With the new year, we’ve seen a surge of new products launch on crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter. Many of them won’t meet their expected launch date, which is challenging for the product team, and frustrating for its backers. Trust me, I know — I’ve been there. Three years ago, I had an idea to make my jewelry smart. I was tired of worrying where my phone was — at dinner, meetings, parties, drives, hikes, everywhere — for fear I’d miss something important. I wanted to create a device that allowed me to stay on top of my notifications, while keeping my phone out of sight and out of mind. So I began designing a tech-enabled ring that would vibrate and flash different colors when I received certain notifications on my phone. I quit my job, raised money, and hired a team of designers and engineers to turn my new company, Ringly, into a reality. We spent a year working on the idea before launching our pre-order campaign and working with manufacturers on mass production. A lot of companies use crowdfunding to validate their idea first, thinking the money they raise will help speed up production. But because there are so many unknowns when you first start out, problems will arise and delays are inevitable. Hardware is hard. Taking an idea from prototype to mass production can be very expensive and will always take longer than expected. Here are some reason why most projects are late — or sometimes never get to market at all.
1. Everyone is overly confident.As a founder, I didn’t believe it when people told me our product could take a year or more to produce. I’m used to solving problems and finding solutions quickly, and I had confidence that with our all-star team and proven partners, we’d be an exception to the rule. We had a schedule, and everyone was on board to stick to it. But, when you’re dependent on so many people and you’re working with complex supply chains, mistakes happen that are not always in your control. Something as simple as a small power outage or a change in parts can set you back several weeks. With Ringly, our product was so new; bringing together jewelry manufacturing with electronics manufacturing had unexpected challenges. For example, we work with semiprecious materials where every stone is unique, so we ended up having to spend a lot of time training people on what's beautiful and what's not.
2. The product wasn’t initially priced correctly.It’s easy to determine the price of something based on the cost of materials and estimated assembly fees. However, if you don’t go through a few manufacturing cycles before launching your campaign, you’ll never know the full cost upfront. You’ll burn through your crowdfunding dollars really quickly if you don’t leave room for unanticipated yield losses (products that don’t make it to the finish line, for example, rings whose stone had cracked during assembly) and changes in your design. At the end of the day, you can either pay for the loss, or delay shipment so you can fix the issues. Most choose the latter.
3. Too many units were sold.The more successful the project, the more likely it is to be late. It’s hard to go from zero to tens of thousands of units in a short time frame. When you manufacture something, it’s best practice to ramp up slowly. What happens if you make thousands at once, only to find a problem after you start shipping? You need to start slow and make sure you’ve tested a few hundred in the wild before ramping up and shipping to everyone.
4. Feature creep.Crowdfunding can be exhilarating. You have a platform to present your vision of the world to a lot of people, before proving you can turn that vision into a reality. But because of this, a lot of campaigns overpromise their capabilities and product features. At Ringly, we focused our campaign on doing one thing really well before discussing future iterations and functionality. Staying simple saved us from future delays and headaches. The more you commit, the more you’ll disappoint if you can’t deliver. At the end of the day, as a backer, you’re buying into someone’s dream. If you’re able to stay calm and patient, you’ll give the company more time to get it right and work out the kinks — from a firsthand perspective, we can’t thank you enough! I can assure you that when the package arrives at your doorstep, it will be well worth the wait.