[Some shots from the factory, building BRCK, this week.]
I know that we weren’t naïve in the early days of BRCK thinking that it would be easy to build an amazing hardware device in Kenya. We couldn’t have been. We aren’t rookies. This isn’t our first rodeo – as the expression goes – and yet we still find ourselves months behind on getting our product shipped. Did we miss something obvious in our planning? Were we unrealistic about our capabilities and capacities? Did we simply have some incredible misfortune?
Honestly, the answer to all of these – at least on some level – is yes.
Sure, Reg and I have experience in bringing hardware products to market. We know the pitfalls of having injection-molded plastics made in China not looking correct. We’ve made small mistakes on board layouts that required last minute hand fixes and reworks. We’ve had suppliers completely drop the ball in meeting their delivery commitments. These things are absolutely normal and expected in designing hardware products – particularly if your entire company sits in the same room as the soldering irons and oscilloscopes.
On the software side, Emmanuel, Wesley, Erik, and I have all brought software systems and products to market. We have sat in the meetings were we suddenly realized that a critical feature/function had been completely overlooked. Participated in the user testing sessions where the look of bewilderment on the face of the tester causes your heart to sink into your stomach. Pushed ourselves through “highly productive” 3 am coding sessions that take hours the next morning to unravel in the clearer light of day. This is the reality of startup software engineering in the age of Android and Flappy Birds – actually I think it has always been this way.
We know these realities. They aren’t foreign or unexpected to us. And yet with every delay or misfortunate turn of events we still all stare at each other in shock and disbelief. We expect things to be different at BRCK. We see ourselves as a rugged and tenacious group of creatures that have our skin thickened by the hot African sun and our eyes steeled to navigating the rocky road ahead. It’s who we are. When we adventured out on BRCK Expedition Turkana we should have seen that this was a harbinger of things to come: trucks breaking down, satellite receivers mysteriously running out of credit, routes getting flooded, and the unlimited supply of things-not-going-as-planned. Sure we got frustrated. At each other. At the circumstances. It’s a natural human reaction. But we never gave up. We didn’t even entertain it in conversation. We all dug deep into the beautiful resource called human spirit and plowed ahead until we reached our goal. Sure we’ll do some things differently on the next expedition, we are fools to not learn from our experiences, but we know that the only thing that really matters in setting off is our collective resolve to persevere and push on towards the mark.
Which brings me back to BRCK. Earlier this week we finally received our delayed set of production plastics from China. They were awful. They looked nothing like the first articles that had previously been sent through or the amazing cast cases that were molded from 3D prints. As we sat and stared at the disfigured hunks of plastic that were meant to hold the product of months of hard work our hearts – once again – sank and we stared at each other in disbelief. Although we briefly entertained proceeding with production using the “ugly” cases, we know that we are flag bearers for engineering and designing products the right way in Africa. While we live in a culture where the standard of craftsmanship is often “good enough” we must be an example for something much higher.
So we are sadly forced to delay our production one more time and ask for patience. Patience from our customers who are eager to get their hands on a BRCK. Patience from our team as we continue the sprint to get BRCK to market. Patience from our backers who have shown so much faith in our vision and the potential for BRCK to be a game changer in the market. It’s a big ask on our part and we don’t make it lightly. We won’t sit back during this time and simply wait. There are many things that we know we can do better on the software and usability side of BRCK. We will continue pushing ahead on making the user experience more intuitive and useful. We will take our handful of ugly BRCKs and put them to the test in as many challenging situations as we can find. We will do everything within our abilities to use this misfortune as an opportunity for making BRCKs better. As painful as it is for us to be in this situation today, I know that at the end of this journey we will look back and be grateful for the additional opportunity to ensure that BRCK really lives up to its full potential as a world-class hardware device from Kenya.
We’re working with our case manufacturer to get a new timeline for delivery, which we’re expecting to be no more than a few weeks.