In our last issue we were super excited about our Kickstarter launch. It didn’t go as well as we would have liked. That’s a bit of an understatement, but we’re moving on. The important part is that we learned a lot, we’ve made progress, and we have a backup plan we’ve been working on for a while that we’re executing now.
Things we learned:
- Media attention is impossible to get unless you know people. We emailed, tipped, press released, tweeted, called, and in one instance even stuck a note on a news van, and nothing panned out. However, in the three instances where I either knew someone or was introduced (thanks Lisa!), all three published something. Here is the list of media attention we did manage to get:
- Twitter is just about worthless. It’s an echo chamber. With all the @ and # and combined words and acronyms with no room for context, it is harder to read than code.
- Forums are harsh. We tried reaching out to people through Reddit and sport-specific forums, and we tried responding to questions and feedback, but there are a lot of trolls everywhere, and every negative comment hurt.
- Different markets have different price tolerances. For home consumers, the expectation for the DigiTally is much lower than we can produce right now in the low volumes we are (even 1000 is low. It takes a LOT of units to get production costs to a point where you can make a profit at Walmart). However, for tournaments, schools, and gyms, we’re less than half the price of our closest competitor, and easier to use and transport.
In the end, we still didn’t find the answer to our biggest question; does the market want our product? If we can’t get our target market to even find out about our product, it might still be a false negative.
Progress we’ve made:
- We’re getting good at molding rubber parts now. We’ve been making molds for the buttons, and they look great. Here’s a 3D printed set of buttons that was turned into a silicon mold, which will be used to cast lots of little silicone buttons for the scoreboard and remote control.
- We’re getting amazing at designing laser-cut parts. We were already pretty good, but we’re doing some pretty complex stuff now.
- We are world class at Bluetooth Low Energy. BLE is so new there is only 1 book on it, and it was published in December. I’ve already read it twice.
- Building assembly rigs. We are making everything by hand, and that can get a little inconsistent and time consuming. So we’re building parts that make it easy to consistently assemble and mold the various parts of the scoreboard. Here’s the form we use for the band. We laser cut the flat strip, heat it up, then quickly put it in the frame where it cools to the correct shape.
Plan moving forward:
- We’re getting into the rental business. People have been wondering if they could use DigiTally just for a short period for an event, and since we have a hard time manufacturing large quantities, rentals seems like a win-win. We’ve already had our first rental customer through our new system.
- We’re selling scoreboards. We’ve spent a lot of time lately working our our in-house production capabilities, and we’re happy to say we’ve got the ability to build the scoreboards ourselves, and they look pretty good. The electronics are exactly the same; the only difference is the enclosure. You can order one today using our new store, which we’ve just opened! http://shop.portablescores.com
- Slow and steady growth. We knew the Kickstarter crowd wasn’t our target market. We can’t get the price down enough for home consumers, and we won’t be able to until we’re producing in much larger quantities. So we’re going to go back to tap into our original target; the leagues, schools, and gyms, using the purchasing outlets they have access to.
- Sugar-daddy search. Meanwhile, we have this fantastic design for a gorgeous product, and we’re looking for someone who sees the vision and wants to help us grow a little faster.
The next month will be busy. We’ll be the scoreboard at the Grilled Cheese Championships next weekend, and at the end of May we’ll have our scoreboards on every field for the Ultimate Frisbee College Nationals tournament, which will be televised on ESPN. We have a lot of soldering and laser cutting to do before then.