We have 23 weeks before a theoretical April 1 launch date. So how are things going?
Unfortunately, just about everything is behind in one way or another. I know, who could have seen that coming. However, with that said, things are moving along and we couldn't be more excited.
Our new CSE/EE employee Jonathan started last week, and has been an extremely welcome addition to the team. You can meet him at our next open house. Jonathan is working on the EE test plan, simulation, automated implementation of the test plan in simulation, and GPIB based automated test. Right now he’s hacking the LTSpice .raw results file.
We’ve also hired a great guy named Nate to take over sales & marketing. Nate will start in about 2 weeks. We’re really happy with this hire, as we are with Jonathan.
Right at this moment Mark is at the UC Berkeley Startup Fair (http://ucbstartupfair.com/) with our humble booth filled with circuit boards – to try and lure engineers away from those all those lame web startups :)
We’ve been having tons of meetings with Avnet & various FAEs and sales reps. I have to say the entire semiconductor sales world is a bit of a jungle. It’s a game, like the rest of business and life I suppose.
Mark’s got must of his proof-of-concept type software tasks out of the way so he’ll be doing firmware development for the next 2-3 months. After that it’s pretty much pure software. Mean while Nate (different Nate) is bringing up the HDL.
We now have 3 different EE consultants looking at our stuff and I think we’ve got something that’s close. I think a lot of cost could ultimately be taken out but that’s a job for version 2.0. Meanwhile the amount of testing and rigor in this design is many times what we’ve done before. It’s a daunting amount of work but at least I think we’re doing it right and will be able to be fairly confident that we have something that’s good when we’re done.
The custom cable I’m getting built has been quite a challenge but that’s looking up as well. I have several different paths that could get us there now, including designing soldering fixtures ourselves (actually there are firms that do nothing but this, typically for PCB applications) and only having the cable manufacturer do the injection molding, packaging and test. What I really want is to pay for the review and design of the assembly procedure & tooling, independent of the selection of the end CMs. We recently met with a firm that appears willing to do just that, and has the engineering staff to do a good job.
Next for me is the actual enclosure design of the product, which I haven’t done much with to date. I’m not really sure what we’re going to end up with but I’ll do my best to make it as awesome as possible.
In addition I’m designing new carrying cases for Logic/Logic16. There are several reasons for this – we’re not especially happy with the current vendor for starters, and we also would like to design the case to lower our cost of international shipping (and pass along that savings). We also want to establish a good vendor we could use for the future product's carry case.
Our business plan is getting progressively more out of date, but I did very recently revamp the plan, and in addition our budget has been and continues to be super up to date. It’s all about who can we hire, what can we outsource, and how long can we do that before running out of cash. It’s a race between launching the product and running out of cash. Running fast increases the speed at which we can get to cash flow positive, but increases the burn rate, decreases the runway and increases the spectacularity of potential failure. The budget is a pretty powerful tool since it takes into account all sorts of things, such as loan paydown rates, interest payments, tax liabilities and payments, sales/COGS/overhead projections, as well as planned salaries and all the planned project expenses. I do very strongly believe that it is critical to maintain urgency day to day. Now, I’m not sure that large financial risk is the best way to establish that, but frankly it’s not a terrible one.
Mark mentioned we got a boat, it’s a 1982 Catalina 30 sailboat with a Universal Atomic 4 gasoline inboard engine. In case you’re wondering this is not an expensive boat. We got a comprehensive survey from a great surveyor and have a long list of things to fix/replace, etc. I'm tracking all those items Excel – it’s a fun side project. Once everything is all fixed then it’s on to the real fun, and I’ve got all sorts of crazy plans. The main thing is to convert it to inboard electric. This would probably 48V 4kWh system. In addition to propulsion, it’ll also have an inverter for 120V @ 30A. Solar power for charging too of course, probably 200W or 400W -- the idea is to make it totally off-grid. We’re thinking of using Ethernet and raspberry pi’s for everything, although that could change. I like the idea of spinning a CAN solution too. Mostly it would be off the shelf however, there's no time in the day to be designing solar peak-power chargers and 200A brushless motor controllers. More on all this later.
Well, back to it!