Hey, at least wigwag is participating more on the forums and are updating their blog with what may become useful info (it is worthless until we get our hardware).
My main concern is the ongoing lack of engineering and production updates. The circuit designs have been "done" for over two years! Enclosures were "done" over a year ago!
But it seems wigwag just can't stop doing spin after spin after spin. Finding design issues (at this late stage!), finding faults with this or that production partner or process, unable to ramp up past hand-build rates.
But that's just the hardware. From what little we've heard, the software is in an even worse state, with no "partner" to help simultaneously bring all platforms (apps, cloud, devices) to baseline functionality. At this point, I'm half expecting wigwag to punt on some/all of the rule engine, and initially ship just a command engine for the hardware and an interface to IFTTT for rule generation and processing.
The only thing we know for sure is that wigwag management is incompetent, unable to create and adhere to schedules, unable to foresee and prevent or at least plan for common engineering and production issues. And totally unable to communicate in any meaningful or effective manner within wigwag, with partners/vendors, and with customers/backers.
I'm certain wigwag has some extremely talented engineers, but engineers working without competent management and leadership will be forced to jump from crisis to crisis with no way to control their own destinies. The same applies to engineers forced to also wear a management hat: It rarely works well.
But what do I know? It's like trying to read tea leaves. If wigwag shared more engineering/production information, perhaps we backers could HELP, instead of being left to speculate in a vacuum.
Even with such limited information, it is easy to list some of wigwag's Great Mistakes, and ways they could have been avoided: The biggest mistake was trying to spin up the Wuxi company before the products were proven to be 100% production-ready.
Some basic startup guidelines:
Build prototypes and do low-rate initial production locally/domestically to obtain all of the following schedule accelerators:
- overnight delivery (even overnight PCB spins with some vendors)
- easy interaction with vendors during normal work hours
- much easier and faster to switch vendors
- product is closer to customers (not just to wigwag)
Do not do R&D in China! (Perhaps this is the flip side of the above.)
- Language/culture barrier is always present (even though many Chinese do speak excellent English)
- Political, legal and financial issues that simply don't exist domestically
- Way too many time zones
- Expensive travel
Bottom line, the best way to find and ramp up a Chinese partner is to FIRST have a complete and proven product and THEN say "I want you to make precisely this", providing an exact and detailed BOM and known-good test jigs and acceptance tests for all components and the final assembly. Then leave it up to them to figure out how. Don't let them make their problems your problems: Make them meet the quality of the initial domestic manufacturer before authorizing volume production.
During all this you will still have your domestic partner for initial production, at least through all beta testing, and as a "surge" producer when/if the Chinese fail to deliver (such as during Chinese New Year).
If you are really smart, you'll partner with a domestic manufacturer who already has a Chinese partner (or owns / is owned by one). I know of a board house in Los Angeles that literally cloned one production line of their massive Chinese facility to support US-based development. Then they'd ship a known-good complete and debugged process to their Chinese facility for mass production. Best of both worlds!
For this first set of products, I think the Wuxi company has been a complete disaster, costing far too much in terms of time, effort and money. Only once a product is proven (and, more importantly, the market proven, leading to an increase in valuation) should cost be taken out of the production process, such as by making use of overseas production. Trying to simultaneously develop and debug BOTH the products and their overseas production processes is by far the #1 wigwag management failure, on multiple levels.
The time to create your own Chinese partner company is in the third round of cost management, not the first or second. Wigwag jumped the gun big-time on that one. Banks LOVE to loan money for this type of risk-managed growth, which also makes it easier to attract bigger investors for less equity.
Just look at where we all aren't, now that we're over three years into this, not to mention the year(s) Ed & friends put in before the Kickstarter campaign.
Try to juggle too many balls, and the only guarantee is that some or all of them will be dropped. Wigwag keeps picking them up and insisting it has learned to do a 9-ball juggle, only to drop them again Sounds like the definition of insanity to me.
But Wuxi is even worse from the perspective of a startup trying to build both market and value: A big dream must be to sell a chunk of equity (or the entire company) to a partner who has a proven production track record and knows how to not only get product onto store shelves (Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buy, etc) but also knows how to work with online vendors (Amazon, etc.).
That is to say, wigwag should focus on home automation, and (hopefully) let the big boys handle the rest.
Any big company interested in wigwag (say, Google) would almost certainly have no interest whatsoever in the Wuxi company, and is more likely to see it as a liability rather than an asset. And the more the production schedule slips, the greater a liability Wuxi becomes. That's right: Wuxi likely DISCOURAGES large investors/buyers!
Combine that with a lack of deliveries (excluding the overpriced Filament bulb, which wigwag doesn't manufacture - hint, hint) and over a thousand dissatisfied KS backers, it would seem wigwag's main product so far has been the mistakes produced by its so-called "management".
Well, I should list some of wigwag's positive attributes:
- Sensational concept, creating an ideal balance between hardware and software, with an interface that any HA enthusiast can use (not just engineers who do HA as a hobby).
- Integration with products from existing HA vendors.
- Avoided feature-creep in both the hardware and software: The current product specs are amazingly close to the KS campaign descriptions.
Unfortunately, most of the above were in-place before the KS campaign started. The past three years seem to have largely been spent finding the worst possible path to manufacturing the hardware (and I'm not sure what it says about the software). A path that has yet to reach its destination.
Enough. I feel much better now. Time to go for a run.
EDIT: One more thing: The three years of delay likely means that some of the parts used have reached End-of-Life (EOL), meaning they have become obsolete and are no longer made, forcing another set of spins even before volume shipments have started! Arrrgh!