Our Version of Apple Watch Charger by Aleksey Matyushev

White leather covering for the top and a steel base for weight. 

White leather covering for the top and a steel base for weight. 

With the Apple Watch looming around the corner, our team started talking through one of the largest market opportunities with all Apple products - charging devices. 

Apparently, Dodo Case and a couple of other companies have already started eyeing the Apple Watch charging arena.  However, most of their concepts (which are in pre-sale by the way) focused on what we felt was the wrong use-case.  They displayed the Apple watch facing upwards during charging.  Since we felt that the watch will be on a bed-side stand during the nightly charge, the charging stand should focus on directing the watch face towards the user. 

Our concept for the Apple Watch incorporates the existing Apple Maglite inductive charger but positions it vertically.  A leather cover or wood prevents the watch from being scratched when it is charging (and adds to the presentation). A steel base helps keep the charger firmly on the ground as the user is able to remove the Apple Watch in one smooth motion. 

Natilus and Ottermatics join forces by Aleksey Matyushev

Natilus is a large (half the size of a Boeing 747) sized drone.  It is the first drone in the world designed to carry any worthwhile cargo.    The 120 ft wingspan drone has been designed with Ottermatics help to carry 200,000 lbs of payload from Shangai to LA at 300 mph, 80 ft above the water and 70% of the cost of a Boeing 747 making the same trip. 

Natilus is designed to circumvent any FAA regulations by taking off from international waters (12 miles off the coast) instead of runways.  With that approach the drone does not have to interact with busy airport traffic and is far enough away from occupied land that if something fails, there will be no injuries.  

Natilus and Ottermatics have joined forces to start construction of a scaled prototype as a proof of concept demonstrator. The prototype will deliver 200 lbs of payload completely autonomously to the South Pole research station next summer. 

Why WE Advise Against SharkTank by Aleksey Matyushev

businessIdeas

Most people I talk to are familiar with Kickstarter or SharkTank.  Both are awesome ways to leap your idea or business forward quickly, however, to get started with either you have to be in completely different stages.  Having had clients interviewed by SharkTank producers and having been on the Kickstarter train, it becomes obvious that there is a time and place for both types of “jump starts.” 

Just starting out

If you have an idea for a product or service, but that’s as far as you have gotten then you have to first jump the very first hurdle of entrepreneurship - ideas are worthless.  If your father and grandfather both tell you that the first step in building out a profitable idea is to get a patent, they are terribly wrong. There is a ton of reading and thought leaders that will help you snap out of this daze, so I’m not going to dive into that. 

If all you have is just an idea, Kickstarter is probably your best bet.  Kickstarter only requires the following pieces: 

  • Product or service prototype
  • ~2 minute video 

As simple as that sounds, there is definitely an algorithm on creating a successful Kickstarter campaign.  Tim Ferriss’ blog post outlining the Soma Water Filter success has a good outline of what is needed.    

The prototype can usually be created in a garage, through a professional design firm like Ottermatics or a freelancer (eLance is pretty good). 

SharkTank will not take you if all you have is an idea, their producers usually hunt for compelling products or services which have already been validated. 

Stuck with a product and inventory

The other stage of entrepreneurs I usually encounter is a person who has sold a couple of units but has yet to get widespread traction (distribution) or notoriety.  This is where SharkTank can really help out, but don’t forget that it’s a show first and an “incubator/accelerator” second.    

SharkTank is interested in seeing traction and a good story/product.   Meaning, the entrepreneur should have already sold 100 units/subscriptions of the product and is just stuck as the business is not scaling.  If that sounds like your business, you should apply to SharkTank.  The producers love a good story (fit for TV), so if you are a firefighter, struggling mother or anything that might be interesting to watch your chances are pretty good in making it through the first cut.   

However, there are some heavy price tags with this approach: 

  • SharkTank (the show) takes a percentage of the company
  • The sharks usually take a huge bite of equity and sales.  At the end of the deal, the entrepreneur might not even be running the company. 

The choice

I strongly advise my clients against going with SharkTank, usually if you stick with a blend of Kickstarter and Venture Funding, you should have all the money you need. The question then becomes whether the entrepreneur can use it effectively to produce the four digit growth that we have come to expect from a startup. 

The Triforce: Design, Testing, and Lessons Learned by Aleksey Matyushev

Production Triforce Photoshoot [Getting Ready for Distribution]

Production Triforce Photoshoot [Getting Ready for Distribution]

About a month ago we finally received the production version of triforce from our manufacturer in Shenzhen (China), our desktop USB charger for the Lightning Rabbit brand which Ottermatics helped create.  Although the design process only took about 1 week, there were a lot of lessons learned as far as certification and packaging which are worth sharing.    

Market Research [3 days]

The initial business case behind was put together quite quickly.  We wanted to add a successful product to the Lightning Rabbit brand without a lot of risk.  To figure out the product we were going to design, we used an old Time Ferriss trick which consisted of two phases: 

  1. Find the hottest selling consumer electronics (charging) product through Amazon - a quick search shows you that it's desktop USB chargers.  Bingo, we had our product.
  2. Reading the Amazon reviews for competing USB chargers and figuring out where the product lacking; that became our product specification. In our case, it was the low Wattage/Power of the competitors and the fact that they looked childish.  

Prototyping [1 week]

After specifying our use-case as a nightstand centric semi-portable device. A number of iterations of design shapes and sizes were tested; from pyramids, rectangles, and triangular cylinder we tried everything. For a number of reasons that mainly center around manufacture-ability and user experience a triangular prism was chosen. During this concept phase we had been working our way through a number of manufactures who had circuit configurations that would meet our aesthetic and technical specifications. To iterate quickly on the shape, we used our in-house 3D printer.

Testing 'Form' and 'Function" of the Triforce Using our 3D Solidoodle Printer

Testing 'Form' and 'Function" of the Triforce Using our 3D Solidoodle Printer

Testing [1 Week]:

There is a point in every shiny new product's life when it must be tested. Apart from ensuring that a product completes it's basic promises to the its new owners, proper testing should additionally ensure that a product is use case tested for situations that might exceed It's original design. Now we could have easily just sent the triforce out to some lab in a distant land to get all the certifications it needs to be sold. We wanted to go further. 

We received our first production triforce from our manufacture recently. Personally, I was really excited to tear it open and put it through its paces. Well obviously the first thing we did when we got it was to drool over its sleek aluminum case, and test its basic charging functionality which it passed to no one's surprise.

Since most distributors required some sort of proof of compliance to federal regulations, we did end up getting the triforce CE/ROHS/UL compliant for about $500 through a testing house.  But having put it through it's paces ourselves, we felt comfortable that there would be no surprised once it was sent to the testing facility.

Packaging [1 month]

We struggled with the packaging for triforce since we didn't know if we needed display packaging (for store-shelf distribution) or something just to get us by through Amazon (drop-ship packaging); that argument alone took 3 weeks to settle.  After agreeing to do the drop-ship packaging, we created the artwork and engineering drawings in-house in about 1 week.  We engaged the same overseas manufacturer who is producing the triforce to do the packaging so as to keep the logistic costs and headache to a minimum (most manufacturers would gladly do the packaging along with the product, just have to ask). 

Launch and Marketing [Never-ending]

We just recently launched the product and it can be purchased on Amazon or through Lightning Rabbit.  Amazon does all the fulfillment for us which keeps us light on our feet.  We are currently in the process of blogger outreach to create some buzz and speaking with distribution buyers to get the product into the store.  

Finding an Overseas Manufacturer by Aleksey Matyushev

injectionMoldingManufacturing

Ok, so you have a product idea, how do you find a manufacturer to build it for you?   Finding a manufacturer is in-fact pretty easy given this whole internet thing came about.  Before even doing that a manufacturing package which communicates the product idea needs to be put together. 

The often missed first step

Most manufacturers are skilled labor, meaning they have a high school education and are used to working with 2D drawings; they do not have  engineering departments, CAD software, or inventor type mentality.  Sending them a message with a bunch of hand sketches will be about as effective as trying to play pictionary over email (often with a language barrier). Typically this is where a design firm like Ottermatics comes in, we can help translate the hand waving and napkin sketches into CAD models and engineering drawings that can be communicated to the manufacturer.   A good design firm also designs for manufacturing which should help you save on the per part costs.  

Zen and the Art of Alibaba

Besides being predicted to be the largest IPO in the last 20 years, alibaba.com is an excellent resource for finding overseas manufacturers.  Most new product ideas are an improvement over existing ones, so searching for similar products on the website and then sending emails to the manufacturers will usually yield pretty good results.  

What if the product idea you had doesn’t exist yet? Manufacturers are classified by their capabilities with materials.  Some are good at bending metal, some at doing plastics work, electronics and etc.  If you are inventing something completely new, then the best approach is to de-compose your product into the raw materials, and think of products which have similar material composition and then do the same search on alibaba.com

Going Domestic

MFG.com is one of our favorite places to get quotes from state-side manufacturers, and the coolest part is that it’s completely free.  The idea is that you post a Request For Quote (RFQ) on the website with engineering drawings and in 7 days you will have manufacturers bid on the project.  

Over the past 10 years, there has been a new desire for United States based companies to keep production state-side.   Whether for patriotic, marketing or communication reasons this new shift in manufacturing approach has yet to still see widespread adoption for one simple reason - the cost of United States based manufacturing.  Time and time again, we have seen US based manufacturers quote 3000% and sometimes even 20,000% more for the same project as an Asia based manufacturer.  To this day, none of our designs have been produced in United States, not because we don’t want to keep things “home grown”, it’s just the business case doesn’t make sense.