Update #3: The insanity of running a small startup

It was only 5 short days ago when my girlfriend Rachel and I sat down together in front of my Macbook Pro and read aloud the Kickstarter project story page. By now, every sentence had been read, reread and polished; every picture checked in Lightroom and post-proceed for Flickr. We shot gigabytes of HD footage, in 6 hour chunks, over 4 days. Glitches with the audio junked one night's worth of shooting; friends' input for the first rough-draft of the video resulted in a complete script rewrite and delayed the project launch by a week. So, when we got to the point where the two of us hovered the mouse over the shiny green "Launch" button and pressed the trackpad together, it was a relief. Or so we thought. Running a business, in startup mode, along with managing a fund raising campaign and the PR aspects of the business, is *hard* work. A lot of the fun comes from the sheer unexpected ways a campaign can turn out. I've never thought I would be sitting here at 45% completion with 25 days left on the clock - that's just amazing. And I never imagined that big, giant 40 meter hackerspace kits will be going to locations as far away as Norway, Germany and Australia.

In no particular order, here's a list of things I'm really thankful for. Take this as Kickstarter 102 for any of you out there contemplating starting a project:

Nail that BOM cost analysis. You know what sucks more than not making your funding goal? How about taking 2000 orders and finding that you are $10 in the red for each and every order? I had quotes from all the vendors - down to the last nut and bolt and allen key, before launching my campaign. I wouldn't have launched without those numbers, and without double and triple-checking those numbers.

Even with detailed Excel models of BOM costing, tooling amortization figured out, I still was missing data. I knew for each reward I was selling how much I'd make and how much I can use to amortize the tooling cost, but what I didn't know is how much everything weighted. This became crucial when international orders started pouring inI stayed up late for two nights double and triple-checking the density and mass calculations out of my CAD program and plugging them into my excel spreadsheet.

International shipping is not easy. Volumetric weight really hurts, especially on lighter shipment that's physically awkward. And apparently, 1 meter long extrusions are really awkward. It is a lot cheaper (and much better value to the customer) cutting two pieces of 550mm extrusion and shipping that instead of shipping a single 1 meter extrusion - the price of the postage dropped in half. (Once I've taken the mockup packages to the post office and have confirmed postal rates to all the European and Australian destinations, I'll be adding international specific reward packages).

Have a fulfillment plan. I've partnered up with a company that's been in the aluminum extrusion business for 30 years, and happen to have a shop that's 20 minutes from my house. He will be in charge of cutting the extrusions, packing them with the brackets, and stuffing the boxes. Considering how fast the project is being funded right now, and being hopeful that this trend will continue, I will probably be soiling my pants right now if I knew I would be the one cutting each of the extrusion myself, in my garage, on my own chop saw. I would be stuck there cutting extrusions until my neighbors call the cops on me, or until my girlfriend leaves me. Or both.

So what lies ahead?

Obviously, my worries aren't over until the project is 100% funded. Until then, it's my job to try to get as much publicity on the project as possible. Even *after* the project funding hits 100%, it's still my job to try to raise as much as I can. Every dollar raised after the initial $30,000 will go into (in no specific order) improving the system: advertising campaigns, giving back to the Open Source community, sponsoring open source projects and educational institutes, or adding tooling for other brackets and accessories.

I have not done so, but will need to, setup an LLC, the accounting system to keep track of cash flow, as well as a better online presence to take future orders.

Assuming funding goes strong in the next few days, I'll get ready to risk-buy the extrusion die, to cut down the delivery lead time. Otherwise, it'll take 21 days after close of funding to transfer the money to my account, and a 8 week lead time from there to deliver the extrusions - putting the delivery date towards the end of July.

For those of you considering starting your own project / business, hopefully this was useful information. It's a lot of work, but it's also incredibly rewarding.

And on that note, I'm gonna go get some sleep :-)

-=- Terence