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Reinventing The Wheel

Behind the scenes with Bike Engineers and Entrepreneurs. Fortified Bicycle Alliance.

True and Transparent Manufacturing Stories from the Trenches

Beloved Backers,

Anti-Theft-Bike-Light

Perhaps you’ve heard the manufacturing horror stories. We have inside stories from many entrepreneur-friends. “We’re six months past deadline and still 9 months from delivery.” Another confessed, “$60K spent on tooling and the manufacturer stopped returning emails so we’re flying to Korea to try and get our money back.”

If you backed our first Kickstarter, you know we’re open kimono on everything. We are behind on manufacturing. We’ll share this story in because we believe it will help other entrepreneurs.

In July, we had 12 manufacturing leads. By September when we launched the Kickstarter campaign, we shortlisted 4. Let’s call them Doug, Jack, Janice, and Bill.

Because those are their names.

Bill had 25 years overseas manufacturing experience and we were ready to pay a premium for it. But the premium came back at $120,000 on top of all other production costs. Bill dropped in October.

After asking Janice questions about how her factories inspect parts and do QA, her quality was questionable and we can’t afford reliability issues. Janice dropped in October as well.

Doug, a resourceful engineer at a reputable company, became our frontrunner. He initially quoted the tooling and part costs we were expecting. Then he came back one week later and added $40K to tooling and doubled the part cost. Doug dropped in November.

Jack inspired a lot of confidence with his technical knowledge. He became our new frontrunner with fair pricing and an April delivery date. Then, three weeks ago, his factory told got a large order from a big box US retailer and pushed the production start date to January. Of 2015! We still like Jack so he’s sourcing new factories for us.

Since Jack’s factory dropped, we called all the physical product entrepreneurs we know. Right now, our long list has 20 factories. In two weeks we will shortlist 10. After due diligence, we’ll find an awesome partner.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit this process is agonizing. Had we gone with the low bidder, we would be on track now but our customers would pay later when bike lights failed them. By refusing to sacrifice QA and reliability testing, we are behind schedule.

You may be asking, “Why not just make it domestically?” I wish we could but if we did the Afterburner be a $150+ instead of a $45 bike light.

Lesson learned: more manufacturing leads. In our case, 12 sounded like a lot but it’s not enough. By the time this process is said and done, I will have personally spoken with >30 manufacturers.

Is sharing this story helpful? Any other lessons you’ve learned from watching us so far?

And hey, let’s be friends.

 

7 Comments

  1. This process sounds absolutely grueling, and I know I’d be ripping my hair out at the roots. You brave warriors need (and deserve) a long shoulder massage and a nice cup of steaming hot chocolate.

    Seriously, I absolutely support your efforts and any additional time it takes for you to do this project the way it should be done.

    ….Breathe deeply

  2. “Is sharing this story helpful?”

    Yes, not only because I funded you, but also just to learn the process necessary to get something like this done. I’m sure few realize how many decision need to be made.

  3. thanks for these insight into business and its struggling processes. I wish every company would act as transparent like yours, at least it helps to understand everything a lot more and keep trust.may the force be with you (to bring some light into cyclists darkness)

  4. Gents

    Your deadline to ‘lock orders’ was yesterday.
    It sounds like the last 3 weeks has been ‘interesting’.

    Maybe it would be better to inform your shareholders sooner, maybe not. Only you can know.

    There’s a Li Ka Shing anecdote about ‘keeping your word’ in business and the sale of aluminium which he had bought at a super low price but could have sold at a multiple of the profit by breaking the deal he had previously agreed…It might be apocryphal, it might not but you either way will have learnt a lot about people, particularly Jack and the others.

    best

    WTF.

  5. Even the most prepared professionals are caught up by situations like these every day. When it comes to reliability, it has to be earned. I can only imagine what you are feeling right now about delivering to us what you promissed and what we’ve paid for. I can truly feel this pain in my heart. If I were steping in your shoes, I would know what risk my good name and reputation on communits like kickstarter and indiegogo would be running. Entrepreneurs death. Bye-bye. Asta la vista. Au revoir. But times like these defines who we really are. Putting ourselves to the test. Don’t give up guys. We believe in you.

  6. Thank you for your transperency, “failing/missing” a deadline is O.K if you have a good explanation. You guys have more than enough of a good explanation. I totally agree with your values and you communicate very well that you put the customer FIRST, I thank you for that. I’m willing to wait whatever time is neccessary until the product is according to your standards. I know you’re working your buts of to knit everything together as soon as possible (without sacrifacing quality ;).

    Your’re doing awesome! Stand tall and keep ur chin up.

    All the best,

    / Robert, The Netherlands

  7. I know the Chinese manufacturing process and locating a reliable quality supplier is difficult. For that very reason, many companies are moving production off mainland China, and into other countries, such as Indonesia. If you have to go back t the drawing board, perhaps expanding the search beyond China may help.

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