I am an excited fan and backer of Voltset, “A pocket-sized hackable multimeter with smart graphing, on-demand tool tips, and excel in your phone.” I first met these guys at MakerFaire New York back in 2013 where there were showing off their prototypes. Voltset was launched on Kickstarter the following May with great success, getting 851 backers contributing $113,548.
Just a few days shy of their one year funding mark and projected shipment date Voltset released an unfortunate update: shipment is delayed for another six months.
We intend to reboot the development again from a new approach. It will not be from scratch, as we have a lot of the pieces figured out, but we need someone to help us connect the dots.
Voltset is apparently getting screwed by manufacturers and design partners who promise everything and deliver nothing. Making hardware is difficult enough without dealing with bad actors. The biggest problems in engineering are determining the right thing to make and finding the right people to work with.
Even I had to delay the T400 after things moved more slowly than I expected. As I discussed with Daniel Dern from IEEE, making a thousand of something for customers is not the same as making a thousand copies of a prototype. Mistakes are expensive, so you have to get it right the first shipment. People cannot download a software update to update a component value.
We wish the Voltset team the best of luck in finding the right people to work with. I hope they come to Shenzhen were we have a strong community of hackers and makers building hardware.
Full text of the email:
Dear Voltset backers,
We are sorry. We have bad news.
We are having development issues. We find the current collaboration with our partners in Taiwan, to be harder and harder to deal with. Problems keeps arising, that should not arise. We are getting tired of continuous delay and disappointment. As we seem to understand by now, they seem to overpromise on their capabilities and deliverables, be overconfident in their project management skills, and be confident that we are a money pinata that they need to squeeze for everything we have left. We too are guilty. We are too inexperienced, too naive and too nice.We have learned that good business practice, good project management and good communication between the actors involved, is crucial to deliver, so given all the trouble we have now, we can only imagine the trouble we could have if we continued to work with them through the next phase of manufacturing.
Enough is enough.
We need to take a serious step back, and look at where we went wrong. This is the third time that we happen to have a “almost” done voltset development project fail for us. So what did we do wrong all the time? We never managed to get the guy who had worked in Agilent, Fluke, HP designing multimeters before on our team, that has project managed and delivered multiple products to the market. Last week we struggled a lot with how to proceed moving forward, the development firm even told us “Voltset is fully working, but you need to send money before you can verify”. That long with a continuous “development will be done in two weeks” is not that tempting anymore..
We intend to reboot the development again from a new approach. It will not be from scratch, as we have a lot of the pieces figured out, but we need someone to help us connect the dots. If you happened to be able to connect us to the engineer who had designed multimeters in respectable companies, please let us know. Besides that, we now have a new colleague to join us, he has 8 years of experience working at HTC as project manager, responsible for product development and manufacturing. He also loves the Voltset project. Furthermore, we are collaborating with 2 other teams, one in Hungary and one in Poland, to help us make sure that we will deliver. We are taking the RD back in house and will be using external contractors as more of a help instead of the main drive for the R&D. They have a different agenda compare to the team, you and I.
Why did we not do it before?
We had a similar problem back in september, when our electrical engineer (working on weekends) could not make it work. We tried to go to every DMM design house in Taiwan, 20+, and we were only able to find one who were willing to work on the project (most argued that, what we do, is not how the industry does it). We did continuously try to look for talent to help out. So we are getting better at looking for the right people with the right skills, and now we are getting more options to choose from. The current contractor we had, was supposed to give us a whole package deal for electrical, firmware and manufacturing, so we did not have any budget for working with others. Given their continuous breach of contract, of late deliverables, we are free to walk from the contract, and thus we have the budget to pursue other paths, in other ways.
This is difficult for us too.
Trust us, we have no incentive in delaying the project. Personally we live on ramen budget, borrow from friends and family to get through, and feel the pain of each ticking day since the first promised delivery deadline. Yes we still have a lot to learn, and a lot of problems to solve, and while we do not have much experience, we try to compensate by grit.
What about timeline? When Will I get it?
Given all the text above, we are now redefining the timeline. The current draft indicates another 6 months, but we will need to have each part of the plan validated by an experienced expert. In the next update we will update an up to date timeline.
Thus if anyone wish to opt out and not support it anymore, we will understand and allow for you to get a full refund, just let us know.
On a positive note
We have been very careful not to waste your kickstarter pledge money, and so far we still have a good chance to change and correct the path with the resources we have (although late..). We can be reached personally through a quick e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org anytime.