Crowdfunding Your Amazing Product - Hack Chat Transcript - Part 1

A event log for Crowdfunding Your Amazing Product

We'll be talking about crowdfunding your project to get to the next level. If you're considering doing this, don't miss this chat!

Jordan BunkerJordan Bunker 07/28/2017 at 20:301 Comment

Shayna says:11:51 AM We'll get rolling in ~15 mins or so, to give people a few minutes to head over. :)

Joshua Lifton says:11:52 AM Sounds good.

Shayna says:11:53 AM Here's the Q&A Spreadsheet again just in case, y'all:

doug.leppard says:11:53 AM hey we are ready now Josh can say something unimportant that can change our lives :)

Joshua Lifton says:11:54 AM I knew I woke up for a reason today...

doug.leppard says:11:54 AM how did you get into this?

Joshua Lifton says:11:54 AM Does this mean Hack Chat or Crowd Supply?

Joshua Lifton says:11:55 AM I'll answer both!

doug.leppard says:11:56 AM really crowd supply

Joshua Lifton says:11:56 AM I had the good fortune to meet Sophi and a bunch of the Hackaday team late last year, reconnected with some folks at Maker Faire Bay Area, and here I am.

Joshua Lifton says:11:57 AM Crowd Supply happened because my co-founders and I happily discovered we were living in the same city (Portland, Oregon) and all itching to do something in the hardware world.

Joshua Lifton says:11:57 AM This was late 2012.

Joshua Lifton says:11:57 AM Which was right when crowdfunding, especially on Kickstarter, was coming into the lime light.

Shayna says:11:57 AM A nice point to segue into your introduction too, @Joshua Lifton :)

Joshua Lifton says:11:58 AM :)

Joshua Lifton says:11:58 AM I'll pause.

Shayna says:11:59 AM Y'all have likely figured out that @Joshua Lifton is the CEO of Crowd Supply if you weren't already aware!

Shayna says:12:00 PM "Crowd Supply helps hardware become products through their crowdfunding platform, promotion help, and fulfillment."

Shayna says:12:00 PM And this week's hackchat is appropriately ~Crowd Funding Your Amazing Product~!

Shayna says:12:01 PM Josh also has a PhD from the MIT Media Lab and holds a BA in physics & math from Swarthmore College.

shamylmansoor says:12:01 PM Hello from Islamabad, Pakistan,

Joshua Lifton says:12:02 PM Hello, and welcome.

Shayna says:12:02 PM Josh has worked on a lot of cool stuff prior to Crowd Supply also. Anything specific you wanna share?

Jordan Bunker says:12:02 PM ohhh! I love the Media Lab!

Joshua Lifton says:12:02 PM Fun place, for sure.

Joshua Lifton says:12:02 PM @Shayna let me know when we have quorum.

Dmitry has joined this room.12:03 PM

Stephen Inoue has joined this room.12:03 PM

Shayna says:12:03 PM Think we're ready to go!

Joshua Lifton says:12:04 PM Great. So, @doug.leppard was asking how I got into CS.

Shayna says:12:05 PM First Q from @Will Hopkins : "How do you think your Swarthmore education has helped you in your career as a hacker? Asking as a fellow alum :)"

Joshua Lifton says:12:05 PM Funny, I've been thinking a lot about education lately.

Shayna says:12:05 PM Works alongside @doug.leppard 's question, too.

Joshua Lifton says:12:05 PM Swarthmore was fantastic and I still think it's a great place.

Joshua Lifton says:12:06 PM Definitely not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it and found all the support and resources I needed to pursue my interests. It was a formative experience.

Joshua Lifton says:12:07 PM Some people find it insular, but I thought that was the best part - it allowed me to really buckle down and dive deeply into academics.

Joshua Lifton says:12:07 PM So, thumbs up. :)

Shayna says:12:07 PM :)

Shayna says:12:08 PM Ok, if we're ready to move on to the next Q -- from @Andrew Bolin : "Any tips for getting NDA-ed info / obscure parts when starting out? Many suppliers don't want to deal with small players."

Joshua Lifton says:12:08 PM For people how don't know about Swarthmore, it's a small liberal arts college outside of Philadelphia and it has Quaker roots.

Joshua Lifton says:12:09 PM NDAs have their place in the world, for better or for worse.

Joshua Lifton says:12:09 PM However, I would urge you to avoid them if you can when designing a new product.

Joshua Lifton says:12:10 PM Obviously, that's not always possible, but often there are alternatives.

Joshua Lifton says:12:10 PM Building partnerships with bigger fish can help.

Joshua Lifton says:12:10 PM Any parts in particular anyone has in mind?

Joshua Lifton says:12:11 PM Obscure parts are a different story and kind of separate from NDA'ed parts.

sheffieldnick says:12:11 PM Hi. I tried to get datasheets on some Realtek ICs last year, but even after signing their NDA they didn't want to deal with such a small player :(

Joshua Lifton says:12:12 PM If you are designing around an obscure part, ask yourself if you should really be betting the product on something that's hard to find.

Joshua Lifton says:12:12 PM @sheffieldnick sorry to hear it. That's exactly the reason open hardware, especially open silicon, is important.

Joshua Lifton says:12:12 PM People keep secrets for irrational reasons.

Ted Yapo says:12:13 PM There's also the related issue of lousy datasheets and reluctance to support small fish with app. engineers.

Joshua Lifton says:12:13 PM Yep, those are also problems I think would quickly evaporate if companies were more open with their chipsets.

sheffieldnick says:12:14 PM What is so frustrating is that Realtek's competitors are completely open with their tech docs and really supportive, but their ICs are too expensive for my product idea.

Joshua Lifton says:12:14 PM As you probably know, Intel recently end-of-lifed a bunch of their stuff (e.g., Edison) and no one shed a tear for exactly the problems @Ted Yapo named.

Joshua Lifton says:12:15 PM Yeah, you end up paying one way or the other. The ground is shifting beneath us in this regard.

sako0938 says:12:16 PM Are the "open" chips too expensive for a one off products or at scale also?

Joshua Lifton says:12:16 PM We're trying to change that! The Open-V campaign didn't fund, but I hope to bring it back one day:

Joshua Lifton says:12:17 PM Open-V is meant to be cost and performance competitive.

Joshua Lifton says:12:17 PM I should say that there are large companies paying close attention to many open hardware projects, including Open-V.

Dmitry says:12:17 PM Nowadays to be cost and performance competitive you have to sell millions of chips...

sheffieldnick says:12:18 PM Any advice about going to Chinese manufacturers direct for parts? e.g., alibaba ? I've had some amazingly cheap quotes, and even samples arrive, but getting accurate data sheets (or any tech docs) is proving a bit frustrating...

Shayna says:12:18 PM Ready to move on to the next Q, y'all? I know this is an especially interesting topic but just want to make sure we can get to the questions within our time.

Joshua Lifton says:12:18 PM Go for it.

Joshua Lifton says:12:19 PM We'll get back to this, I'm sure.

Shayna says:12:19 PM :)

Shayna says:12:19 PM @Ted Yapo asks: "Any thoughts on crowdfunding organizations supplying turnkey accounting solutions? - for others like me out there who like design and manufacturing, but have zero (negative?) interest in IRS issues."

Joshua Lifton says:12:19 PM This is something Crowd Supply has found itself doing more and more.

Joshua Lifton says:12:20 PM I was having a conversation the other day with a creator suggesting we set up something like the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) but for hardware

Joshua Lifton says:12:20 PM The main reason they wanted it was for accounting purposes, which can get very complicated when dealing with international teams.

Joshua Lifton says:12:21 PM We don't do tax advice, but we handle a lot of accounting for different projects.

Ted Yapo says:12:21 PM how does that work?

Joshua Lifton says:12:23 PM For a project that launches on Crowd Supply, fulfills through Crowd Supply (not required, but most projects do), and continues to sell through Crowd Supply (again, not required, but most projects do), then we essentially see every sale and fulfillment expense and tally everything up for the creators so they fully understand how much money they're getting.

Joshua Lifton says:12:24 PM That means, line item by line item accounting of every order.

Radomir Dopieralski says:12:25 PM that's what people are struggling with?

Joshua Lifton says:12:26 PM No, but they like us to do it for them. :)

sheffieldnick says:12:26 PM Do you do international fulfilment from warehouses outside the US, or are individual orders shipped direct to the customer from the US?

Shayna says:12:26 PM hehe

Joshua Lifton says:12:26 PM People struggle with communicating expectations and keeping their backers informed. We do a lot of work helping them with that.

Joshua Lifton says:12:27 PM We don't (yet) have warehouses outside the US, but it's something we're always on the lookout for. I suspect it will be inevitable.

Joshua Lifton says:12:28 PM I would be remiss if I didn't point people to The Crowd Supply Guide:

Shayna says:12:28 PM Here's a comms (+ marketing) related Q, 1 of 2 Q's from @doug.leppard : "What does your company do for getting the word out on our products?"

Joshua Lifton says:12:28 PM We get that question a lot and the answer is both simple and complex.

Joshua Lifton says:12:29 PM The simple version is we do whatever we can. The complex version is something like:

Joshua Lifton says:12:29 PM - help you define your messaging so it will actually be interesting to people

Joshua Lifton says:12:30 PM - promote the project through our social media, newsletter, and cross promoted with other projects

Joshua Lifton says:12:30 PM - setup a pre-launch page and promote that

Shayna says:12:30 PM (Side note, @Joshua Lifton is kindly sticking around for some extra time with us this session, so we'll get to more questions and potentially add'l discussion)

Joshua Lifton says:12:30 PM - help identify specific people and orgs that might be interested in writing or talking about the project

Joshua Lifton says:12:31 PM - reach out on your behalf to specific people and orgs if we have a good connection there

Joshua Lifton says:12:31 PM However, the number one thing that matters when it comes to marketing a crowdfunding project is...

Joshua Lifton says:12:31 PM project updates

Joshua Lifton says:12:32 PM I can't stress them enough. You have to have interesting, useful project updates on a regular basis.

Shayna says:12:32 PM 2/2 from @doug.leppard : "Can we sell our product others places also, any restrictions?"

Joshua Lifton says:12:32 PM The only restriction is that you need to deliver your product to all your Crowd Supply backers before you start selling anywhere else.

doug.leppard says:12:33 PM that makes sense

Shayna says:12:33 PM Fair enough :)

Joshua Lifton says:12:33 PM In other words, don't do this:

Shayna says:12:33 PM From @Jarrett : "At what point do you start talking to injection mold mfgers?" and on the subject, "How do you budget for injection molding?"

Joshua Lifton says:12:34 PM In fact, we actually help people get distribution elsewhere. It's good for our business.

Shayna says:12:34 PM awesome

Joshua Lifton says:12:34 PM Spreadsheets, it's all about spreadsheets.

Joshua Lifton says:12:34 PM There's a clear point at which injection molding makes sense.

Joshua Lifton says:12:35 PM We always encourage people to do the smallest batch size as they can for the first run of a new product.

Joshua Lifton says:12:35 PM Often, that means not using injection molding (if it's avoidable).

doug.leppard says:12:35 PM instead 3D print?

Joshua Lifton says:12:35 PM But that doesn't mean you are limiting your sales. If you sell a ton, great, but still make that first run relatively small.

Joshua Lifton says:12:36 PM 3D print, repurpose an existing enclosure, or CNC mill.


Andrew Bolin wrote 07/30/2017 at 23:52 point

Thanks @Shayna - some good discussion around my question. Wish I could have been there to participate live!

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