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那些你不知道的硬件产品众筹真相

人们一般会认为众筹几百万美元来制造下一代产品就等于保证了销量。但是,硬件产品众筹中的制冷机、无人机和3D打印机都不怎么成功。那这些逾千万美元支持的项目是为何而失败呢?

原因可能有很多种:但其中最重要的就是他们忘记了硬件产品的运输成本很高。对于一个硬件产品来说-不管是制冷机还是智能手表,不仅仅是一个GitHub账户和一冰箱冰镇啤酒就能搞定的。还需要关于产品蓝图、工具和供应链等全方面深厚的知识储备。如果一个项目不具有这样的专业知识,那它可能很快就会脱离既定轨道。

硬件创业公司的规模特效

当年在Kickstarter或者Indiegogo上募集了上百万美元之后,你基本上就有了构建产品蓝图的钱。但这只是启动资金,并不是项目完成的资金。人们会这样想:“这个团队刚刚募集了上百万美元,他们怎么可能失败!他们要赶紧给我们发货才行啊!”

但事实是:蓝图很宏伟。它可能并不完美。它是产品团队能想到的最完美的样子。亚马逊的支持者们都相信亚马逊无人机可以分分钟就出现在其家门口。

但事实嘛。。。。。。

人们错误地认为“1000万听起来足够制造这个玩意了。”到头来,1000万连个零头都算不上。是有一些了不起的产品的成本很小。但是1000万美元仅仅只代表了公司生产运输预定产品的最小资金需求。

众筹困境

首先,为了拿出最终成品,公司需要购买许多不同的零部件。从塑料模具到电器部件连接器。一个大型的众筹活动就意味着对于还没有生产出来的产品有很多的订单,因此公司还需要为零部件融资。

第二,人们选择支持一个项目的初衷就是抢先一步获得价格折扣。原始的1000万美元全部用于生产。公司几乎没有利润空间。

第三,众筹的目的就是为了描绘宏伟蓝图。公司创始人并没有详细的收支表,大家支持的产品也并未投产。产品研发依然需要大量资金。资金金额可能不同,但典型的物联网或可穿戴产品的公司大概需要200到400万美元将概念产品实现量产。

为了获得投资人的支持,公司对产品的定价通常会非常低。公司从银行获得的几百万贷款早就花费在了设计,编程和零部件等方面。突然每个人都意识到定价过低没有办法实现量产。为了真正完成订单,公司要考虑怎么度过生产环节的难关。

产品投产大致分为六个步骤:

蓝图0:即产品概念的描述。

蓝图1:即最小可行性产品描述。它可能会和最终产品相差甚远,但主要功能已经确定。

EVT(工程验证测试):这是对最终产品的首次模型测试。工程师需要确认他们能够做出几个单位的产品,并且保证功能的一致性完整性。

DVT(设计验证测试):这时工程师做出更多数量的产品,检测所有产品是否能正常运作,功能是否一致。这个阶段,工程师不仅要保证产品的美观度,更要让产品符合所有的运转需求。通常也会完产品外观的工具作业。

PVT(小批量过程验证测试):这个阶段的产品必须彻底完成。这个阶段要完成产品生产,并且保证所有单位产品功能的一致性,美观度和组装的可行性。此时,你对生产能力做出微调,第一批生产完成,产品生产销售等环节开始运转。

RTM(发布到制造):现在你可以制造任意数量的相同产品了。

值得注意的是,每一步公司都不可能一次完成。你经常能听到EVT1,EVT2或者DVT1,DVT2.

接下来就有趣了。当你准备量产的时候,你需要大概10周左右的时间来完成工具作业,12到14周的时间来完成关键零件的制作。工具作业之后,你需要把所有的零部件分类规整。保证这一次性不可退换的3亿预算成功完成你所需要完成的量产。当所有电子元件准备完成,可以下线的时候,当你在亚洲的工程首次开工的时候,你当然应该出现在现场。产品固件的工程师当然也应该在现场进行测试。

成功项目的经验

硬件产品经常会比人们的预期更费事费钱。要充分把握好生产环节。以下就是我们为您提供的一些独家建议:

众筹之前先在外部筹集100万到300万美元

完成DVT阶段之后再进行众筹。因为只有在完成DVT之后,你才能有完整详尽的产品预算。

建立产品供应链(通常在亚洲),包括设法了解原始设计制造商、共同市场和他们的主要分销商。

要进行实地考察。包括他们的工程和工程师。记得参观组装生产线。太多人觉得跟亚洲市场合作就是给他们发去详细的产品参数,开几次电话会议,然后就坐等六个月之后的产品。

One would think crowdfunding millions of dollars to create the next great device would all but guarantee wild market success. Yet, the hardware crowdfunding road is littered with the ghosts of massively funded coolers, drones and 3D printers that never made it to market. How is it that projects with upwards of $10 million in community support fail?

While many factors most likely came into play, the one most crowdfunding startups fail to plan for is this: shipping hardware is hard. To build a physical product — whether it’s a super cooler or a smartwatch — requires more than a GitHub account and a fridge full of beer. It demands early and deep knowledge of disciplines like prototyping, tooling and supply chains. If a campaign doesn’t have that expertise, things start to go off the rails rather quickly.

The scale surprise for hardware startups

When you raise millions of dollars on Kickstarter or Indiegogo, you’ve effectively raised enough to build a prototype. It’s seed money, not production money. People think, “This team just raised a huge amount of capital, how can they not be successful? I can’t wait for them to deliver!”

Then reality sets in. The prototype looks great. Sure, there are still a few bugs to work out, but the prototype is awesome. It’s everything the team thought it would be. Backers are foaming at the mouth thinking the Amazon drone (I mean, UPS truck) will be at their door within the week.

And then, uh-oh.

People mistakenly assume, “Well, $10 million sounds plenty enough to make this gadget.” After all, $10 million is far from chump change. Lots of great products have been built on less. But that $10 million represents a minimum number of committed pre-orders the company has to build and deliver.

The crowdfunding Catch-22

First, the company needs to buy a lot of different components to make the final product. Everything from plastic and molds to electrical parts and connectors. A large crowdfunding campaign means there are a lot of orders — for a product that hasn’t been built — and the company still needs to source the parts.

Second, usually the most common incentive for people to back a crowdfunding campaign is getting in early for a steep discount on the final/MSRP price. That initial $10 million in funding is all product. There is little or no room for profit.

Third, the very reason behind the concept of crowdfunding is to create a prototype. Founders often don’t have all the details of the costs figured out, as the product everyone is backing hasn’t been built yet. It still needs an incredible amount of R&D. The range varies, but a typical IoT or wearable startup needs $2 million to $4 million in R&D and engineering development to take the product from concept to mass production.

To get the backers, the company priced the product at a very low margin, often zero or at a loss. The millions they had in the bank are long gone, spent on things like design, programmers, and components to get the prototype built. Suddenly, everyone realizes that zero to less than zero pricing doesn’t scale. In order to ship real product, they now need to know how to navigate the very difficult waters of manufacturing.

Just getting to production is a six step process:

Prototype 0: This is proof of concept

Prototype 1: This is your Minimum Viable Product. It may not look and feel like the final product, but you got the key functions working.

EVT (engineering validation test): This is the first take at the final look and feel of the product. It’s this point where the engineers begin validating that they can build several units and they all would function the same.

DVT (design validation test): This is when you build a lot of units and expect to see that they work and function the same. It’s where you want to make sure the product looks great and meets all functional requirements and cosmetic/appearance requirements. Typically at this stage, you also have done your tooling for the cosmetics of your device.

PVT (production validation test): At this stage the product should be completely finished. This is about setting up manufacturing and the production floor to make sure you can make millions of units that all function exactly the same, all look great and can be assembled quickly and easily every single time. This is where you do process capabilities and fine tuning, your first pass yield, and your rolling throughput yield.

RTM (finally! release to manufacturing) – Boom now you can build 100, 1,000 or 1,000,000 of the same product.

It’s worth mentioning that companies often need more than one attempt at each stage. It is common to hear EVT1 and EVT2 or DVT1 and DVT2.

And then the fun starts. When you’re ready to go to high volume production, you need to add in a ten week lead time for tooling and sometimes 12-14 weeks lead time for some the key components. After tooling, you need to get all of your mechanical pieces in order. Make sure to work the one-time, non-refundable $30-100k NRE charge into your budget to build the machines you’ll need to mass produce your actual product. Once your electronics are ready to come off the line, you’ll need to be on-site at your factory in Asia (which you’ve already scoped out and built a relationship with) the first time they fire up. The engineer who wrote your device’s firmware needs to be there to test right on the factory floor.

Advice from a project that’s been there

Hardware takes longer and always costs more than anyone ever plans. Understand the manufacturing process and you could be the next Apple. Ignore it and you could be the next crowdfunding carcass.

Here’s some helpful advice based on our own experience that they don’t teach you in hardware crowdfunding 101:

Raise $1M – $3M outside capital prior to crowdfunding.

Complete your DVT stage then kick off your crowdfunding, because by the end of DVT you’ll have a very accurate look at your BOM (Bill of Material) and detail costs.

Establish your supply chain (most likely in Asia), including getting to know your ODM or CM and their key component distributors.

Get on the plane and go visit them. Their factory, their engineers. Ask for a tour of their — your — assembly line. Far too often I meet entrepreneurs who think working with Asia CM means sending a detailed spec sheet, have a couple of conference calls and expecting a palette of products six months later.


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