Friends of Portable Scores,
It’s been a long time since the last newsletter, and for that I apologize. Sadly, things are not going well for Portable Scores, and dreading this newsletter has been the reason for its delay. I’m officially declaring Portable Scores to be in zombie state; I’m not working on it, not selling new products, and not doing any development, but I am keeping the web site up, the business registered, and the hope alive that someday the resources I need to make Portable Scores successful will become available.
After our second Kickstarter failure, we opened a store to allow people to purchase hand made units. We had to build 16 for our biggest client and pre-order, so it made sense to open the batch up to allow people who really wanted to get a scoreboard to still have a chance. This resulted in another 10 orders fairly quickly, and we decided to stop taking orders after a few weeks so that we could be sure we could fulfill the orders and acquire enough parts.
Manufacturing by hand is not sustainable. There are literally hundreds of components that need to be sourced/made/assembled. The peanut design is impractical using the methods I have available. Despite the many forms and frames I had to build, it still took a long time to build every unit, and everyone who saw me for the months it took to make those 26 units knew what an ordeal it was. Just about everything that could go wrong did, from bad 3D printer plastic to inconsistent wireless issues, and more. I found out that it cost more to use the laser cutter on the plastic than the plastic itself cost.
The last of the orders was shipped out (that’s something to celebrate!), and we are not taking any more orders for small runs. It just doesn’t make any sense. We also learned that international shipping is way too expensive, and we won’t be selling anything international anymore.
This put us in a very challenging position. We can’t profitably manufacture in small quantities, and we haven’t been able to get the capital necessary to manufacture in larger quantities. We have all kinds of demand that we can’t meet, but all the investors think we don’t have enough traction and all the retailers and distributors want us to let them know when we are manufacturing and have stock to sell them.
We learned that rentals are a win-win for us, and we have reserved 4 units for just that purpose. This allows us to get some traction, not part with our valuable scoreboards, bring in some income, and offer a product to customers who need a cheap solution for a single event. However, shipping the scoreboards out and back is expensive and stressful (we had a couple late returns), so we’re just renting locally.
Because we have entered a period where success is looking less likely and more distant, I have bought out my business partner and am once again sole owner of Portable Scores.
My options moving forward are the following:
1) Redesign the product and use different manufacturing methods so that I can produce them in small quantities.
2) Shelve Portable Scores for now and take on some of the other opportunities that have presented themselves recently until I can find a way to make it work.
3) Try to sell/license the design.
This is indeed a dark time for Portable Scores, but personally and professionally I have gained a lot from the experience. I am now regularly consulted for my expertise, I am developing products that are much less complex and have a shorter path to profitability, and I have built a network of people I trust and like working with. I tell people Portable Scores has been my graduate school, and not only did it cost me less than real graduate school, but I got more out of it, too.
Know that I am not giving up entirely. I love Portable Scores and the idea of making everyone’s games more professional and engaging. But where it is now I can’t justify continuing to throw everything I have at it. This probably won’t be the last newsletter.
I would love to talk to you more about any part of this, ESPECIALLY if you know someone who is willing to invest or buy/license the design.
In the mean time, some things to celebrate about 2013 and Portable Scores:
- My talk about manufacturing in China vs. the U.S. at TedXMadison
- I gave two invited talks at DesignWest 2013 on “Why I failed at Kickstarter and my friends didn’t” and “The challenges of being a hardware startup”
- I sold every unit that I made, and had requests from college football teams, game shows, high schools, churches, and lots of other people who were interested in DigiTally.
- The knowledge I gained from Portable Scores allowed me to develop and get to market in less than 6 months an ice fishing product called BlueTipz, which has sold over 3000 units and is in retail stores in most of the midwest, and has healthy online sales to over 20 states so far.