheads. Others were large and established distributors that required us to manufacture inventory first – using capital we did not have and could not raise. We were stuck, and one by one, the opportunities fizzled out.
Throughout the campaign, we had concentrated on fulfilling rewards first, so we largely left commercial (B2B) sales/distribution on the back-burner. While this felt morally right, it also meant that we had missed our opportunity to create strong partnerships and sales channels (which take months or years to build) that could potentially have saved us.
We tried taking a more active approach by attending some local B2B tradeshows to meet other distributors. While we received a great deal of interest, nothing significant ever materialized. We had already missed the boat.
Through June and beyond, we attempted to bootstrap our way to some profitability, enough to prove traction/stability with those risk-averse investors. We therefore put the remaining few Tiko’s into local retail stores, and worked with their staff to optimize sales.
While Tiko received great interest, the sales were modest at best. Tiko was cool, but it was neither a necessity nor an impulse buy. The investors were not impressed – and we needed them. Local sales alone would not save us.
Even if we had sold all of the remaining (assembled) inventory, the resulting revenue would not have covered the overhead of manufacturing additional units. All we had left were boxes and boxes of parts – but not of the whole BOM. A few components were only manufactured JIT (Just in Time) due to their size (ie chassis) leaving us with very little finished stock. By now, other components were also being held as collateral.
We simply could not manufacture additional units from sales revenue alone. Tiko was designed for mass manufacture – small batches were prohibitively expensive to produce. We continued to explore a combination of investment/distribution/retail, trying to use each to bolster the others, but it was slowly becoming clear that the company would not make a comeback. Tiko was buckling under its own weight, and there was nothing we could do about it.
By August and we were beaten and bruised, but not broken. We knew the company could not recover, but we hoped to at least salvage the situation for our backers – even if that meant walking away with nothing.
There are some rather powerful technologies within Tiko’s hardware and software – technologies we believed could be of value to established manufacturers. Even if a company didn’t wish to manufacture the Tiko printer, the technologies inside could be of interest to them. As such, we pursued a number of leads to sell the company/IP in exchange for the minimum funds required to ship Tiko (or a substitute printer) to backers, or otherwise offer a full. We received some interest, but nothing that would completely satisfy Tiko’s obligations. We were running out of options.
The Final Stretch
By September, we had only one lead left. It had already been several months in the making, and looked promising. It was a hybrid investment-acquisition deal that would have resulted in the shipment of all remaining printers to backers. We were thrilled. It seemed like a solution was finally around the corner.
We had worked quietly and diligently for so long to get to this stage, and we didn’t want to screw it up by prematurely announcing good news. It felt so damn close, like we were on the cusp of closing the deal and getting back to work. At the same time, it had been an eternity since we posted any updates. Weeks had become months, and months had become seasons. This whole situation had gotten way out of hand.
We didn’t know what to do. We focused on closing the deal, and decided not to rock the boat. We had come this far, why not stall just a bit longer. It was Tiko’s last chance at a great future after all. We weren’t going to let it slip. It was so damn close, so we kept pushing forward.
However, by late-September, something was wrong. This was taking too long. The other party showed signs of cold feet. New excuses kept popping up. Always a new delay. It took until mid-October for them to finally come out and say it - they weren’t interested anymore, and the deal was dead. It was game over.
A Painful Decision
It has been a rough and painful journey, and we have exhausted every option available to us. We did our best to bring Tiko to life and to your door, but in the end, it wasn’t enough. We are now making the only decision left to make. With deep sadness in our hearts, and much to our disappointment, we are officially closing the company. It’s over. The project has failed.
What Happens Next?
Today’s update marks the official end of Tiko project to the world at large. There will be another (more backer-oriented) update posted this week, in which we will provide additional backer-specific information (ie how the funds were used, how the windup will proceed, etc) and generally fulfill the remainder of these contractual obligations.
During this time we encourage you to ask any questions you may have, as this post will include an FAQ.
Let’s face it. There is no good way to end this. Tiko was our baby – meaning yours and ours. We built all of this together. You believed in us, you supported us, and still we let you down. We’re sorry. Deeply, truly, sorry.
Despite all of the pain, grief, and frustration this campaign has caused, we still genuinely wish to thank you. It didn’t end the way we wanted, but we still shared an incredible journey together. You gave Tiko a chance at life. You saw our vision, and you dared to dream with us.
So many amazing people took part in the Tiko story, both in and outside of the Kickstarter community. We thank each and every one of you for the support you showed us during these turbulent years. Even when we stumbled, you showed us compassion. You gave us strength. You challenged us. You inspired us.
We hope that every one of you comes out of this stronger. Our backers. Our employees. Our suppliers. Our advisers. Our partners. Everyone. This wasn’t all for nothing. Together we have learned so much. We have grown wiser, more resilient, and more grateful for what we have.
With that, we wish every one of you the best moving forward. We have learned the hard way that chasing your dreams can be risky, but trust us, letting them go is worse. Whatever you do in your life, wherever you may go, we hope that you will still dare to dream. To dream big. To take your chance and to pursue it. Whether you succeed, or not, you’ll never know unless you try.
So try, try, and try again. You only have one life. Give it everything you’ve got.
If you have followed us these past couple of years, then you have witnessed the struggles of entrepreneurship. The ups and downs. The highs and lows. The exciting victories, and the painful losses. You have seen that starting a company is a perilous journey, where success is the exception, not the rule.
Today we have some regretful news to share. Just when it seemed we had finally made it, we have once again found ourselves in a difficult situation.
It’s a long story, but it’s all out there in the updates.
We started as a trio of starry-eyed first-time entrepreneurs. With your support, we set out to change the world. Our mission was grand: to build the ultimate prototyping tool and empower everyday innovators around the world. We set off with a bang, and with blind optimism, we jumped head-first into manufacturing. It felt like we had it all figured out…
Except, we didn’t. We had no idea how difficult it would be to go from a prototype to mass production.We learned along the way, but most mistakes were costly and irreversible. Our greatest mistake was committing to inventory too soon. We didn’t realize it at first, but by ordering components in bulk, we had backed ourselves into a corner. Design flaws appeared, and we were trapped. By the time we understood our predicament, it was already too late. We were in too deep, and there was no turning back. Our cheerful mission to empower innovators had become a struggle to survive.
Despite the year and a half of hardware and software setbacks, manufacturing challenges, repeated delays, regulatory hurdles, unending certification requirements, unplanned operating expenses, logistical nightmares, sleepless nights, strained relationships, frustrated suppliers, a disgruntled community, new competitors, and a jaded industry, we simply refused to give up. Day after day, we kept fighting with all our hearts. Evenings. Weekends. More engineers. More developers. More prototypes. More testing. Nothing was ever enough. We did everything we could to turn this around, but by November 2016, we were at a breaking point. With resources running thin, and options running out, we prepared for one final push. We believed software improvements could solve the remaining technical issues, and that pre-orders could solve our financial ones. It was our big chance to get back on our feet.
We gave it everything we had, and we made great progress, but in the end it wasn’t enough. Software had improved, but not enough. Same with hardware and quality control. Pre-orders streamed in, but they too were just not enough. We were right at the finish line, and yet, we were miles away.
How Far Did You Get?
We developed the software, finalized the hardware, and manufactured 16,000+ sets of (almost) every component. We managed to ship a little over 4100 finished printers. The first hundred went to early-bird backers, and the rest were spread across three large batches. One to Canada, two to the United States. Europe was next, but feedback suggested the software was not ready, the hardware still needed work, and we no longer had the resources to assemble/ship further batches.
There’s also a myth that we bought/built an entire factory. It’s based on the ambiguous wording of a previous update. The fact is, we simply rented a space for assembly. We later backed out because of registration issues, but were allowed to stay in the free space we had before.
What Is the Status Now?
By early January, we had no choice but to lay off our team and wind down operations. It was the hardest thing we had ever done. Despite the team’s incredible effort and dedication, their sacrifice and their faith, we simply could not afford their salaries. We had to let them go. We asked everyone to organize and document their work, and with heavy hearts, we wished them farewell. Everything is now in “hibernation mode”. Frozen, but well documented and ready to resume at a moment’s notice.
Meanwhile, in China, operations have slowed to a crawl. We continue to run small-scale tests to show that hardware can be improved, and we do our best to fulfill warranty requests, however we are no longer in production. Most of the components are sitting there in boxes, but we lack the resources to purchase the remaining few, or to assemble/ship full batches of finished printers.
We have also cancelled all pre-orders. We deeply appreciate their patronage, but the risk is now too high. We must return our focus to fulfilling Kickstarter rewards before making promises to anyone else.
Basically, the company is now on standby while we pursue ways to get back on track.
So, Is Tiko Dead?
No, at least, not yet. We made countless mistakes, and we are now in a tough place, but it doesn’t mean that everything we built is suddenly worthless.
The cost of 3D printers has dropped significantly since our campaign launched. Now that this price war (aka race to the bottom) is nearing its end, we have asked ourselves: What is the next frontier? Where will this industry go next?
Well, we have our theories, and we believe that Tiko as a platform is exceptionally well positioned for this future. Granted, these technologies need some re-engineering, more testing, and much better execution, but the potential is still there. It turns out there are people who feel the same way...
What Are You Doing To Fix This?
We are doing something we should have done a long time ago. We are speaking with investors.
Up until now, we have been on our own. We believed investors would get in the way, but that was immature. It’s time to put that thinking behind us, and start working with people who have the resources and experience to manufacture a product at this scale, and build a sustainable business.
We are already well into discussions with a number of interested investors. They are fully aware of our situation, but see our vision for the industry, and the roadmap for our technologies. They understand the challenges, but also recognize the potential for a bright future.
Of course, these discussions cannot be rushed. It’s a lengthy process, and it could take months for us to reach something conclusive. We’ll update you on this once we have something definitive.
Why Didn’t You Tell Us Sooner?
Keeping technologies private is one thing, but this is entirely different. It’s an incredibly heavy burden to bear, and holding back was not easy. Unfortunately, many investors value discretion, especially in the early stages of discussion. The headlines of our failure would hurt the odds of reaching a deal, so we did what was best for the project and kept quiet. It’s all out in the open now, but we’ve already made good progress, so it might not be a dealbreaker.
What If Investment Falls Through?
There are other roadmaps for how we could proceed. Some position us for a slow recovery, while others involve a gradual wind down. Either way, we feel that you should have a say in all this. Over the coming weeks, we will be in the comments section to collaborate on a variety of ideas. Everyone is welcome to participate, and we hope you will join us as we work together to define the next chapter of the Tiko story.
Can I Get a Refund?
Starting a company is a fight against the odds, and a journey into the unknown. Just when you think you have it all figured out, reality comes in and hits you in the gut. We climbed to the top, then fell off and hit every branch on the way down. We’re sorry we disappointed you. You believed in us, and we let you down. It hurts like hell... but this isn’t over yet.
We know you're tired. We are too. The thing is, we still love what we do. We still have our vision, our passion, and perhaps even our future. These are tough times, but we haven’t given up yet, and we hope you won’t either.
Thank you for supporting us at our highest heights, and our lowest lows. We may be down, but as long as you believe in us, we will never be out.
We’ll be in touch,
Hope you're having a great December! We're just dropping by to bring you up to speed:
Batch #1 (Canada) - Out for Delivery
After spending a full week in customs, the Batch #1 printers were released and labeled late last week. Most are already being moved by Canada Post, and should be delivered throughout the week. A few have already reached their new owners!
How exciting! Hope you guys have a great time printing over the holidays. Please ensure you update your Tiko to get all of the latest software goodies, and we encourage you to document your experience on the Tiko forum at forum.tiko3d.com.
Your feedback and ideas help us make Tiko even better, so keep those suggestions coming!
Batch #2 (USA) - Landed
Batch #2 has landed in Long Beach California. Woohoo!
We do not yet know how long it will take to clear customs, however we do know it will take a day or two to process all of the individual boxes once cleared. Unfortunately, most of these Tikos will not arrive in time for Christmas, but there is still hope for those on the west coast.
Batch #3 (USA) – Loading onto Ship
Batch #3 is currently being loaded onto the Maersk Essex, and will set sail for Los Angeles tomorrow, with an expected landing date of January 3rd 2017.
Batch #4 (Europe) and Beyond – ETA TBD
Due to some unexpected holiday-related slowdowns, we don't yet have an exact ship date for batch #4, but it’s going to be in the first or second week of January. We’ll let you know once it's booked!
Latest Software Updates
Software development is moving at breakneck speed, with no sign of slowing down. In the last two weeks alone we pushed a number of updates that improved rafts, print quality, print speeds, success rates, and more.
One of the biggest steps forward was solving the “White Whale” problem we mentioned last week, which routinely resulted in partially-unsliced objects like this:
Now that it’s fixed, we are working on some very clever overhang-improvement algorithms. This is important not just for print aesthetics, but also layer shifting. You see, shallow overhangs tend to curl upwards, and this can interfere with the nozzle and cause shifts like this:
Solving this will allow Tiko to print even more complex objects, and print existing ones better. It’s looking good so far, and we expect to push another slicer update before the week is out.
Also, just a heads up, we identified some pretty serious bugs in our support-generation algorithm that causes prints to fail, so we have decided to disable supports entirely until we fix these issues. We’ll tackle it the week after the holidays.
Tiko on Holiday
Tis the season to get some rest, and believe us, the whole team needs it. Please be aware that all of Team Tiko will be on holiday from Saturday the 24th until Monday January 2nd.
This was planned months ago, long before we could have predicted Batch #1 printers would arrive just a few days before Christmas. A couple of us will keep an eye on things, but we’ll generally be unable to offer support/service during this time.
We apologize for any inconvenience and we encourage new owners to visit forum.tiko3d.com. There you can mingle with existing owners, 3D printing gurus, and occasionally one of us too!
2016 has been a year that nobody at Tiko will forget. It’s been a grueling experience filled with personal sacrifices, long hours, weekends at the office, crap pay, periods of frustration and even outright panic. But looking back on it all has taught us that you can do anything if you put your mind to it, and that you are unstoppable if you just keep pushing forward. Don't ever give up on your dreams!!!
We look forward to 2017 and the new opportunities, challenges, and lessons it will bring. Thank you so much for supporting us. You have been amazing, and we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. :)
All the best,
Happy December! The last few weeks have been quite exciting, so let's bring you up to speed. First, off, let’s talk R&D…
When we started building Tiko’s slicer, we assumed the greatest challenge would be developing the complex mathematical and algorithmic techniques to efficiently convert STL files to G-code paths. It turned out, however, that developing a good slicer is as much an art as it is a science.
Well, now that production has started and the hardware is good, we have finally been able to shift most of our attention to software.
Just a couple of weeks ago, both us and early users were routinely seeing prints like this:
Algorithmically speaking they sliced correctly, but due to issues with our extrusion-volume calculations, start/end point behavior, temperature control, shell sequences, travel planning, etc complex prints often failed, most commonly because of blobbing that caused layer shifting, as seen above.
However, that was then, and this is now:
The only difference between these prints is that the latter was sliced on a newer software/firmware version.
Of course, there’s still a lot of work left to do, and the above print still isn’t particularly impressive. Large/complex parts still encounter layer shifting, overhangs are messy, stringing is common, and we have a bug we call the “white whale” which causes the slicer to completely ignore sections of objects, and it affects a considerable fraction of models.
So, things are looking better by the day, but as always, there is still a long road ahead of us. We love a good challenge, though!
On that note, we’d like to thank some very special people. You see, the reason we have been able to improve our software so quickly is because of some pretty awesome backers. To name a few:
Ben and the Inspector have been publishing full-length livestreams on YouTube for weeks, showing their Tikos printing a variety of models. Click their profiles to see their channel! We’ve caught numerous slicer errors thanks to their videos, and their open feedback in the chat-rooms has been phenomenal. Other backers like Dan Chelchowski, Dustin (JAT.MN), and Jim Spencer have also posted videos of Tiko printing and given us great feedback.
But wait, there's more! We also have photos from backers like David Schulze:
and Dom Gonzales:
They and other backers have shared images via photo galleries and run experiments of their own, all of which help us see the real-world results of our updates.
We hope we didn’t miss anyone, because so many great backers have contributed to this project, and we want to thank all of them. Cheers guys, you have been backers in every sense of the word!!
There’s still a long road ahead, but if there’s anything we have learned this past year-and-a-half, it’s that together we can accomplish anything! :)
On that note, let’s talk about the status of production/shipping…
Batch #1 Shipment (Canada)
Batch #2 Shipment (USA)
Batch #2 is currently aboard the Hong Kong Bridge and is already on its way to Los Angeles, ETA Dec 20th. Fingers crossed we can get some delivered before Christmas!
In general, production is going smoothly and everything is on schedule. The next shipment is Batch #3, which will ship on Dec 12th. Stay tuned for more updates once that nears.
Shipping Surveys / Change of Address
We continue to receive shipping surveys and change of address requests, and it is becoming increasingly impractical for us to accommodate them into the hub-and-spoke shipments.
Please be aware that once your batch number has shipped, it may not be possible to update your address.
If you have moved or intend to move in the next few months, we recommend making arrangements right now so that your Tiko does not end up at a wrong location. Likewise, if you have not already filled out your shipping survey, then we are unable to guarantee you space aboard a shipment, and your order may be moved to the very end of the queue.
We’ve spent a we over a year preparing for this moment, and so far it’s moving smoothly. We love it when a plan comes together!
Thank you to everyone for cheering us on and believing in us. You guys are amazing, and we look forward to putting a Tiko your hands. Can't wait to see what you’ll create with it.
All the best!