Friday, November 29, 2013

“Do you want to build fifty in a basement, or do you…”

On Friday, the 15th of November, a piece of paper was signed which saw my work change hands taking me along with it. I don’t remember what the rest of that quote was from my first telephone call with the CEO that I nervously made from my car in a parking lot. I want to insert something like “change the world” or “change the face of cycling” or maybe it was just a larger number. I walked away from the call a little confused with a lot of thinking to do. I trust and believe in the people at this company.

I truly think this is the best thing possible route for me to take. I didn’t want to be another late and under delivering Kickstarter with production troubles due to my inexperience with outsourcing or marketing. Striking while the iron is hot is hard when you can only dedicated 15 – 25 hours a week to something and maybe a few hundred dollars a month.

As for the blog, it will remain (no posts will be deleted) but it will stop any further documentation of the development as it’s going to be under a commercial entity. There is going to be a major design change, and the final product will look nothing like what I’ve developed and conceptualized.

This is a super exciting time and I’d love to explain the new and unique ideas on the table or just how we think we can shake things up. The people I’ve met truly feel very like minded, and in a the few days with them I felt like part of the team even though we were just in the initial phases of talking.

Below are a few imaginary FAQ question about the situation and general explanations.

Why is this happening?

I’ve spent a lot of time the last few weeks evaluating how to proceed with the project, all the while I am sorting bugs, building prototypes, coming up with new designs and now the business element is creeping in as a more important task. Running a true startup means someone has to handle the business side of things, and to me it is a mountain of a task – and I’ve never climbed this type of mountain. I’ve been unable to find someone to take the reins to be an unpaid CEO / marketing person in a small startup that needs significant investment and can’t show any market adoption until I actually have hardware in the market meeting FCC and ANT+ approvals.

I know engineering, and I know how to solve problems. I don’t know how to get investors, sell people on ideas, and be the frontman of an organization. I haven’t decided if these are skills I wish to acquire, or if I only want to maintain status as the engineering hacker type person. I will eventually decide, just not today.

I love the idea that to become an expert you need to spend approximately ten thousand hours practicing. I’ve been practicing engineering since I was a child, and my time estimate for the meter is many hundreds of hours on it’s own. On top of that my 8 years of school (2 years of that were work terms, Undergrad and very hands on Masters) and side projects all throughout – which there were many. For me it presented too much of a risk to the project to let things drag on for another year and a half. Perhaps I’d become a Zombie Startup – or maybe I already was.

We know people want power, and we know there is now feature and price creep. It’s not entirely blue ocean, but it’s not entirely red ocean either.

What about the Blog?

I don’t want to take it down but I think I accomplished what I set out to do – I shared my knowledge of strain gauges to the hacker community and showed that a DIY style powermeter was and is possible. It’s hard, but it’s possible. V3 Was even featured on Hackaday. Which for me is my second featured hacking project (First was an Early LED backlight conversion).

The blog will continue to feature hacking projects by myself, but they will no longer be powermeter related. I’ve had a lot of things I’ve wanted to work on but I’ve placed on the backburner because of the meter. For instance, did you know you can use a guitar tuner app to check relative spoke tension pretty accurately? In fact you can mathematically regress this to actual spoke tension if you know some dimensions! Tensiometer = free if you have a finger and a smart phone.

What about the Beta?

Sadly, that won’t be happening now with my design under my direction alone. I certainly apologize and I want to thank everyone who contacted me and the support that you’ve given me. Things ran behind, life events popped up, I missed a few elements that should have been accounted for in my planning, and I reached my financial limits on what I could put into the project which all caused major slow downs. I apologize, but likely when a product materializes it will be re-blogged here that I had a hand in it.

Didn’t you post this already?

Some people have written to me congratulating me. I was very confused. I thought I had posted this to my blog as a draft but it was not. I accidently hit the wrong button. I realized this in a few seconds when it opened my web browser. I immediately pulled it down. So I learned that some apps, like Feedly, copy the content and feed from their servers! This proves the point that anything on the web can’t be taken down.


  1. Replies
    1. Not quite sure what you mean. Feel free to clarify.

    2. In few words: i think you don't want build a cheap power meter or help a cyclists to do it but build a business and/or sell it. The cake is done without the cream!

    3. I appreciate your honest feedback. I suspected some people would feel this way. Feel free to take my knowledge, email me, ask me questions, and use your money and time to continue. While I can't share new developments going forward, I can still clarify and guide others in learning. The problem is very few have the skills or the willingness to push forward. If you do, I'll support you as best I can with my knowledge.

    4. Not the same anonymous user... but maybe one with more perspective since I've been where you're going.
      I'd say major congratulations are in order, for basically making your development compelling enough that someone is willing to put their company's resources behind carrying your project the remaining 90% to production.
      Building a commercially viable power meter is _hard_. Much harder than building a couple of prototypes in the basement. I don't say this to discourage you, Keith, but to explain to the other anonymous person that the path you were on was still a long ways from producing something that would meet the expectations of a non-technical user.
      Also: There is no such thing as a 'cheap' power meter, at least not if you want it to report something with fidelity. Even if the apparent cost of goods is low, there is a LOT of knowledge embedded in a power meter that works, and that has value.

      I'll be interested to see who it is that picked you up... I have a few ideas on who it might be but time will tell.

    5. You're quiet right. It's a long road to a product. I don't have the experience and most of the people on kickstarter don't either their first time around. That's why DCrainmaker always says they are late and under deliver - he's right.

      I look forward to having the skills, resources, and knowledge needed to make this happen, and to attempt placing this into the market.

      On the other side, I think there is a huge market to push strain gauges into the hands of hobbyists for all sorts of reasons. Force sensing in the hacker community is poor at best from what I've seen. This is something I want to look at. Perhaps a Arduino Shield for the lovely TI part, the ADS 1247, setup for strain gauges, and then a kit with sandpaper, glue, and gauges.

  2. Congratulations! I discovered your blog 3 days ago, and I was talking about it with a friend, about the attention to detail, complete explanations, and engineering practical approach you have shared on it. I was wondering how long would it take before big players came to stop you - i am pretty sure you are very aware that you have created some public prior art that will be hurting someone's in-the-paper designs...

    Anyhow, it is also great to see how a small and dedicated inventor, that learns on his own, experiments with open source platforms, achieves recognition of his designs by the markets. This is a great example for people to pursue their crazy ideas with pasion, because if something doesn't exist or could be done better - you should go ahead and do it! And maybe you will discover that your idea was best-of-class.

    Thanks a lot for sharing and keeping online the information.

    1. Thanks Miguel for the support. I tend to be methodical.

      I'm learning that sometimes you need to reach our a little to connections and sometimes it's best to take a hard look at where a project is. I've been getting mixed feedback on my choice. I feel I've made the right choice.

  3. Congratulations! Ignore the critics who don't know your motivations nor how difficult it is to bring something like this to market. It seems like this move is definitely for the best if you want your product to be a viable competitor in the power meter market.

    1. Thanks David! There will always be critics. It took me quite a while to reach this decision and I'm so happy for all the support I've received!

  4. well done, Keith. I've enjoyed your high-calibre geekage....& long may it continue!

  5. Thanks! It'll continue. Just different projects. Smaller ones that more cyclist / electronic hobbyists can follow. Lots of ideas, but not much will materialize until I move in January. A lot of changes ahead! Thanks for your support again!

  6. Hey! Blog no longer dormant! Let me add my public congratulations; and, as I have some knowledge of the back story, be assured you have my encouragement, support and continued curiosity, as always. Merry Christmas, and see you in the New Year!

    1. Thanks for the support. There will be more to come, professionally, and in my spare time. Looking forward to the big changes. I'm counting down the days.