Gantt Charts, project schedules and risk buys
Halfway into the funding campaign, and we definitely have entered the "slow" period. Mind you, even during this "slow" period, we are still steadily marching upwards at a tune of about $1,000 per day, sometimes more:
One thing I am thankful for, is that we've entered this slow period north of the $30,000 funding target. This frees me up to concentrate on other tasks required to turn this into a successful business, instead of pulling my hair out trying to figure out new outlets to publicize this project in. (Any good publicity is still appreciated; if anyone reading this can figure out how to get Engadget or MakeZine to blog about this, I'd be grateful ;-) )
Here's a Gantt chart drawn up when the original project was launched. Bars represent individual tasks - and certain tasks were assumed to follow - or be dependent on - each other. For example, Amazon.com can't process all the credit card payments until funding closes, the funds can't move to my bank account until Amazon.com finishes the processing of credit cards, etc:
The key dates here are: April 29th - when funding closes. From there, it takes Amazon.com 2 weeks to run all the credit cards, then another week before Amazon/Kickstarter transfers the money into my account, after taking their own respective slice. And, when we launched the project, that's assumed to be the date that the rubber hits the road and we kick off tooling, etc. Note the tooling lead times are also about as flexible as a rock; you might be able to toss money at a vendor to get them to go faster, but in general, gaining more than a week is unrealistic. Assuming that nothing goes wrong with the tooling and manufacturing, we would have been on schedule to deliver OpenBeam to you by the end of July.
Now, with funding sitting north of $30,000, I've made the decision to risk-buy all the tooling to bring the delivery dates in. (It's a "risk buy" at this point, because the money still have not hit my bank account, so there's always a risk that I can be left holding the bag. So please don't start cancelling pledges - I'd hate to explain to my girlfriend why I have to start selling body fluids to replenish her engagement ring funds...)
Kickstarter does a really good job mangling higher resolution images, so I'll post a PDF of the new Gantt chart here as well, for the project management folks that are interested: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2174516/OpenBeam%20-%20Schedule%2C%20with%20risk%20buy.pdf
In short, we are currently looking at being able to bring in some of the fulfilment dates to end of June instead of end of July, have something to show for for all the summer MakerFaires, and being able to launch this product fully at MakerFaire Detroit.
So what do the charts really mean? What's been going on?
A good chunk of the past week involved filing out countless amount of paperwork to bring this organization to life - applying for business permits, reseller permits, etc. Currently I have a family lawyer friend looking at incorporation paperwork, and hopefully once that's done I can push through my filings with Washington states' secretary of state, register the business entity, and open my business checking account. This is important because I would much prefer that the $45,000 + change that is coming my way go into a business account, documented as business income, instead of being told by the IRS that this corresponds to a bonus on top of my engineering salary, which would certainly put me into a very unfavorable tax bracket.
Another large effort that was pushed through this last week was the launching of the aluminum extrusion die tooling as well as mathematical models to determine how much OpenBeam profiles I need to order for the first run. The extrusion die is one of the longest lead time items on the Gantt chart (after the injection molding tooling, ringing in at 7.5 weeks total). At the current time, it looks like we'll be able to demonstrate the first sample extrusions at MakerFaire San Mateo, and have production representative extrusions at MakerFaire Seattle. This is great news, since the product sells itself pretty easily if/when people can get their hands on it.
I am also in the process of finalizing the launch of the injection molding tooling as well. We'd hope to have the clock start ticking next week on the injection molding.
Not every part of the running a small business is as exciting and glamorous as doing cool engineering design and putting together prototypes, but that's how life is as a small business owner - you get to wear many different hats, and some of them are less fun than others. Next week, we'll be back with an engineering update showing you some cool bonus features we've been able to add to OpenBeam, as well as finalize all the pricing for the rest of OpenBeam's accessories. Stay tuned!