I launched Dancebot, my first ever Kickstarter and it got funded in just two hours.
The project was being promoted on social media and on the web. Then I started noticing an interesting trend. When some friends saw my Instagram posts about Dancebot, their first reaction was, “That’s your project?”
Funded in two hours on Kickstarter
There was quite a number of such responses and that got me thinking. I haven’t mentioned about what I’ve been up to so it’s most people naturally have no idea. I figured I should write about this.
Some of my friends know that I have been based in Shenzhen, China for a while. Some know I’m in China but were unsure where in China. And then there are those who have no idea or just recently discovered that I’m based here.
I’ve moved to Shenzhen since October 2015. If you are visiting here or Hong Kong, give me a shout and we can meet up. Going to Hong Kong is just like crossing the causeway from Johor Bahru to Singapore, but a lot more convenient as the Shenzhen Metro and Hong Kong MTR are linked. With the upcoming Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high speed railway, it’ll be even easier to hop between the two cities.
What I’ve been doing is a tale for another day. I’m now with a startup that manufactures consumer electronics.
Robot Cleaner with client logos and Echo Tag
We are made up of a strong team. Award-winning industrial designer Mango heads our design team. He’s won the prestigious Red Dot and Red Star awards several times. George is the talented engineer leading our R&D team when he’s not busy working on his next invention. The two of them are just a couple of examples of the talent in our line up.
Our US-based team members play a vital role in providing valuable feedback on whether our product ideas and concepts are suitable for the American market, and they also assist in the positioning and marketing of our products to target the average American consumer.
I have met several Kickstarter teams in Shenzhen. Some of them come here to find manufacturers to make a prototype of their products before their Kickstarter launch. Others are here to source for suppliers and manufacturers, either to get an idea of the funding they would require before they start the campaign, or to produce a successfully funded project.
Shenzhen is the Silicon Valley of the East, or so they say. Thus, it is a no brainer for makers to come to Shenzhen if they want to get a project done, be it a prototype or for mass production. As a team that is based in Shenzhen, we have a big advantage compared to other Kickstarter teams that come here because we are familiar with the local culture and the manufacturing scene.
Two issues the many Kickstarter teams face after a successfully funded campaign are manufacturing and fulfilment issues.
Manufacturing issues could be trouble finding a dependable manufacturer or supplier, high costs of manufacturing and components, and delays in the production due to various reasons.
We have a manufacturing department that with years of experience and expertise from producing OEM goods for big clients. This allows us to not only have full control over the manufacturing process to ensure timely delivery, but also tap on a large network of reliable suppliers of high quality components. Our long term working relationship with these suppliers ensures we get the best quality at the most competitive prices. We then get to pass these benefits on to our consumers.
Having to ship your product worldwide is a headache especially when you have thousands of backers. Shipping rates vary greatly across shipping channels and countries. So you’ll notice that many Kickstarter projects only offer free shipping to selected countries.
Our team includes logistics experts who have years of experience in air and sea shipping. We get very good rates from the various shipping services. This allows us to offer free shipping worldwide with minimal costs involved while maintaining a short delivery time.
Some of you might ask why do we still need to fund our product on Kickstarter if we have such an awesome team?
We knew that we had a great product in our hands, but we are biased with our emotional attachment to the project. We wanted to know how consumers would respond to this product. In return for their early support, we could offer them the chance to own Dancebot at great discounts off retail prices.
Kickstarter helps us to minimise the costs involved, allowing us to bring Dancebot to our early adopters below or at cost price. This also helps us to build brand awareness for Dancebot.
Dancebot is the culmination of our hard work in the past 18 months. We have been working on many product concepts. We studied numerous Kickstarter projects. All that preparation helped lay the groundwork to get raise $10,000 for Dancebot in just two hours.
Dancebot, the world’s first smart dancing robot speaker
We had an initial concept for a dancing speaker four months ago. Once our hardware and software engineers confirmed it was feasible to achieve the functions we wanted, our design team came up with the product design. This includes not just the adorable exterior, but also the internal structure. It is a 3D render of how the product would be when manufactured, such as how many different casing parts we would need and points of attachment during assembly. It also has to have spaces for the electronic components.
Dancebot design prototype
This initial design is 3D printed to bring the Dancebot from digital into a physical prototype. Based on the space allowances, the hardware engineer would have to get most suitable components based on our target price. The internal structure was then altered to fit the selected components.
As with all products we make, the casing would be designed for easy assembly and also hold the components well so nothing comes loose when the consumers use the product.
Thereafter, we started working on the production prototype. Unlike the 3D printed design prototype, the production prototype uses ABS materials that are as close as the final product.
This helps us to determine the weight of the product and fine tune the motors to drive the leg movements. It also comes fitted with the components such as the Bluetooth module, speaker, LED lights for the eyes and motors for the legs.
Dancebot design prototype (left) and production prototype (right)
When the components were confirmed, our software engineers was then able to start programming the motors. Dancebot is the world’s first smart dancing robot speaker. Our engineers studied thousands of songs across many genres to generate a database of motions.
Dancebot connects via Bluetooth and plays any audio input. Its algorithm would then select a set of motion and string them together into a performance. Since the movements are put together in real time, Dancebot would do a different dance each time you play the same song.
Play music and Dancebot would move to the tempo. Play a video or voice track and it would make animated movements. This has been a hit with kids we’ve tested this product with. Dancebot makes listening to bedtime stories or learning nursery rhymes a lot more engaging for children.
Adults can have fun with it too! Play music to have a dance off between two Dancebots. Record voice messages to see which Dancebot brings it better. There are endless ways to play with Dancebot!
The finished production prototype was the first time we saw Dancebot moving to music. It felt like a Frankenstein moment to see it move. Dancebot had finally come to life!
With the algorithm ready and the parts confirmed, we proceeded with the tooling process that involved making and adjusting the moulds used for mass production.
Dancebot design prototype (left), production prototype (middle), and production sample (right)
We have manufactured two initial batches of production samples and shipped out some for testing. You should see reviews and videos of these samples out in the wild soon.
Production of Dancebot will start after our campaign ends on 21 September. We expect to ship them out by late October.
Custom startup sound
When you turn on Dancebot, it plays the Dancebot jingle. For $20, you can customise the startup sound or even record a message to make it a special gift! We are offering the customised message at a special price of $12 during our Kickstarter campaign.
Check out Dancebot’s Kickstarter page to watch our promo video. We are trying to reach our stretch goals to bring more benefits to all our backers. Back us now to enjoy discounts off retail prices!
Help us to spread the word by telling your friends about Dancebot. We’re sure it’ll make a lovely gift be it for a special occasion or for the end of year holiday season.