Why did the Mazda community push Derek to crowdfund CANBus Triple on Kickstarter? How much crowdfunding experience did he have prior to this? How much did he ask for, how much did he get, and what did he do with the money?
[ part 1 ]
[bd] Why did folks on the Mazda board suggest you put this up on Kickstarter? Why not roll things out onsie-twosie to a couple people with scratch to play ball in the early days? Was there that much demand?
[dk] That’s probably two-fold. Kickstarter is a great way to get the word out about a product or initiative. And in this case we have to reverse engineer the CAN network data, so the more people that use the product the more the community benefits. That’s why getting the hardware into people’s hands has been my primary focus.
[bd] Had you ever done a Kickstarter/crowdfunding campaign before this? What was the hardest part? The easiest?
[dk] Never. The hardest part was without a doubt fulfillment. Working with vendors to product what you want at the quality level you want for your customers all within budget is a huge task.
I wanted to make the CANBus Triple a great product for a reasonable price and I think I achieved that. I did the majority of the work myself. I built the wiring harnesses, sourced parts, QA and final assembly, even the shipping all myself.
The circuit board assemblies were built by a company here in Metro Detroit who has quite a few kickstarter jobs under their belt. And the aluminum cases were machined and anodized here in Michigan as well.
The easiest was the first two weeks of the campaign. You never know what is going to happen, you have no choice but to sit back and watch the show. I fully expected the campaign to fail and to move on to my next wacky idea. But it didn’t and two weeks after the campaign went live I was working with vendors to get them ready to rock.
[bd] Having crowdfunded the purchase of a Chevy Suburban for a homeless vet earlier this year, I learned the key thing to keep in mind when crowdfunding is that it’s largely dependent on the size of YOUR crowd. What kind of marketing did you put behind this campaign? (That is, did you stick to the forum, pimp it Facebook, contact the media, etc.?)
[dk] About a year ago the CBT was featured in Hack-a-Day and the interest quickly spiked. I sold all the developer devices I hand built within an hour. Those who couldn’t get one sat back and waited to as I promised a kickstarter campaign.
After launching the campaign I seeded it out to blogs that would be interested and to some people on Twitter such as Atmel who makes the processor in the device. Aside from that I didn’t do much. I think the product is different enough to get noticed, even if it’s targeted at a niche market.
[bd] It’s been six months since your kickstarter funded almost $68,000 on an $18,000 request. What’s it been like?
[dk] Overwhelming! The thing about electronics is you really need to build a lot to offset the setup and tooling costs. We definitely did that.
The best thing about the 800+ backers is 800+ people out there now have the product and are giving me feedback and are helping shape the software. Also, car networks don’t operate on any kind of available standard for the most part so reverse engineering them if difficult and different for every make. Now that people have the CBT they can start hacking on whatever vehicle or CAN enabled device they have and share that information with others. It’s kind of like crowd sourced reverse engineering.
[bd] Were there any surprises, pleasant or otherwise? How did you deal with these?
[dk] Aside from a small delay in production everything went pretty smoothly. One guy even set to G+ to say it was the best kickstarter campaign he had ever backed. Feedback like that is awesome and keeps me going with the project.
Seeing some of the parties who purchased the CBT was interesting. I sent devices to Ford, GM, Tesla Motors, iFixit, and even someone at the FBI picked up 5 of them. (Can I even talk about that!?)
[bd] With CANBus Triples now getting out to customers, what’s the verdict? Glowing reviews? Serious bug fixes?
[dk] Mostly positive, people really like the fit and finish of the CNC’ed aluminum enclosure which is awesome as it was a lot of work to get produced. People are definitely looking for a more robust app for the device which I’m working on now. Others have taken directly to writing their own firmware!
[bd] Where do you go from here? Any advice for the gearhead out there with an idea kicking around?
[dk] First priority is finishing up the app and building an example app for Android Wear that connects to the CBT. After that I’ll continue to support users in their hacking endeavors and hopefully start work on a better/faster/easier hardware successor.
[bd] Where can we learn more about CANbus Triple?