Manufacturing in China Hack Chat

From project to product to off-shoring

Wednesday, July 10, 2019 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Jesse Vincent will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at noon Pacific time.

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Join Hack ChatIt started out where many great stories start: as a procrastination project. Open source developer Jesse Vincent decided that messing around with a new keyboard design was a better thing to spend time on than whatever he was supposed to be doing, and thus Keyboardio was born. 

Their heirloom-grade keyboards of solid maple and with sculpted keycaps are unique to the eye and to the touch, but that's only part of the Keyboardio story. Jesse has moved further down the road of turning a project into a product and a product into a company than most of us have, and he's got some insights about what it takes. Particularly in climbing the learning curve of off-shore manufacturing, which will be the focus of this Hack Chat. Join us to learn all about the perils, pitfalls, and potential rewards of getting your Next Big Idea manufactured in China. 

  • Hack Chat Transcript, part 2

    Lutetium07/10/2019 at 20:05 0 comments

    Monty12:31 PM
    @[skaarj] heh, we should talk. Lots of good 3D printing stuff happening there :-)

    todbot12:31 PM
    Yes, avoid importing into China if you can. Or let your CM handle it

    Jesse Vincent12:31 PM
    Chinese customs impoumded them.

    David Shuman12:31 PM

    Jesse Vincent12:32 PM
    @David Shuman If you're concerned about the custody chain of critical parts, you can appoint a specific supplier to your factory. Ask your US sales rep for a china sales contact.

    Jesse Vincent12:32 PM
    Then you can audit purchase volumes and costs. And often get your US negotiated pricing delivered to China.

    [skaarj]12:32 PM
    @Monty there's a guy here in Romania that invented some kind of 3D printer which kick assss, I forgot its name - but it's not X-Y-Z-based

    Kelly Heaton12:32 PM
    How often do you travel to China to maintain your relationships there?

    [skaarj]12:33 PM
    have to go, take care guys

    Jesse Vincent12:33 PM
    @Kelly Heaton it varies. If things are going well, maybe 2x a year. If things are going badly...more often.

    Jesse Vincent12:33 PM
    I rarely go for less than 10 days. Longest trips have been over a month.

    Kelly Heaton12:33 PM
    Can you give us one or two prime examples of "going badly" ?

    Jesse Vincent12:34 PM
    Oh, you know. Our factory's director of overseas sales embezzled over 100,000 USD of money we'd paid

    Jesse Vincent12:34 PM
    "Normal stuff" ;)

    Kelly Heaton12:34 PM
    And what did you do about that?

    Jesse Vincent12:35 PM
    Seriously though, that's wildly abnormal. Nobody in China believed it because the criminal penalties are 10 years to life in a Chinese Prison.

    Monty12:35 PM
    Among other things, he wrote most of a book.

    Jesse Vincent12:35 PM
    We retained a Chinese lawyer, got the factory to sign a new contract assuming responsibility for everything and tried to roll forward.

    Jesse Vincent12:35 PM
    For a much better told version of this story, go read the last couple kickstarter backer updates I linked earlier.

    Kelly Heaton12:36 PM
    @Jesse Vincent Will do.

    Monty12:36 PM


    The Model 01: an heirloom-grade keyboard for serious typists

    Keyboardio is raising funds for The Model 01: an heirloom-grade keyboard for serious typists on Kickstarter! With a hardwood body, mechanical switches & custom-sculpted keycaps, it's a dream to type on. It comes with source code & a screwdriver

    Read this on Kickstarter

    Monty12:36 PM
    was that the right one?

    Jesse Vincent12:37 PM
    Other things that have gone wrong: The factory opened molds before we'd signed off on the design. Our LED supplier decided to retool, resulting in a 4+ month delay in the LED supply, our wood supplier decided not to actually CNC both sides of the wood, figuring they could use a dremel on one side instead.

    Kelly Heaton12:37 PM
    I've been told that Shenzhen is surprisingly expensive and difficult to navigate unless you know people there. How do you recommend that a newbie get started (in their quest to become a "Shenzhen regular")?

    Jesse Vincent12:37 PM
    @Kelly Heaton it doesn't have to be expensive. If you want a western quality of life, you can spend all the money.

    Kelly Heaton12:38 PM
    Western quality not necessary... Local suggestions?

    Jesse Vincent12:38 PM
    But really, the way to learn is to do. Go. Take the subway. Explore the city. Street crime is basically a non-issue for westerners.

    Kelly Heaton12:38 PM
    And for women?

    duclass joined  the room.12:39 PM

    Jesse Vincent12:39 PM
    I'm a 6 foot tall dude, so I DO NOT have a reasonable take on how it is for western women traveling alone, but I'm led to believe that it's still generally very safe. I'm happy to try to get you better answers offline.

    duclass12:39 PM
    The subway is awesome - very easy to use for non-Chinese speakers

    ... Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Lutetium07/10/2019 at 20:05 0 comments

    ap-tech11:59 AM
    This looks interesting

    Jesse Vincent12:00 PM
    @ap-tech I'll do my best ;)

    Hi everyone, looks like we can get started. Thanks for tuning in after our week off. I want to welcome Jesse Vincent from Keyboardio to the Hack Chat today. He had a great idea for a topic: Manufacturing in China. Really looking forward to hearing his insights on off-shoring.

    Hi Jesse - can you maybe start us off with a little introduction?

    Guille12:00 PM
    Hello, thanks for this chat! Is it too difficult to go to Shenzhen and interview factories for projects of a few hundred items? Like electronics, injection-molding plastic parts, general assembly. What would be your approach in this case? Would you try to arrange meetings via mail before traveling? (I guess you'd miss a lot of options by relying on google searches)

    Jesse Vincent12:01 PM
    Sure thing. Hey everybody. I'm Jesse from Keyboardio. For the past...almost six years my partner Kaia and I have been designing and manufacturing computer keyboards. We had a pretty successful kickstarter, followed by a wildly interesting manufacturing adventure.

    Jesse Vincent12:02 PM
    This is the first physical product we've made. At this point, we've shipped thousands of units and are hard at work on a couple new products.

    Hexastorm joined  the room.12:02 PM

    Jesse Vincent12:02 PM
    @Guille One of the things to learn about is your target factory type's Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ)

    Jesse Vincent12:03 PM
    You need to find a factory that's going to be happy to work with you for what may be a relatively small order.

    Monty joined  the room.12:03 PM

    Valentin joined  the room.12:03 PM

    Jesse Vincent12:03 PM
    Indeed, Google is not a great way to find a factory in a far-off land.

    Kelly Heaton12:03 PM
    @Jesse Vincent who handles your final quality control and order fulfillment? I am also curious to know what issues you've had with importing larger quantities of goods from China -- especially under the current administration.

    Guille12:04 PM
    @Jesse Vincent So how do you find these factories?

    Jesse Vincent12:04 PM
    There are a few ways to get started: Sourcing consultants are often a good option. Another option is to start reaching out to factories via global sources or alibaba. I could write for hours on just this topic

    Jesse Vincent12:05 PM
    @Kelly Heaton We have a third-party QC contractor in Shenzhen who does inspections based on a quality stsandard I wrote with him. The first time through, I actually sat next to him doing inspection to train him up.

    doug.leppard12:05 PM
    @Jesse Vincent why don;t you write an ebook on this, I would buy it

    Jesse Vincent12:06 PM
    We use a company called EasyShip for fulfillment directly from Hong Kong. We don't currently fulfill from the US. Luckily for us, Keyboards still have 0 duty when coming from China to the US

    Monty12:06 PM
    "finished goods"

    Jesse Vincent12:06 PM
    @doug.leppard We've written north of 50k words about all this

    Kelly Heaton12:06 PM
    @Jesse Vincent can you share the name of your QC contractor?

    Jesse Vincent12:07 PM
    @Kelly Heaton He's an individual young guy. I'm not going to post his name publicly, but if you email me at, I'd be happy to make an intro.

    doug.leppard12:07 PM
    @Jesse Vincent great I will read it

    Kelly Heaton12:07 PM
    @Jesse Vincent Thank you!

    Valentin12:08 PM
    Is the factory doing everything ? PCB, assembly, hardware, box etc. ?

    Andres joined  the room.12:08 PM

    Jesse Vincent12:08 PM
    @Valentin The factory we've used to date is what's called a CM or Contract Manufacturer. In China, it's sometimes called an "assembly factory" -- they specialize in keyboards and mice.

    Kelly Heaton12:09 PM
    Are you concerned about IP theft?

    Jesse Vincent12:09 PM
    They have partners who do the injection...

    Read more »

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Guille wrote 07/10/2019 at 18:55 point

OK, apparently the hack chat ( is not exclusive for this event. It's just's chat.

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Guille wrote 07/10/2019 at 18:52 point

How do I join this chat? Is this comment going to the chat itself, or am I commenting on the chat announcement post?

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