When Cartesian Co. first turned to crowdfunding website Kickstarter.com to launch the EX¹ circuit board printer, the company had a modest goal of $30,000.
On November 11, 2013, about 60 minutes after the campaign launched, the company had already raised more than half of their goal. By the end of the day, the printer, which uses inkjet parts to print silver on multiple substrates, was fully funded, and Cartesian was tasked with developing stretch goals.
But with great Kickstarter success, comes great responsibility to backers. Expectations are heightened; exposure maximized; and the reset scope of the project can overwhelm even the most eager entrepreneurs.
According to Ariel Briner, the co-founder of Cartesian and the man who designed the EX¹ prototype, the one thing he needs now more than ever is space. “Our current office is big enough to make a few dozen printers — we would be crammed in pretty tightly — but it’s not nearly big enough to keep up with the interest we’ve received,” he says while adding that the team will need to bring on more people to make sure that orders are fulfilled on time. The first batch of circuit board printers is scheduled to ship July 2015 (see timeline infographic below).
Due to the large number of EX¹ sales, Briner has considered the benefits of outsourcing a portion of the manufacturing, but he is aware of the risks. “Outsourcing would save us money, but this would be at the expense of quality,” Briner says. “Manufacturing in-house, although a bit more costly, means we have complete control over production and can give our customers a better product.”
Since the beginning of the campaign, Briner hasn’t made any changes to the existing product. The EX¹ is still being marketed to hobbyists with a 600 DPI resolution and the ability to print a 5 x 5 cm area in about 30 minutes. “It’s been great to talk to the community about what they would like to see included in the printer, but there just hasn’t been time to start including these suggestions,” he adds. “We look forward to getting down and dirty with our laser cutter and some CAD to make [EX¹] a reality.”
Kickstarter campaigns, the fully-funded and the failed, have a tendency to take a toll on the innovators behind the scenes. After all, 10% of the projects on the site never receive a single pledge and only 43.75% of the 126,245 projects launched have been successfully funded. To those who have reservations, Briner’s advice is simple, “go for it.”
“If you have an idea that you think will work, just go for tithe last year has been such an amazing experience that even if it ended in complete failure, it would have still been worthwhile,” he says.
Briner’s other piece of advice? Starting a company alone is much harder than working as part of a team. “I tried for two years to get the printer working before eventually succeeding after John [Scott, co-founder, mechanical engineer] and Isabella [Stephens, co-founder, software engineer] got involved — more opinions are better than fewer. Also, having someone you can bounce ideas off, and talk to when things aren’t going well, is extremely valuable.”
For more information, visit www.cartesianco.com.